Halfwits and Wagers: Pundits Ponder the East Carolina Pirates

The Key Play's resident (fake) oddsmakers just hope their lives last as long as Virginia Tech's series with ECU will.

Oh ECU. You're like seasonal allergies. You come around every fall, are mildly annoying, and occasionally bring me to tears. The next time the Pirates aren't on the Hokies' schedule (2021) I'll be over 30, married for three years (or divorced for 2), and can hopefully write something more than "hopeful grad student" on my resume .

I think it's best that we all agree to treat this game like we always do. Watch it once on a Saturday in September, and then agree to never talk about it again, regardless of the results.

On to the (fake) lines!

Over/Under: 4.5 times the Pirates make you say "oh sh*t, not again."

Brian: Let me give you an example. After James Summers plowed into the end zone to give the Pirates a 21-14 lead last year, I looked at my future father-in-law (an ECU grad) and said "sh*t, not again." And I then I promptly said it each time they scored, and once more for good measure after Brenden Motley's final pass fell incomplete to finish the 35-28 loss.

Moral of the story, Tech has struggled against ECU a lot over the last decade. Three losses, two one-score games, and a bevy of ugliness. A never ending series where the wins don't feel victorious, and the defeats feel relatively normal. Something tells me I'll say this a lot on Saturday, not necessarily because it'll go poorly, but just as a reflex (at least through the first quarter).

Pierson: There are a number of annual foes — Pitt, Georgia Tech, Miami and UNC — that scare me each and every year, regardless of how competitive the games should be. Thanks to Jim Weaver, ECU has become a part of that despised list. You don't want to play the plucky, underappreciated team that thinks you have some sort of geographic rivalry that is of no interest to you; unless they morph into Boise State-West, it's a lose-lose scenario. Beat them on an annual basis and it does little to push the needle for the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. Lose every now and again, and it damages national perception.

Every year there is a Pirate (or two) that haunts your dreams on a bleak Saturday night in September. Guys like Patrick Pinkney, T.J. Lee, Shane Carden, Cam Worthy and James Summers, to name a few. Virginia Tech's defense has looked fantastic this year, but Josh Dobbs broke enough long runs to make me nervous heading into Take 2 of the James Summers Experiment. I am taking the over because, well, ECU makes me into a "glass half-empty" kind of guy.

Over/Under: 71.5 total pass attempts between both teams

Brian: These two teams combine to average 72 passes a game (Jerod Evans averages 28, ECU's Philip Nelson averages 44), so this'll be a close one. I'm going over for two reasons. First, I expect Bud Foster's defense to have a solid game plan to take away the runs from Summers that haunted them in Greenville last year. It'll force the Pirates to turn to the air even more than usual, like they did against South Carolina last week (58 attempts). Evans will also have some avenues to exploit a Pirate defense that showed some holes against N.C. State, so I expect him to sling it around more than he did against BC.

Pierson: I'll take the over. ECU's running game has decreased in efficiency through three games and, not-so-coincidentally, as the opposition has improved. As French pointed out in his brief preview of ECU, Scottie Montgomery's staff has turned to wildcat QB James Summers to provide some semblance of a ground threat. I expect Bud Foster to have his men prepared for Summers this time around, making the Pirates more one-dimensional against a dialed in pass defense. We know that we're going to see 25-30 pass attempts from Evans, so as long as Philip Nelson & Co. approach their season average we should hit this line.

Over/Under: 3.5 passing touchdowns for Jerod Evans

Brian: So, I didn't realize what a spread offense would do to the Hokie record book until I saw this tweet:

Like it or not, but the passing game is a huge part of the way the Hokies score. Last week, four of Evans' five TDs came from inside the red zone. It's just an extension of the running game, and by spreading the defense out there'll be more opportunities for the quarterback to exploit. I'll still say under, because a Hokie QB having this kind of success is still hard to fathom. But from what we've seen, it's definitely doable.

Pierson: Through three games, only 1 of the 7 touchdowns surrendered by the Pirates have been through the air. While none of the signal callers they have faced (nor do their systems) approach what's in store for them on Saturday, the ECU pass rush has given teams fits and will be something to watch. The fan in me really wants to take the over here. Having a passing offense that throws 14-plus passing touchdowns through four weeks is an amazing possibility. Sadly, I'm too much of a pragmatist and have to go with the under. It's not like three passing TD's is a bad thing, right?

