North Carolina(1-2) vs East Carolina(2-1), 12:30 PM, ACC Network
Welcome to the 2013 Kobayashi Maru Game!
In case you are interested, check out former ECU coach Steve Logan discussing the history of UNC and NC State playing East Carolina and how it came to be. The money quote comes at the 6:10 mark when Logan is asked which means more to ECU fans, the NC State game or playing UNC. Logan says NC State because, "It's redneck vs redneck."
Anyway, regardless of how North Carolina got here, the Heels will need to contend with ECU's "Air Raid" offense. That makes this game the exact opposite of what UNC faced last week. Georgia Tech was content to grind it out on the ground whereas, ECU is 120th(out of 125 teams) when it comes to rushing the football. The Pirates average 2.4 yards per attempt on the ground. ECU prefers to pass the ball, putting it in the air 38 times per game.
Needless to say this will be a real test for the Tar Heel secondary. While there were signs that North Carolina finally had some grasp of slowing down the triple-option(before getting worn down) last week, it remains to be seen if the secondary has improved in terms of stopping a legitimate passing attack. Of course the best way to counter the Pirates here would be to get pressure on quarterback Shane Carden. ECU has given up 12 sacks this season with seven of those coming against Virginia Tech. While UNC's defensive line is not quite at that level, there should be opportunities to disrupt the ECU passing attack with pressure on the quarterback. Carden has completed 75% of his 110 passes in three games which is to say the worst thing UNC could do is give him time to pick a suspect secondary apart.
On the offensive side, UNC is still trying to hit on all cylinders which hasn't happened yet. East Carolina also presents an interesting challenge. The Pirates are 10th in rushing defense but 96th against the pass. From that perspective it makes sense that UNC would look to pass the ball more. That also makes sense because UNC is a better passing the football than they are rushing it considering the personnel. Given the match-up and Eric Ebron's performance last week, I would expect a healthy number of passes going to the Tar Heel tight end. Ebron is a tough match-up for any team and that should be the case in this one. Outside of Ebron, no other receiver has really stepped up and this would be a great game for Sean Tapley or Quinshad Davis to make an impact.
This isn't a must-win game but it is certainly a game UNC should not lose or really can't afford to drop. Right behind winning the Coastal Division and/or going to a bowl is sweeping the in-state schools. That starts here.
UNC 38 ECU 23