East Carolina saw its prolific passing offense stalled early, but contributions from its less-heralded ground game and defense in its last contest saved the day. The 17th-ranked Pirates, who can match their best start since 1999 when they host Connecticut on Thursday, threw for a season-low 250 yards in a comeback victory over South Florida on Oct. 11. Despite being held 145.6 yards below its average through the air, East Carolina ran for three scores and shut out the Bulls in the second half.
The Pirates also did not help their cause with 12 penalties for a season-high 148 yards, but they used 231 rushing yards to complement a passing attack that still ranks fourth in the country (371.3 yards). East Carolina is one of 12 schools averaging at least 40 points, which likely makes them a formidable challenge for the struggling Huskies, who rank second-to-last in FBS in scoring offense (12.8 points). Connecticut suffered its fourth straight loss on Oct. 11, a 12-3 setback at Tulane, and is averaging nine points in three American Athletic Conference contests.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU. LINE: East Carolina -27.5.
ABOUT CONNECTICUT (1-5, 0-3 AAC): The nation’s 123rd-ranked total offense (out of 125) has yet to top 21 points this season and has been nearly as inept passing the ball (106th, 178.5 yards) as it is running it (121st, 77). The Huskies often have been their own worst enemy as well and rank 122nd in FBS with a minus-1.50 turnover margin. As a result, Connecticut’s best chance to hang with the Pirates might be with its defense, which is holding opponents to 325 yards per game - the 17th-best mark in the country.
ABOUT EAST CAROLINA (5-1, 2-0): Justin Hardy finished with 10 receptions for 114 yards in the win over the Bulls, giving him multiple catches in an FBS-best 42 straight games. Hardy, who needs 37 more receptions to break the NCAA Division I-A career mark of 349 held by Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles, has teamed up with Shane Carden for 23 career touchdowns – the most for a quarterback-receiver duo in the country. Breon Allen leads the team in rushing yards (504) and touchdowns (four) while also ranking second nationally in yards per carry (8.26).
1. East Carolina is averaging 57.6 points and 616.4 total yards over its last five home games, while also defeating opponents by 35.6 points over that same span.
2. Outside of their three-game winning streak at the end of last season, the Huskies have scored 21 or fewer points in 16 straight contests.
3. The Pirates are 23-2 under coach Ruffin McNeill when they outrush their opponent.
PREDICTION: East Carolina 38, Connecticut 6