Truthfully, I'm hoping Foster and Wiles have gotten into the offensive staff's ears to provide a brief history of this frustrating matchup. My ideal Saturday is this:

  • Hokies win the kickoff and Evans throws a long touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage;
  • Hokies force a turnover on the kick return and Evans throws a touchdown pass on the next play from scrimmage;
  • This scenario repeats itself for 60 minutes, while Bud roams the sidelines screaming, "AGAIN," after each TD pass like Herb Brooks in Miracle.


Over/Under: 300.5 passing yards for ECU signal caller Philip Nelson

Brian: Over, just because I'm betting he'll have to throw 55 times. It's easy to get excited about how well the Hokie defense has played against Josh Dobbs and Patrick Towels, but the Pirate attack is a different kind of beast. Bud Foster's crew will have success, but if ECU throws enough times Nelson will be bound to fall into some sort of success yardage-wise.

Pierson: Under. I have an admittedly irrational faith in the Hokies' secondary right now. Do I think they will continue to hold all opponents under 100 yards passing? No, that will almost surely end this week. Do I think this is the most talented defensive backfield in recent memory? Nope, not even close. But they're playing well as a unit and the defensive line has been disruptive enough to force opposing quarterbacks out of rhythm. Nelson is going to sling it, but I'm (irrationally) confident that the Hokies keep the passing game under 300 yards.

Yes/No: Marshawn Williams will have more carries than Travon McMillian

Brian: I'm interested to see what happens here. I know McMillian was banged up due to a faulty block last week, but Williams did show a certainty in his runs that has been missing from most of the backs. He's not fast — which is kind of a problem for running backs — but if he's decisive he'll shoot immediately into the "next back up" conversation. Plus, it's not like McMillian has been super productive. If you take away his 69 yard scamper against Tennessee, the sophomore has averaged 3.5 yards an attempt.

If Williams can hit the hole for a relatively easy gain on most of his carries, how many reps will he steal? It may not happen this week, but I don't think it's outrageous to wonder moving forward.

Pierson: The only way I see Juice finishing with more carries than Travon is if Cam Phillips blows another blocking assignment on the edge.

In all seriousness, I love Juice and I think the three-headed monster that he helps form along with Travon and Shai has the makings of a dangerous, complimentary group a la Ryan Williams, Darren Evans and David Wilson. I think that if Travon hadn't gotten blown up on that screen pass (thanks Cam!), he would have easily outpaced Marshawn in total carries last week. Juice will play a big role this season, but I don't think double-digit carries will be the norm just yet.

Rank 1-5: Who has the most receptions: Isaiah Ford, Cam Phillips, Bucky Hodges, Sam Rogers, Travon McMillian

Brian: Bucky, Isaiah, Travon, Phillips, Sam. It feels like Hodges is ready for a big time performance. He creates the single biggest mismatch on the field with his size, and after a few middling games in a row it wouldn't be a shock to see him get going. McMillan and Rogers are also interesting, because both are becoming bigger threats to catch passes out of the backfield. Just look at Travon's touchdown reception again. If the run is established early, some of these type of counters will be available for the taking.

Pierson: Brian, you sure do love these Rank 'Em lines! Let me give the ol' Brad Cornelsen Wheel of Destiny a whirl...Okay! Ford, Temuchin, Phillips, Rogers, McMillian. History tells us Ford is most likely to get the most targets, unless the opposition has an absolute shutdown corner. Evans seems to be looking Bucky's way more and more often, and rightfully so. And Cam has been a steady option making plays while the defense is preoccupied with Ford and Hodges. While it wouldn't surprise me to see the Hokies try and neutralize ECU's front seven by sprinkling in passes to the tailbacks, I think by game's end the usual suspects will lead the team in catches.

Set your own line: the number of times you forget Ruffin McNeill isn't ECU's head coach

Brian: 10.5 times. I've already forgotten at least three times while writing my portions of this column. For years McNeill was the face of my pain, the leader of the Pirates who was so nice I just couldn't hate him. Believe me, I tried. He and his baggy white windbreaker are now burned into my brain forever.

