In 2012, East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeill and his Pirates played the South Carolina Gamecocks in Williams-Brice Stadium but lost 48-10. Now, with an offense that is much better than the one that took the field two years ago, the Pirates not only have a chance to make it a closer game—they have a chance to defeat the Gamecocks.
Unlike East Carolina's last visit to Columbia, South Carolina, the Pirates have a prolific offense. Their offense is very similar to that of the Texas A&M Aggies, which put up 680 yards against the Gamecocks in Week 1. The Pirates offense is led by three-year starting quarterback Shane Carden.
The senior had a superb junior season, as he set a school record with 4,139 yards passing last year. He also threw for 33 touchdowns against 10 interceptions and completed over 70 percent of his passes in 2013. Carden and the ECU receivers, led by Justin Hardy, could give the South Carolina secondary fits.
Last season, Hardy had 114 receptions for 1,284 yards and eight touchdowns. Not only do the Gamecocks have to worry about Hardy, but they'll also have to game-plan for Isaiah Jones, who had 10 receptions for 150 yards and a touchdown last week against the North Carolina Central Eagles.
ECU doesn't just pass the ball all over the place; they also like to run the football as well. Last week against the Eagles, running backs Marquez Grayson and Anthony Scott combined for 14 carries for 139 yards.
The Pirates can score, but the major area of concern is their defense. ECU only returns four starters from a defense that finished 33rd in the country last season in total defense, 38th in turnovers gained, 43rd in pass efficiency defense and 49th in scoring defense. East Carolina doesn't have to play perfect defense, but if it can slow down the South Carolina offense enough, much like Texas A&M did, the Pirates have a chance to upset the Gamecocks on the road.
This weekend starts a tough three-game stretch for East Carolina. After they play South Carolina, the Pirates travel to Blacksburg to play the Virginia Tech Hokies on Sept. 13 and then return home to play the North Carolina Tar Heels on Sept. 20.
Even though Odds Shark lists the Pirates as 16.6-point underdogs on Saturday, ECU is very capable of upsetting South Carolina on the road. Texas A&M gave the Pirates the blueprint to defeat the Gamecocks last week. Now it is up to the Pirates to execute it.