Last season East Carolina recorded one of the best seasons in school history, but 2014 is a new challenge. The Pirates have some tough games, but could again put themselves in position for another bowl victory.
ECU has a manageable home schedule, starting off with North Carolina Central. The Pirates should start the season with a win in that one. Their next home matchup is against North Carolina, which will be a much improved team this year. Larry Fedora has done a solid job of getting that program back on track, but this is no automatic win for the Tar Heels. Last season, East Carolina was able to down Fedora’s squad, 55-31.
The rest of the home games are all games that East Carolina could win. SMU is an average team, finishing 2013 with a 5-7 record, so you have to like the Pirates’ chances in that one. A 3-9 Connecticut Huskies team in 2013 doesn’t appear to have the roster to compete with East Carolina. Tulane is one of the tougher home showdowns, as they beat the Pirates last season, but at home I like East Carolina’s chances in that one as well. Finally, Central Florida loses Blake Bortles, so it will be interesting to see how its offense produces this year. The Knights still have a great coach in George O’Leary, so UCF should again have a team that competes for the conference title.
The Pirates’ season starts out with a brutal road schedule, traveling to South Carolina and Virginia Tech in back-to-back weeks. The Gamecocks are a top team in the SEC, so it will be tough for the Pirates to compete for four quarters in that one. The Pirates have generally been able to compete with Virginia Tech, so don’t be surprised to see them keep that one close with the Hokies.
South Florida (2-10 in 2013), Temple (2-10), and Tulsa (3-9) are all games that East Carolina can win on the road. Cincinnati will be a tough game on the road, as Tommy Tuberville led the Bearcats to a 9-4 record in his first season there. The Bearcats are an improving team and will be a tough matchup.
ECU’s schedule is fairly manageable this season, thanks to a weak AAC slate. The three games early on against South Carolina, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina is the toughest stretch of games for the Pirates, but an upset is very possible in one of those.
This is a team that can compete for the conference title, and playing those three teams early could better prepare them for the conference games down the stretch against Central Florida and Cincinnati.