BullsInsider - Running the Schedule: East Carolina
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Running the Schedule: East Carolina

Josh Black sacks Thomas Sirk last year
Josh Black sacks Thomas Sirk last year (Karl B DeBlaker/AP)

Game four of the 2018 college football season finds the University of South Florida Bulls returning home from a short road trip up to Chicago, playing three of their first games at home. On September 22nd, 2018, the Bulls will defend their pirate-themed home stadium from the purple pirate invaders of East Carolina University.

This matchup marks the ninth meeting of these two programs, with USF winning all but one game, a 28-17 loss to the Pirates back in 2014, the third worst season in Bulls’ football history. Their last meeting was a 61-31 blowout by USF.

The Pirates finished 2017 with a second-straight 3-9 record, with wins over UConn, Cincinnati, and BYU. They ranked 94th in total scoring offense and were dead last, 130th in total scoring defense, allowing an average of 45 points per game. For contrast, USF gave up about half as much, 23.5 points per game, and were #10 in scoring offense, averaging 38.3 points per game.

USF will be working on replacing Quinton Flowers at quarterback, who smashed program records on the way to back-to-back double-digit win seasons and top 25 rankings. ECU will be looking for a new signal-caller, as well, with Thomas Sirk’s graduation and Gardner Mishew transferring to Washington State. Redshirt freshman, Kingsley Ifedi, and true freshman, Holton Ahlers, will compete with sophomore Reid Herring, for the starting job. Herring has passed just one time for ECU, a 20 yard touchdown pass in mop-up duty in a 48-20 rout of Cincinnati in 2017.

On paper, this might look like a cakewalk for the Bulls. However, ECU head coach, Scottie Montgomery will be on the hot-seat this year, having won just six games in past two years. And, that true freshman quarterback, Ahlers, was selected to the North Carolina All-State first team by the AP and ranked the 23rd best dual-threat quarterback recruit in the country after passing for 4,500 and 51 touchdowns his senior year of high school. He also carried the ball for 15 scores and another 900 yards. At ECU, he’ll have weapons to throw to, if he gets the starting job.

For the past six years, the Pirates have had at least one receiver to rack up 1,000 yards or more in a season.Last year, it was Trevon Brown who led the team with 1,069 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.Brown is a senior this season.The number two and three receivers on the team, departed seniors, Davon Grayson and Quay Johnson, accounted for another 1,350 yards and nine touchdowns.

While ECU will be primed to challenge, USF should still enter this game as a strong favorite to win. The Pirates were picked to finish in last place in the East Division of the American Athletic Conference at the recent Media Days. The Bulls were picked to finish second in the division in the same media poll, also receiving five points to win the division and three to win the conference title.

At present, this game is not scheduled to be televised. That, of course, is subject to change based on how each team performs in earlier games.