We now know Marshall isn’t a very good football team. We now know this, apparently, because SMU beat Marshall. Every win gets diminished, because if SMU can beat them, then anybody can. SMU is the Groucho Marx of college football. Groucho would never join a club that would stoop so low as to have him as a member. SMU can never be a good team as long as it beats teams that are bad enough that they lose to SMU.
Now, SMU gets to find out if East Carolina is a good or bad football team. I find East Carolina strangely fascinating. No team was ranked with more disparity than ECU. I spent way too much money on College Football Preview magazines and ECU was ranked all over the place. One mag picked ECU to win C-USA. Some picked C-USA dead last. College Football News.com loved ECU. The Conference USA coaches, on the other hand, picked them dead last.
Now, ECU had a bizarre schedule. Two games on the road followed by five straight home games with SMU being the last. They beat Memphis and Virginia. They lost to West Virginia, Navy, UAB and Tulsa. West Virginia , Navy and Tulsa are good teams and losses to them doesn't say much about how ECU's team relates to SMU. UAB isn't very good, but that was a road game. As for the wins, the Memphis win means little as Memphis doesn't have a I-A victory lost to Arkansas State at home, a team SMU drilled. The Virginia, even though Virginia is down this year, is still a nice BCS conference win.
That Virginia game, too, was at home. And that fact is troubling. ECU consistently puts over 30,000 into its stadium. They have a good, vocal crowd. Tulsa took the crowd out of the game early. SMU, to win, will need to do the same.
If you are going to point to any one position at ECU, it is obviously the quarterback position. James Pinkney is good. Last year, at SMU, he completed 15-of-22 passes for 225 yards, had an 80 yard pass play and ran for three touchdowns. He can run, but he really isn't a runner. Pinkney, this year, has been hampered because he hasn't had anyone to throw to. Stopping Pinkney is key. In that regard, I think SMU benefits from having played Marshall last week. In many ways, Marshall QB Bernard Morris is a poor man's James Pinkney; they do many of the same things. The difference is Pinkney does them better.
East Carolina has some depth problems, particularly receiver. Their leading receiver broke his foot and is out. Another top receiver has a broken thumb and is out, too. ECU's deep threat has a high ankle sprain and has missed the last two weeks and is questionable for the SMU game. Add to that, ECU's starting running back is probable.
Below is a crappy looking table which shows SMU and ECU's stats, which I am posting if for no other reason than I worked really hard on it.
|Category||National Rank||Actual||Conf Rank||National Rank||Actual||Conf Rank|
|Pass Efficiency Defense||70||129.61||6||64||124.86||3|
|Tackles For Loss||23||7.00||1||108||4.17||9|
Update: I forgot to mention that the spread is currently SMU +6, meaning Vegas thinks East Carolina will win by six points or somesuch (not really, but whatever). I have to admit, I was surprised when the line came out. I expected SMU to be favored, being the four win team playing the two win team. Oh, well.
Also, I have not mentioned that Zack Sledge and Duke Hasson were arrested on Saturday for, well, we don't know what. They were taken to jail; ticketed and released. Both are over 21; likely public intoxication. I mention this because I don't want anyone to accuse me of covering it up. It isn't that; it is that I don't care. Other than the fact that they are idiots. But, we knew that already. At least, that is, with regard to Hasson. Neither will play against ECU. Sledge did play some and will be missed. Hasson only saw the field as the holder; if his absense is noticed, it means something terrible will happen. Also, Hasson sent in signals in from the sideline, but he might be the decoy; we'll never know.