As Pirates Start AAC Schedule, Style Points will Count in Voters’ Minds

Do it with Style: Cap'n Carden has to have a big game...again. Bolster the rankings and his Heisman bid.

Do it with Style: Cap’n Carden has to have a big game…again. Bolster the rankings and his Heisman bid.

Remember this when dreaming about an ECU dream season: Style Matters.

There is no way to sugar-coat the next five weeks. ECU will be overwhelming favorites in each of its next four games – and likely to be double-digit type favorites. With aspirations of moving up from its current #22 spot in the latest Associated Press College Football Poll, the Pirates will need to do more than win these games – starting with a home clash against winless and hapless Southern Methodist on Saturday (a nationally-televised, noon start in DFS) – they will need to win them convincingly. As in…convincing not only the AP pollsters, but also the College Football Playoff committee, who will be looking for overwhelming statistical evidence in games where the playoff candidates are the clear favorites.

In many ways, SMU is the perfect team to play to start the AAC following a highly-successful, albeit brutal and emotionally draining three game OOC stretch that saw the Pirates blow a game at South Carolina, knock off a then-ranked Virginia Tech team at the Terror Dome, and throttle a then-ranked (though no one knows why) UNC-CH team in a game where the Pirates set all time total offense records. The bye week, while maybe not welcome news to a hot-running team, is probably a perfectly timed as possible. Now, the Pirates need to get rolling again and this game is positioned in a way to allow the team to crank back up and hit cruising speed over the next several weeks, as the games are stacked in an increasing level of difficulty for ECU. The Pirates follow the SMU game by going to South Florida, then have another bye week, then host UConn in a big ESPN Thursday nighter before heading off to Philly for a solid Pirates WTF candidate game against an athletic Temple team. Four games where the Pirates will be heavily favored. Four games that can provide a manageable and steady climb up the AP rankings as ECU slowly builds up steam for a huge clash at Cincinnati.

This slate is really sets up nicely allowing the Pirates to ramp up each week for the next one while teams ahead of us in the polls start hitting their biggest tests. It is there for the taking, but for ECU, starting with Southern Methodist, BUT…style points COUNT huge.

While I am certain that Coach Ruffin McNeill and his staff will have the team jacked up for its debut game in the American Conference, it is another group of folks that I hope are equally up for this weekend.

It would be far-too-easy for the fans, alumni and students who comprise the Pirate Nation to stay caught up in the euphoria of the complete domination – again – of the North Carolina Tar Heels the last time out and given the fact that rivalry cuts across families, friendships, and livelihoods, it is understandable. I am still getting emails and seeing a lot of chatter about this game. If anyone will be tested this weekend, it will be the fans. The need could not be greater for Pirate Nation to sell out the game this weekend to once again show the nation what a visiting team must contend with each time they dare to visit Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

If we want to be considered among the elites, this is a facet in which we must consistently succeed. Another nationally televised game and another opportunity for our own people to put our actions where our mouths are. This is the AAC debut game and we need to show Central Florida and the nation who owns the title of top fans it this new league for the Pirates.

Skeleton Crew: Even our crowd has become nationally known...these gals get it! But the other 49,994 fans need to be there, too.

Skeleton Crew: Even our crowd has become nationally known…these gals get it! But the other 49,994 fans need to be there, too.

Considered the gauntlet down on this topic.

Visiting this weekend is a team that from every aspect of analysis short of our kids all getting sick, forgetting where the stadium is, or outright total failure on all fronts…aside total meltdown…there is nothing that should keep ECU out of the W column this weekend. SMU…they got nothing. A broken team with nothing left in the gas tank even early in the season. You can’t find anything that appears to be a threat. Before June Jones left the building, they were bad and in the ensuing chaos, they are worse then bad.

In my way-too-early season prediction, previously posted here, I predicted a comfortable win for this game, but after the watching SMU (0-4) over the weeks this season…I don’t see how this game is close…at all. Now, of course, you play the game for a reason. Our kids have been basking in the glow of positive national press and most surely should be feeling a little more intensity now that the team is ranked and is being followed more closely. In the past, our team has not always handled being in this position very well…for whatever reason. So there is always what has become known at least in my circles as the ECU WTF game. I really do not see any way the Mustangs will provide this moment.

There is really no need to analyze the stats other than these two:

  • Total D: Dead last, giving up 50+ points a game.
  • Total O: Dead last, scoring just 3 points a game.

This one could be another scoring-fest for the Pirates and hopefully, sees another game where the younger Pirates can get in and run the show, building depth and preparing for future campaigns.

Yes, Style Points Count for the Pirates.

Remember, the committee will look at statistics and memory sometimes is a tricky thing. The Pirates’ will sky-rocket statistically over the next 4 games which will put our O and D in lofty positions nationally. The early games will be the “wow” factor and the stats will be the back-up data. So, our team needs to go into this game setting a high bar for performance.

As for the polls, there will be some movement this weekend given some of the matches. Above the Pirates in the AP poll, there are matchups:

  • #3 Alabama at #11 Ole Miss
  • #5 Auburn vs #15 LSU
  • #6 Texas A&M @ #12 Mississippi State
  • #9 Notre Dame vs #14 Stanford
  • #10 Michigan State vs #19 Nebraska

Six teams ahead of us are going to get tagged with a loss. If the favorites win, then ECU with a convincing victory could take a large step up. And, there are a few other games that can help the Pirates. I do not expect #20 Ohio State to come back from a trip to Maryland with a win. And, I would not be surprised if Utah gives #UCLA a game as well. This weekend should send the AP poll on a wild ride since so many ranked teams are playing one another. At least 3 undefeated teams will no longer be undefeated.

Remain intense: Coach Ruff will be ready...will the players be as intense??

Remain intense: Coach Ruff will be ready…will the players be as intense??

Coach Ruff and his staff will spend this week working the Mustangs reputation up to playoff contender to ensure the team is ready not only to win, but win convincingly. IMO, the biggest factor going to this playing out properly is that this team’s senior leaders, while short in number, are big in presence. Don’t expect the likes of Shane Carden, Justin Hardy, Breon Allen, Terry Williams, Brandon Williams, and Chrishon Rose to allow either side of the ball the luxury of getting it done and done well. At the end of the day, it must appear like another day at the office for the Pirates against an over-matched visiting team.

I think we are all in for a real treat over the next 5 weeks, with the Pirates rolling and the nation watching. Hopefully Pirate Nation will do its part and have the stands looking like they did when UNC-CH visited.

Let me hear your thoughts all.

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