Pierson: I will say at least four times. I haven't had enough chances to laugh at him wearing UVa gear alongside Bronco and his crew of misfit head coaching castaways.

Matchup Over/Under: 56 total points

Brian: Over. Both teams are good at scoring, and will take their shots against the opposing defenses. It won't necessarily be a shootout, but if the Hokies hover between 35 and 40, it's not unfair to suggest the Pirates get between 17 and 20 of their own. Simple math says bet the over.

Pierson: Under. A 49-0 Hokies win over a stout defense is enough to swing the Pendulum of Sanity WAY TOO FAR in the opposite direction, where reactionary gamblers (**cough cough** Joey Coogan) see this line and bet the farm. They will make wild statements like, "The Hokies scored 49 points — 49 points — against last year's No. 1 defense!" And, "ECU is almost always good for 17-20 points, right? Right?!" VT-ECU is often a tight, hard fought game — not altogether surprising seeing as the two teams play every freaking year. I'm envisioning something along the lines of a 34-17 final score.

Spread: Virginia Tech (-11)

Brian: Is it weird I like the Hokies to cover here? If you take out two incredibly sloppy quarters against Tennessee, Tech has played really well. The Pirates are good, they beat N.C. State and should've taken care of South Carolina last weekend. But the Hokies are coming off a still-surreal 49-0 win over a conference team, and look like they mean business. Give me Tech 41-24.

Pierson: I already threw out my score prediction, so the cat's out of the proverbial bag. I think the Hokies cover the spread behind an offense that continues to get more comfortable in this system as the weeks go on; and behind a defense that will get the job done against one of the less talented ECU offenses in recent years. After consecutive embarrassments against Pirates, I would love nothing more than to see Tech lay the wood on Saturday.

Disclaimer: Some of these are real betting lines, but many of them are fake and none of this is real advice that should be taken seriously.

Comments

I think we get more TDs than we do Field goal attempts.
Our guys red zone production has been outstanding.

Brian: Over. Both teams are good at scoring

What a time to be alive

Moon Pies?!?!

Quickest way to get a leg from me is an obscure Simpsons reference.

I want to also take the under on 3.5 passing touchdowns, but ECU has young corners and an aggressive pass rush. I just think that the passes to RBs out of the backfield are going to be too easy to pass up. So while Evans may not have a high YPA, I think he will stack up a bunch more yards and TDs

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

If Coach Fu and Bud bro hug at the end of the game again, then it was a good day.


This is how I feel every time I hear "ECU". Would be happy to make the spread, but hope for sooooo much more.

Under on Oh - sh*ts. Its not happening again. Under on total passes. Eastern will not get enough first downs to keep throwing the ball like they have been. Under on pass TD's. We will have more on the ground than in the air this game. Under for Nelson - see above, and Summers. Mars has more. The power back wearing down a spread out D in the middle is more traditional in this type of O, and I think the way Fu wants to go. Mac gets more yards, but Mars more carries. Passing in the order given. Zero on forgetting who there coach is. I never bothered to learn the last, and expect to have less reason to remember this one. I'll take over on the score, but my lease confident bet. I feel good we cover.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

sounds like a dream

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

Looking pretty good at the half except the passing TD number. Ford may break it himself.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

If you take out two incredibly sloppy quarters against Tennessee, Tech has played really well.

and Eastern Carolina has played pretty sloppy themselves recently. So, as long as they don't clean things up too much on there end, I fully expect a dominant performance from the good guys.

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors).

This is easily one of my favorite features on the site. Well done, many chuckles were had, turkey legs all around!

I agree, its part of the TKP gameday lead-up tradition. All that is missing is "Foe" Rensics, but I assume FifthFuller is just going to repost last year's, or the year before that, or the year before that, etc. ad infinitum. I mean the guy is a BS virtuoso, but even Beethoven only wrote nine symphonies.

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

I cannot wait for the Notre Dame 'Foe'rensics.

"And then the real chess match began." - Justin Fuente

ditto

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

I think the three-headed monster that he helps form along with Travon and Shai has the makings of a dangerous, complimentary group a la Ryan Williams, Darren Evans and David Wilson.

