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Friday, September 19, 2008

My Weekly Dose of Optimism: ECU

Alright...here goes.

ECU is riding one of the biggest waves of euphoria in school history after beating two ranked opponents in their first two weeks. The national media is in love with them and they've shot up through the rankings all the way into the top 15.

Pirate nation hasn't felt this good since their blues-loving nutcase of a coach Steve Logan was the commander in chief and Scott Harley was dragging us up and down the field.

But if you need some hope -- and as Wolfpack fans, we ALL need some hope these days -- here's four reasons why I think the Pack COULD pull out a victory.


1. Expectations. Expectations, expectations, expectations. Ask Philip Rivers and crew what great expectations can do to a team in winnable games during a dream season. In 2002, all the Pack had to do to wrap up a BCS bowl bid was win two of three games from a stretch of Virginia, Georgia Tech and Maryland. State lost all three. ECU has EVERYTHING to lose in this game and will play tight as a drum to make sure they don't lose it.

2. Quentin Cotten is done for the year. Their best player on a stout defense, Cotten's absence "quarterbacking" the defense will be felt. Granted, State's performance offensively will be a function more of its level of execution rather than ECU's play on defense, but if State can start putting some drives together and making plays, who with the ECU defense look to for leadership on the field?

3. The return of Jamelle Eugene. If you keep putting folks on the injured list, at some point one of them is bound to return. It looks like Eugene will play -- to what capacity, I'm not sure -- against East Carolina. As 850TheBuzz's Bomani Jones astutely pointed out the other day, Eugene gives the Pack a sure-handed receiver out of the backfield as an outlet for Russell Wilson if ERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR when our pass blocking breaks down. Couple that with the absence of Cotten in the middle, and Eugene over the middle could be a productive play for the Pack tomorrow.

4. Much has been made about the fact that State hasn't scored an offensive touchdown against a Div. 1-A opponent this season. That much is true. However, both games were on the road, and against two above-average defenses. I don't think anyone would call either South Carolina or Clemson's defenses "world beaters," but both teams have plenty of speed and talent on that side of the ball. Take into consideration, too, that the Clemson game was Russell Wilson's first complete game in college, and that wide receiver Steven Howard dropped an almost sure touchdown pass, and there are signs that State can do some things offensively. The question is can they string enough of these "things" together to generate a couple of drives that put touchdowns -- not just field goals -- on the board.

It's a long shot for us to win. We all know that. But if you need something to cling to tomorrow, there you go. Your weekly dose of semi-logical, semi-rational optimism.

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