The South Florida Bulls (4-4, 2-2) will take a short jaunt up the east coast as they take on the East Carolina Pirates (4-5, 2-3) in American Athletic Conference East Division action Saturday night. South Florida has won four of the five previous meetings but East Carolina took a 28-17 win on the road on October 11, 2014 in the most recent matchup; South Florida covered the line in that game as a 17 point underdog.
South Florida saw their three game win streak come to an end as they were defeated 29-17 on the road by Navy last week. East Carolina fell back under the .500 mark on the year as they lost their second straight and third in the last four with a 31-13 pounding by Connecticut on the road last Friday. The kickoff from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, North Carolina is set for 7:30 pm ET and will be televised on the CBS Sports Network. East Carolina is currently a 3.5 point favorite with the over/under set at 54 points in this contest.
South Florida had their chances against the Midshipmen as they held a 17-16 edge heading to the final quarter but gave up a pair of touchdown drives in the final stanza. The Bulls were outplayed for most of the game as they were outgained 444-270 in the contest and allowed 22 first downs while picking up only nine. South Florida was dominated in the time of possession battle as Navy held the ball for 39:13 to their 20:47 in the contest; both teams turned the ball over once but Navy’s run game did South Florida in here.
The Bulls are run dependent as they are currently ranked just 108th in the nation in passing offense (177.4 yards) but they are 24th in the nation in rushing offense (213.9 yards) per contest. South Florida averages 28.4 points per game, tied for 69th in the nation in scoring offense, and they are ranked 45th in the nation in scoring defense by allowing 22.9 points per contest. Quinton Flowers has hit 98 of 162 passes for 1,246 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions while ranking second on the team with 578 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Marlon Mack is the top back in the run game with 116 carries for 718 yards and 4 scores while Darius Tice (48 carries, 271 yards, 3 TD) is the second back that sees some action. D’Ernest Johnson is third on the Bulls with 18 receptions for 240 yards with four scores; Chris Barr (19 grabs, 173 yards), Mack (11 grabs out of the backfield) and Rodney Adams (team high 20 catches, team high 333 yards, 5 TD) are decent targets with double digit receptions for South Florida. Emilio Nadelman has hit all 29 extra points and six of 11 field goal attempts on the year with a long of 40 yards.
East Carolina led Connecticut 6-0 in the first quarter but allowed the Huskies to reel off 24 unanswered points to take control of the contest and never recovered. The Pirates were outgained 404-340, lost the first down battle 17-16 and allowed the Huskies to hold the ball for 34:28 to East Carolina’s 25:32 in the game. East Carolina turned the ball over four times while forcing two; one of those takeaways was an interception return for a score in the opening quarter. That proved to be one of the few high points for East Carolina in the contest.
The Pirates continue to be an aerial offense as they stand 30th in the nation in passing with an average of 269.7 yards per contest while the team is 97th in rushing with 146.8 yards per game. East Carolina has a narrow scoring differential as they put up 28 points per game, which is tied for 69th in the nation, while ranking 86th in the nation by allowing 29.3 points a contest. Blake Kemp has connected on 192 of 275 passes for 1,878 yards with 11 touchdowns and 10 picks. He split time against Tulsa with James Summers (44 of 69, 515 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT, 401 rushing yards, 6 TD) and it remains to be seen how things will go in this contest. Chris Hairston is the feature back for the Pirates with 131 carries for 591 yards and seven scores while adding 24 catches for 159 yards plus a score; Anthony Scott (42 carries, 171 yards, TD) is the backup if Hairston needs a breather. Six players have hauled in at least 14 passes with Isaiah Jones pacing the team with 70 receptions for 786 yards plus three scores. Bryce Williams (41 receptions, 417 yards, 3 TD) and Davon Grayson (24 grabs, 310 yards, 2 TD) are good secondary targets as well. Two East Carolina kickers have booted 33 of 34 extra points and five of eight field goals on the season with a long of 41 yards.
East Carolina is 4-1 ATS in their last five after throwing for less than 170 yards, 6-2 ATS in their last eight after allowing at least 200 yards on the ground and 9-3 ATS in their last 12 after scoring less than 20 points. South Florida is 5-15-1 ATS in their last 21 in November, 1-4-1 ATS in their last six after a straight up loss and 0-4 ATS in their last four after allowing at least 200 yards on the ground.
This clearly isn’t the East Carolina team that featured Shane Carden and Justin Hardy as key cogs in the offense. South Florida played tough against Navy before falling with a fourth quarter meltdown and things will be tough here. East Carolina should be able to get the victory in this contest by a touchdown or so to squeak out a win and cover the line.