On January 2, 2010, the East Carolina Pirates (9-4) will head into Memphis, Tennessee to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks (7-5) for the first time in school history. The Pirates come in off of a big win over conference foe Houston, who ECU downed 38-32 for the Conference USA championship for the Pirates second consecutive conference title, while the Hogs come off a disappointing loss to hated rival LSU 33-30.
All year long Arkansas has been scrutinized regarding the defense or lack thereof, however, in my personal opinion, the Arkansas defense will fair better than expected against ECU. Allow me to explain the methods behind my madness.
Aside from Missouri State, Texas A&M, Eastern Michigan and Troy, Arkansas has played against top tier teams. I am well aware that Arkansas has been suspect of giving up the big play, but look at when those big plays occurred. In the Missouri State, Eastern Michigan and Troy games big plays were given up when the first string defense was on the sideline, or at most incomplete, meaning key players to the defense where on the sideline. But this is the same defense who held then No. 1 Florida to just 23 points and cut the Gators YPG average in half.
But surely this is a suspect defense. I have seen college football boards calling for the firing of Defensive Coordinator Willy Robinson.
This is absolutely preposterous...
If Arkansas fans can sit through the decade of painstaking play calling endured through the Houston Nutt era, surely Hog fans will allow a defensive genius ample time to get his players in the system.
All this talk about the defense and people quickly forget about the SEC leading offense.
Come January 2, 2010 there may be a defense struggling, but I'm not so sure it will be a defense in Razorback red.
If you look back at ECU's schedule, the Pirates played North Carolina and Virginia Tech of the ACC...and lost both by an average of 13.5 points. And I know that they ended the regular season with a win over a very good Houston Cougars team.
I get that.
But in that game they allowed Case Keenum to go 56-75 for 567 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Enter Ryan Mallet.
I've said it more than once this season. If East Carolina can not put pressure on Mallet through the A and B gaps, forget it. In my opinion the Pirates secondary won't be up to the challenge of stopping Ryan Mallet on their own, and if the D-line can't move the pocket or make Mallet rollout and reset his feet Mallet will have a career day against a unproven defense.
I foresee this game as a good game with the chance to get lopsided lurking in the shadows. If ECU leaves their A game at home, the Pirates very well may end up Hogtied in Memphis.