East Carolina vs. Memphis Football Preview
No football on Wednesday night (Game 1 of the World Series) but there is a game on Tuesday, with East Carolina (4-3, 3-1) hitting the road to take on Memphis (2-5, 1-3) at 8 PM on ESPN2. The Pirates, who are looking to defend their Conference USA title, got off to a slow start this season with losses to West Virginia and North Carolina but they've won three of their last four games. In Memphis they'll take on an offense that can move the ball, ranking sixth in the conference in total offense (362 yards per game), but they average just twenty-one points per contest.
Tommy West's Tigers are talented on that side of the ball with players such as RB Curtis Steele and WR Duke Calhoun leading the way, but the quarterback position has been the holdup. Tyler Bass is out for the season with a shoulder injury, putting the job back into the hands of Will Hudgens with Arkelon Hall backing him up. Hopefully the sight of ECU, who knocked both of them out of last year's 30-10 Pirate victory, won't result in negative flashbacks.
As for the Pirates they've had problems moving the ball consistently, especially in the passing game. ECU ranks ninth in the conference in both pass offense (198 yards per game) and passing efficiency (112.7 rating). But they've been able to remain in contention for the conference crown due to a defense that can force turnovers. Led by safety Van Eskridge and linebacker Nick Johnson the Pirates have forced seventeen turnovers (10 interceptions) in 2009, resulting in a turnover margin of +4 (3rd in Conference USA).
Memphis ranks among the worst teams in the conference in turnover margin and with the Pirates having the better defensive unit of the two the game will likely come down to how well Will Hudgens performs for the Tigers. Look for the Pirates to win a game that plays out a bit closer than many will expect it to.