December 29th, 2010/2:30 pm Eastern
Washington, DC - RFK Memorial
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East Carolina Pirates
This is another early bowl game that is bound to be a shootout. East Carolina brings in one of the nation’s most exciting offenses led by their QB Dominique Davis, but they also bring in the nation’s worst statistical defense. Expect a lot of scoring.
After winning the Conference-USA last season, Skip Holtz bolted Greenville for South Florida and the Pirates hired Ruffin McNeal to take over. McNeal’s first season was highlighted by a big play offense with little defense and the Pirates struggled to a 6-6 season, but still received their third consecutive invite to a bowl game.
Maryland has been in the headlines lately for firing Ralph Friedgen. They will allow Friedgen to coach the bowl game, so this is one last hurrah for the ACC coach of the year. The Terps turned from a dismal two win season a year ago, to an 8-4 season and they were in late contention for the ACC Atlantic Division title and a berth in the ACC Championship game.
- East Carolina: QB Dominique Davis ranks 6th in the nation in total yards at 320 yards per game. Davis has had a brilliant season for the Pirates and he is the main reason that they are even in a bowl game. He threw 36 touchdown passes this season along with 9 rushing touchdowns and passed for 3699 yards this season. East Carolina will air it out early and often against the Terrapins. Davis’ season low pass attempts is 36 and he tossed 65 in a loss to Navy. Maryland ranks just 66th in passing defense, but 9th in pass efficiency defense and ranked 11th in the nation with 17 passes intercepted. Davis should rack up a lot of yards through the air against the Terrapins, but don’t be surprised if he throws a couple of interceptions as well.
- Maryland: East Carolina ranks 108th in passing defense this season, so that should mean a lot of opportunities for Maryland WR Torrey Smith to abuse the Pirates secondary. Smith led Maryland in receptions with 65, receiving yards with 1045, and receiving touchdowns with 12. Smith can carry the load in the passing game for the Terps as shown by his 14 catch, 224 yard, 4 touchdown day against North Carolina State in the regular season finale. Smith is a big play threat, averaging 16.1 yards per reception this season and you should expect a big game from him against the much maligned East Carolina secondary.
KEY POSITIONAL BATTLE
It’s going to be interesting to see East Carolina’s 7th ranked passing offense against Maryland’s 66th ranked passing defense. East Carolina averages 319 yards per game through the air while Maryland gives up over 220 yards per game. The bright spot for Maryland’s secondary is that they rank 9th in pass efficiency defense. Maryland’s defense will likely give up quite a bit of yards, but their opportunistic defense should be able to force a few turnovers. Dominique Davis has thrown for a lot of yards and quite a few touchdowns this season, but he has thrown 14 interceptions and the Terps have intercepted 17 passes this season.
TALE OF THE TAPE
The Ground Game: Neither team has had much success on the ground this season, but if one is able to, then that could decide the game. East Carolina’s rushing attack is highlighted by their backs Jonathan Williams and Giavanni Ruffin, while QB Dominique Davis will run at times as well. Maryland has two solid runners in Davin Meggett and Da’Rel Scott that could see a good bit of carries if Ralph Friedgen decides to try and control the clock and keep the high powered Pirates offense on the sideline. If Meggett and Scott can churn up the yards on the ground, then that is probably what Friedgen should and will do.
The only common opponent that these teams played this season was Navy. Maryland walked away with a season opening 17-14 win over the Midshipmen while East Carolina gave up an egregious 76 points in a blowout loss. Maryland may not have a high powered offense, but East Carolina is bad enough defensively to allow the Terps to score a lot of points in this game. The Pirates on average give up 43 points per game. The turnover margin could swing this game in Maryland’s favor as well. Maryland is +13 in turnover margin while East Carolina is a -5. East Carolina might put up a lot of yards against Maryland, but expect them to turn the ball over a few times and give the Maryland offense a shorter field.
PREDICTION: Maryland 41, East Carolina 34