A lot of fans and critics have selected East Carolina University as another "Cinderella" team this year, but—as we so often quote here on Bleacher Report—not so fast, my friend!
While I absolutely loved watching the great game that developed between Skip Holtz's team and Frank Beamer's Hokies, I feel like people are looking at things from the wrong perspective.
Patrick Pinkney played great; there is no disputing that at all. And I give credit to both Holtz and offensive coordinator Todd Fitch for the fantastic game they called for the Pirates. But let's take a quick look at the other team, for a moment. Virginia Tech graduated its top four wide receivers, and lost running back Brandon Ore (disciplinary reasons) as well.
While I consider Shaun Glennon to be an average quarterback, even a good quarterback can have a lot of problems when you lose the talent VT did.
What's worse is Beamer may have lost even more talent on the defensive side of the ball. The Hokies lost two first-team All-ACC players (at safety and linebacker), two second-team All-ACC members (at cornerback and defensive tackle), and three honorable mention players, as well (at safety, linebacker, and defensive tackle). Just looking at those losses makes it difficult even for a great coordinator like Bud Foster to replace that talent and produce a quality defense at the same time.
Also, the signature "Beamer-Ball" style of tough defense and great special teams (that actually showed flashes at times, including a 98-yard blocked extra point return and a fumble return, as well), was eliminated by East Carolina's punt block that was returned for a touchdown that eventually lost VT the game.
What do I think about this year's ECU team? I think they are better than the team I saw play live a few times last year. Patrick Pinkney has really established himself as the starting quarterback, and what coach doesn't love a good dual-threat quarterback? (I know Rich Rodriguez would love one right now, and maybe Frank Beamer is rethinking redshirting Tyrod Taylor.)
A lot of people have said how the loss of Chris Johnson at tailback to the NFL will hurt the Pirates, but Brandon Simmons is a bruiser and Jonathan Williams really made this offense work well—he's a tough kid who battles for extra yards. The receivers also seem to be very solid and, with good coaching from Holtz, these Pirates can really fly.
Next week comes the real test. It is obvious the Pirates came into this game prepared, but West Virginia is a far superior team to Virginia Tech this year. If they can contain Pat White and the new WVU offense, then the Pirates offense will put up points on this West Virginia defense.
Special teams will be important again, but defense is where the true battle will be won. Look for Holtz to run the ball and test the Mountaineers early, and it will be interesting to see two very similar-style quarterbacks (Pinkney, White), facing off.
Prediction: WVU 31, ECU 17.