Monday, December 23: Beef O Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg, FL at 2:00 pm EST
East Carolina Pirates (9-3) vs. Ohio Bobcats (7-5)
This bowl has no competition for viewing on Monday, but it hardly makes the day memorable—unless the game is closer in reality than it looks on paper.
Vegas line/spread: East Carolina by 13 1/2 (over/under 63)
Well, at least it should be high-scoring. This is one of the biggest spreads of the bowl season, as ECU is favored by almost two touchdowns.
|Game-comparisons||win %||vs. Spread
With East Carolina at #54 and Ohio at #116 in the Strength power rating, it's no wonder that ECU's game-comparisons overwhelmingly triumph over Ohio's, even when corrected for the spread.
Strength power rating: ECU 42, Ohio 25 by Median rating: ECU 40-27
ECU scoring offense: #32 vs. Ohio scoring defense: #138
ECU scoring defense: #71 vs. Ohio scoring offense: #103
East Carolina outranks Ohio on both offense and defense, with a huge mismatch when the Pirates have the ball. There, Ohio ranks #138 among all teams (all divisions) in scoring defense (they rank #103 on defense, and #86 on offense among FBS teams). This yields about a 17-point spread. Using the teams' median game performance, our spread nearly matches Vegas' line at 13.
Yardage analysis: ECU 41, Ohio 20 per-play: ECU 31, Ohio 20
Yardage differential: ECU #52 vs. Ohio #107
ECU total offense: #45 vs. Ohio total defense: #101
ECU total defense: #66 vs. Ohio total offense: #104
The rankings aren't much different by yardage; Ohio has both components in the triple digits and East Carolina is favored by three touchdowns once yardage is converted into a score estimate. We project East Carolina to have nearly 500 yards of offense and Ohio around 350. The per-play numbers are quite a bit closer but still heavily favor the Pirates.
Adjustments to yardage estimate: ECU 43, Ohio 22
- Interceptions: Pickoffs shouldn't be a huge swing in the game but East Carolina gets about a point advantage here.
- Forced fumbles: Again, we don't see turnovers, on average, determining the game but in fumbles, Ohio gains roughly 1 1/2 points.
- Sacks: Ohio's solid pass rush should result in 3 or more sacks, while East Carolina might not reach 2, resulting in a nearly 3-point swing toward the Bobcats.
- Red zone%: Ohio's red zone offense and defense are poor, we give ECU almost 2 points and dock Ohio almost 2 1/2.
- 3rd-down%: East Carolina has great 3rd down offense (and weak 3rd down defense) while Ohio is poor on both; this means both teams should have a bit extra success on 3rd down, with ECU netting about 3 points.
- Special Teams: Overall, Ohio has solid special teams (kicker Josiah Yazdani has made 100% of his field goal attempts) while East Carolina is weak. ESPN's numbers dock 1.8 points from ECU and add 2.3 for Ohio.
Summary: After all that, the margin for ECU didn't change a bit from the yardage-only estimate.
When ECU has the ball
|ECU rushing offense: #115
||Ohio rushing defense: #103
Running the ball is not East Carolina's thing. Which is good, because they're not terribly good at it, even for a team that doesn't emphasize it. Despite this, Vintavious Cooper needs just 5 yards to hit 1,000 for the season and he has 11 touchdowns; QB Shane Carden has squeezed 10 touchdown runs out of just 63 net yards. Ohio's rushing defense is weak so ECU could have a better than average game for themselves, adding up to nearly 150.
|ECU passing offense: #10||Ohio passing defense: #81 per att: #103|
|ECU interceptions thrown ranking: #41||Ohio interceptions picked ranking: #25|
|ECU quarterback protection rank: #96||Ohio pass rush rank: #19|
Here's where the action is for ECU: Shane Carden and the passing game. Carden is nearing 4,000 yards for the year and has 32 touchdown passes. Justin Hardy is the go-to receiver with 105 receptions for 1,218 yards and 8 TDs. Freshman Isaiah Jones is 2nd with 556. Ohio's pass defense is pretty bad and we expect East Carolina to have around 350 yards in the air.
How can Ohio prevent this? Interceptions and sacks could turn things around. Carden has only thrown 10 picks this year so in an average game that won't be a huge factor, but sacks are a different matter. Ohio has a strong pass rush led by Tarell Basham and Ty Branz—a frosh and a senior—who have 12 sacks combined.
When Ohio has the ball
|Ohio rushing offense: #112
||ECU rushing defense: #52
Beau Blankenship had over 1,600 yards last season but he's managed only about half that this year as Ohio's running game has struggled. East Carolina's rush defense isn't one of the best but it should be enough to hold Ohio under 100 yards.
|Ohio passing offense: #55||ECU passing defense: #91 per att: #57|
|Ohio interceptions thrown ranking: #47||ECU interceptions picked ranking: #45|
|Ohio quarterback protection rank: #30||ECU pass rush rank: #31|
Like ECU, Ohio focuses on the passing game but with much less success. Tyler Tettleton's senior year has gone much the same as his junior season, with just over 2,500 yards and 20 touchdowns this time around. Like last season, Donte Foster is his main target with 858 yards, while Chase Cochran up from #3 to #2 with 656. East Carolina's pass defense isn't bad on a per-play basis but they end up giving up a lot of yards, and Ohio is going to pass. We expect over 250 yards from the Bobcats.
