Yes, it's ECU game week.
To make sure everyone is on the same page here, we here at THB like to refer to this game as the Kobayashi Maru Game which is a reference to this:
Traditionally this game(and any versus a non-ACC in-state school) is a no-win for UNC even if the Tar Heels do manage a victory. Beat ECU and you were supposed to do that. Lose to ECU and it's a whole hassle dealing with local Pirate fans plus it's a loss to a non-Power 5 team.
Of course this season could conceivably be the rare instance UNC goes into the game as the actual underdog except neither Las Vegas or the polls are really cooperating. UNC is ranked 25th in the Coaches Poll and just outside of the AP poll as the first team in the receiving votes category. In both polls, UNC has received more votes than ECU and the line for the game opened with UNC a two point favorite. That line has since moved to -3 for ECU despite this game being at Greenville(Correction: Previous version had "-3 for UNC")
Some of this logic(which bettors are clearly rejecting now) flies in the face of what we've seen so far through three weeks of actual football. UNC has been mediocre at best needing a multiple third quarter turnovers to blow Liberty out and getting by San Diego State by a thin margin. Meanwhile, ECU played toe-to-toe with South Carolina for much of that game then beat Virginia Tech at Lane Stadium on Saturday. ECU staked a 21-0 lead then got a touchdown later after the Hokies tied the affair. One team has looked very good(supported by the stats) while the other has been out of sorts(also supported by the stats.)
What we know says ECU heads into this game with the clear upper hand. The Pirates will be playing in front of a sell-out crowd and this game has a Super Bowl feel for the Pirates. There is nothing better than getting a shot at big brother, especially if there is the real possibility of victory. Adding another layer to the usual narratives is the Pirates have a chance to take an unprecedented second straight win over the Tar Heels. So in short, ECU is likely the better team playing at home with a high powered offense against a Tar Heel defense that, two plus years into the Larry Fedora era, is still wholly incapable of stopping even average offensive teams.
On the flip side, will there be a letdown for ECU coming off the Virginia Tech win? Will there be a letdown after what happened last season? Will UNC come in highly motivated to right the egregious results of last September in Chapel Hill? Or will there be weird, inexplicable college football "things" that happen yielding a result that no one could have predicted?
Yeah, probably that last one. Whatever the case, it's ECU game week so given what we know it might be best to lower expectations and prepare for a bumpy ride.