SMU vs East Carolina Odds, Picks, and Predictions: Stangs' D Holds Court

It's a Thursday night AAC matchup between SMU and East Carolina and on paper, this one looks like a mismatch. SMU boasts an excellent stop unit and the Pirates don't score much. Our college football betting picks expect that to hold on Thursday.

Andrew Caley - Senior Betting Analyst at
Andrew Caley • Senior Betting Analyst
Oct 12, 2023 • 16:10 ET • 4 min read
Rahjai Harris East Carolina Pirates NCAAF
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It’s an AAC clash on Thursday night as the Southern Methodist Mustangs visit the East Carolina Pirates. The Mustangs are 0-2 straight up and against the spread on the road this season, but those games were against Big 12 opponents, and unlike those Power Five teams, it looks like these Pirates have come down with a case of scurvy.

So, it’s no surprise sportsbooks have the Mustangs as nearly two-touchdown favorites in this matchup. But since these Ponies have their best legs on defense for a change is that spread too much for this matchup?

I break down the college football odds and bring you my best bet, plus a same-game parlay, in college football picks and predictions for Southern Methodist vs. East Carolina on October 12. 

SMU vs East Carolina best odds

SMU vs East Carolina picks and predictions

In recent years, the remade Pony Express has been built off the back of a pass-heavy offense, but this year has been a bit different as it has been Southern Methodist’s defense which has led them to a 3-2 start.

Eight starters returned for the second year of Scott Symons’ defense and this unit has thrived. The Mustangs rank 18th in opponent yards per play and they basically do everything well. SMU allows just 3.4 yards per carry and just 181.6 passing yards per game. The Mustangs also rank 34th in sack rate. 

That includes holding what is a very strong Oklahoma team to 28 points on 365 back on Sept. 9. That means the Pirates' offense, which already looks like it's running on a peg leg, could be in for a long night. 

East Carolina is just 1-4 on the season, in a schedule that has been considerably easier than Southern Methodist’s. The lone win came against FCS Gardner Webb. Take away that game, and ECU ranks 129th in yards per play vs. FBS opponents this season.

Part of the reason the Pirates offense hasn’t found that buried treasure is because they haven’t been settled at the quarterback position. But it looks like the team has settled on Alex Flinn after he played every snap in last week’s 24-17 loss to Rice. That just may not be a good thing.

Flinn is completing just 49.1% of his passes and has thrown just one touchdown compared to five interceptions. But it’s not like Flinn is getting much support. The Pirates offensive line has also struggled. The run game is averaging just 3.9 yards per carry and they are allowing 2.4 sacks per game, which ranks 97th in the county.

All of this has added up to scoring an average of 15.3 points per game against FBS opponents. And in the Mustangs’ three games against non-Big 12 teams, they have held their opponents to 16 points or fewer. That means I’m taking Southern Methodist to hold East Carolina Under its team total of 19.5.

My best bet: East Carolina Team Total Under 19.5 (-115 at FanDuel)
Picks made at time of writing may not reflect live odds.

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SMU vs East Carolina same-game parlay

ECU Team total Under 19.5

Under 49.5

Rahjai Harris Under 49.5 rushing yards

Our same game parlay for this AAC matchup as always starts with our best bet which is of course East Carolina to stay below its team total of 19.5 in this game. But points could be hard to come by in general during this Thursday night throwdown.

With Tanner Mordeci and Tank Dell moving on, the Mustangs have gotten back to a more balanced approach and are running the ball at a much higher rate this season. On top of that, while the Pirates have a boatload of problems, you can’t really blame the defense at this point as it ranks 44th in the nation in opponent yards per play. With SMU more committed to the rush and ECU being no slouch on defense, this game looks like it should fall below the total, so let’s add Under 49.5.

And to round this college football SGP out, I’m sticking with my thinking that this will be a defensive battle, which will mean tough sledding for East Carolina running back Rahjai Harris. Harris is finally the lead back for the Pirates in his fourth year with the team but is averaging just 3.8 yards per attempt this season. 

His rushing total for this game is sitting at 49.5. Harris has gone Over that number in just one of his four games vs. FBS opponents this season. And that was against Appalachian State, which ranks 127th in opponent yards per rush. Under Harris rushing yards all day.

Learn how to bet a same-game parlay with these helpful tips and strategies.

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SMU vs East Carolina spread and Over/Under analysis

Both teams enter this matchup 2-3 ATS but it feels like SMU and ECU have gone on very different paths to get to this point. 

Southern Methodist is 3-2 with a balanced offense and a strong defense with their lone losses coming against Oklahoma and TCU. The Mustangs look like a team that can compete for the AAC Crown this season. 

While East Carolina’s lone straight up win (and one of their ATS wins) came against an FBS squad. As noted, the inconsistent quarterback play is compounded by an offensive line that looks like one of the weaker units in the country. 

So, it’s no surprise that SMU is laying 12.5 points in this matchup and I wouldn’t be surprised if this number inched closer to 13 as kickoff on Thursday approaches. That said, the ECU defense is solid, and the Pirates will be playing at home, so I wouldn’t be rushing out to lay that big number with the Mustangs. 

When it comes to the total it hit the board at 50.5 and the early action has moved that number down to 49.5 and I’d tend to agree with the money here.

Clearly, I think scoring will be tough for ECU in this matchup, but the Pirates’ defense may be their saving grace. East Carolina allows just 3.9 yards per carry and a mediocre 25.6 points per game, and that includes a matchup against Michigan, and most recently held Rice to 24 points. Four of the Pirates five games have fallen below this total of 49.5. I'd lean Under here.

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SMU vs East Carolina game info

Location: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, NC
Date: Thursday, October 12, 2023
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET

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