ECU is good at picking off passes and gets pretty good pressure on the quarterback but Ohio is less vulnerable in these areas. It should be a good war in the trenches on pass plays.
ECU's season (9-3)
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams (3)
Wins vs. BCS Top 25 teams (0)
Losses (3) to losing teams (0)
- Old Dominion W 52-38
- Florida Atlantic W 31-13
- Virginia Tech L 10-15
- @ North Carolina W 55-31
- @ Middle Tennessee St W 24-17
- @ Tulane L 33-36 3OT
- Southern Miss W 55-14
- @ Florida Int'l W 34-13
- Tulsa W 58-24
- Alabama-Birmingham W 63-14
- @ North Carolina St W 42-28
- @ Marshall L 28-59
East Carolina started off the season very strong with two wins and a near-upset of Virginia Tech, followed by solid road wins over North Carolina (55-31) and Middle Tennessee (24-17). They lost in triple overtime at Tulane so instead of 6-0 they were 4-2, but that didn't stop their momentum. They crushed two of the nation's worst teams (Southern Miss and FIU) by a combined 89-27, beat Tulsa 58-24, UAB 63-14, and N.C. State 42-28. Playing all of those awful teams in a row must have made the Pirates a bit soft because they were dismantled 59-28 by Marshall in the season-ender.
Two games stand out. On offense, scoring 55 on North Carolina was an off-the-charts performance; conversely, the 59 allowed to Marshall was easily their season's worst defensive effort.
Ohio's season (7-5)
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams (2)
Wins vs. BCS Top 25 teams (0)
Losses (5) to losing teams (1)
- @ #18 Louisville L 7-49
- North Texas W 27-21
- Marshall W 34-31
- Austin Peay W 38- 0
- @ Akron W 43- 3
- Central Michigan L 23-26
- @ Eastern Michigan W 56-28
- Miami OH W 41-16
- @ Buffalo L 3-30
- @ Bowling Green L 0-49
- Kent St L 13-44
- Massachusetts W 51-23
Ohio took its lumps in game one against Louisville, losing 49-7, but bounced back with their two best wins of the season, beating North Texas 27-21 and Marshall 34-31 (not that Marshall beat ECU 59-28).
They had an easier time with Austin Peay and Akron, winning by a combined 81-3 before losing to Central Michigan by a field goal. Two more MAC wins were followed by three straight losses. This time Ohio was on the receiving end of a combined 79-3 beatdown by Buffalo and Bowling Green, and after that they suffered an embarrassing 44-13 home loss to 4-8 Kent State. They had partial redemption with a 51-23 win over UMass, but the sting of those three losses has to remain.
ECU had a bad October, especially for receivers, but the main guys are here and there's nothing really new on the injury front. Ohio has a slew of questionable players but we assume most will play.
Psychology/Motivation - Some (unscientific) factors that may come into play during the game:
- ECU's season: +1 win; Ohio's season: -1 win
- ECU's momentum: +1 win; Ohio's momentum: -1 win
- ECU won final game: NO; Ohio won final game: Yes
- ECU glad to be there? maybe; Ohio glad to be there: maybe
- ECU time zones from home: 0; Ohio time zones from home: 0;
- ECU coaching situation: stable; Ohio coaching situation: stable
East Carolina's season was a bit better than expected, Ohio's maybe a bit worse, but there's not a dramatic difference; neither team expected to be in the BCS, for example. Both had designs on conference championships that were dashed late in the season, so neither is jumping for joy at being in the Beef O Brady Bowl.
ECU's final game was a disaster at the hands of Marshall. Ohio on the other hand smothered UMass in their final game. But the scenario changes when you look at the three games that preceded the final one—ECU had three very solid wins while Ohio suffered three debilitating losses.
East Carolina looks like a clear favorite to us. The roughly two-touchdown spread shows that Vegas agrees. The trouble is in bowl season—especially the early bowls—two-touchdown favorites get beaten with regularity. It happens due to psychology and emotion, two things very hard to predict or account for. One team comes in overconfident and bored at having to play in a lesser bowl; the other team decides to make the bowl game become everything their season wasn't—and voila: upset.
Will it happen here? Ohio is a senior-led team (quarterback, running back, top receiver) and those are the kind of teams that might finish strong in a bowl game rather than look ahead to next season. East Carolina might get overconfident facing a 7-5 team and knowing that they're expected to win. Perhaps the letdown of just missing out on the C-USA title game will linger, while Ohio shrugs off the effects of its disappointing season and uses the bowl game to redeem itself.
If both teams play like they did in their final game, Ohio will win by three touchdowns. If they both play like they did in the preceding three games, ECU will win by 50 points. And the bowl season is screwy enough that either outcome is within reason.
Ohio pulled themselves out of their tailspin with the UMass win, but it was UMass. It doesn't mean they're a great team all of a sudden. East Carolina had a bad time at Marshall and hasn't played since, so that one might linger a bit.
Picking Ohio here would be a nod to bowl craziness, something that happens every year but not in any orderly fashion, of course. You can make the case—as we did above—that certain conditions could lead to a big Ohio win, but everything concrete about the game suggests ECU should win it. Even the yardage projection couldn't be whittled down at all, so unless ECU is flat flat flat and Ohio motivated beyond reason, we'll take the Pirates in a walk.
Prediction: East Carolina 35, Ohio 14
More previews, odds, and predictions: View the complete 2013-2014 bowl game schedule.