That trio never really panned out as much as I thought it would. We were sharp in 2010, but Ru was working with injuries, Darren never really recovered from his injury, and Wilson couldn't get enough carries. I think Juice, Travon, and Shai have a chance at being a better threesome than RDD.

I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

I don't think Steinspring knew how to properly utilize 3 talented rb's in a rotation. I do have that faith in JF.

If you don't want to recruit clowns, don't run a clown show.

"I want to punch people from UVA right in the neck." - Colin Cowherd

Three? He couldn't manage one.

I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

Eh, I wouldn't say that.

"That kid you're talking to right there, I think he played his nuts off! And you can quote me on that shit!" -Bud Foster

The 1916 Cumberland vs. Georgia Tech football game was the most lopsided in the history of college football, with Georgia Tech winning 222–0.

I want that record to fall tomorrow, because ECU is the worst.

Hokies United l Ut Prosim

that can't be a real score...I imagine most teams would be hard pressed to score that many points against air

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

what if every kickoff was an on sides kick recovered by the kicking team and run in for a TD?

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors).

Unfortunately impossible because the kicking team cannot advance a kick recovery. But hey, Evans could totally shatter the Passing TD record if we scored the next play right?

GIVE IT TO ME ROSCOE!

I believe you have failed to account for the fact that it is Joey Slye who would be kicking the onside kick. He surely had enough power to cause the ball to ricochet off an opposing player, all the way to the end zone, where we only need to recover it.

"And then the real chess match began." - Justin Fuente

So this got me thinking....what if Joey's KO hits the goalpost and bounces back into the field of play??

But I'm guessing the goalpost is technically out of the field of play so it's probably a dead ball. But damn that would be very cool....

"Don't go to, go through"

It's real, Heisman was the GT coach. He wanted to prove that using point differential for rankings was dumb, so he scheduled a series (football and baseball) against them and ran up the score. Cumberland only had like 17 players and most of them weren't even football players.

Rip his freaking head off!

That link was supposed to be hyperlinked into my first sentence, hat tip to you sir.

Hokies United l Ut Prosim

I feel the same way. I don't just want us to beat them. I want us to annihilate them Syracuse '99 style.

21st century QBs Undefeated vs UVA:
MV7, MV5, LT3, Jerod Evans, Michael Brewer, Tyrod Taylor, Sean Glennon, and Grant Noel. That's right, UVA. You couldn't beat Grant Noel.

I just want to beat ecu, I don't care about the score. Its not like we are competing for the bcs and margin of victory matters. A W is a W, lets get a W.

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
“I served in the United States Navy"

KCCO

Big recruits on campus. I want to win by 50.

"I'll put a quote here to distract you from my inane comment."-Me

A comfortable win would be nice. Hoping it isn't one of those back and forth deals.

The Ruffin McNeil thing cracked me up. If the Hoos are smart, they'll promote him to be UVa's head coach just for Thanksgiving weekend.

Leonard. Duh.

If the Hoos are smart,

C'mon. It's UVA.

Besides, by November, getting the right pitch on "Kumbaya" is going to be more important for Bronco than lining up on the field.

It feels like Hodges is ready for a big time performance.

I agree. And god I hope this is true. I've been waiting for Bucky to turn it on all year. It's gonna happen sooner or later... right?

"These people are losing their minds!"

Spread: Virginia Tech (-11)

Looks like that has further moved to VT -12.5... Which is interesting considering it started at -7.5

Don't let this comment take away from the fact that Arkansas blew a 24 point 2nd half lead in the Belk Bowl.
Don't let the Belk Bowl take away from the fact that Matt Ryan blew a 25 point 2nd half lead in the Super Bowl.

Brian are you personally responsible for driving the spread up..? I know how easy it is to get carried away.

"Don't go to, go through"

So folks can bet on VT to win but ECU to cover. Got 'em.

___

-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

the next best question is, will anyone be able to call the spread for the UNC game in two weeks? obviously it will depend on how they perform this week against FSU, but since we have destroyed the spread the past two games, that has to be taken into account.

I swear to drunk, I'm not God

A never ending series where the wins don't feel victorious, and the defeats feel relatively normal.

Definitely not very Raven.

Great article, thx! Several belly laughs!

“I remember Lee Corso's car didn't get out of the parking lot.” ~CFB