East Carolina Pirates 2023 College Football Preview
June 25, 2023
Record – 8-5
ATS – 8-5
The Pirates put together a second consecutive solid season under the watch of HC Mike Houston as they rumbled to a record of 8-5. It could’ve been even better if they hadn’t lost a few games in heartbreaking fashion. They had NC State dead to rights in the opener but it seemed like they missed eleven FGs and XPs in the final three minutes (L 21-20) and they fell to the mighty Bearcats by a mere two points.
East Carolina Pirates 2023 Outlook
The Holton Ahlers era has finally come to an end. Ahlers retired as the Pirates’ program leader in career passing yards with a whopping 13,927 and he won’t be replaced easily. Backup QB Mason Garcia is a SPECIMEN and the leader in the clubhouse in terms of the starting QB gig but note that he only threw 12 passes in 2022. The Pirates have a few other devastating losses to deal with as they’ll be without star RB Keaton Mitchell (1,452, 7.2) who was one of the most exciting RBs in college football, as well as their top-two WRs (Winstead, Johnson) who EACH bagged 1,000-yard seasons in 2022. They’ll rely upon transfers and depth pieces from LY to emerge quickly and become key weaponry. The best bets are Georgia Southern transfer RB Gerald Green, RB Marlon Gunn, and WR Jaylen Johnson. The prospects aren’t great for the OL as they return just two starters and will be working with a new LT and center.
It was a TALE OF TWO CITIES in 2022 as the run defense was excellent (112 YPG, #19 FBS) but the pass defense was full of holes (292 YPG, #129 FBS; #123 pass efficiency D). Six starters return this year including the entire defensive front and that almost certainly means the Pirates will be stout vs the run once again. The DL also has little issue with achieving PENETRATION as Jeremy Lewis and Chad Stephens combined for 7 sacks and 18.5 TFL in 2022. The back seven is still a work in progress but they brought in a few transfers from UNC and the FCS ranks to help them out. It helps to have retained leading tackler safety Julius Wood.
Things look decent. They’ve got continuity at PK and punter, and they boast a dangerous KR in Jsi Hatfield who averaged 27.6 yards per return whilst returning one to the HIZZY WIZZY from 97 yards away.
Overall – Yikes. There’s a nasty three-game stretch to open the campaign (at Michigan, Marshall, at Appalachian St) and they have to face the majority of the AAC big boys.
Potential ATS Trouble Spot – at Navy (Nov 18)
This will be their 3rd road test in four weeks and depending on how the season is going, it might be a flat spot the week before their home (and season) finale.
Season Win Total
Market consensus June 25
Over 5.5 +110
Under 5.5 -130
They’ve lost a lot of offensive production and the schedule doesn’t do them any favors. It could go either way but we have slight LEANAGE to the ‘under’.
East Carolina murdered Coastal Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl LY (W 53-29) and that was their first postseason triumph since the epic BEEF O’BRADY’S BOWL back in 2013. They probably could’ve have beaten Boston College in the 2021 Military Bowl but it was canceled due to the sniffles.
“Avast, ye swabs! A smooth sea ne’er made a skilled mariner, so we brace ourselves for the stormy tide.”
We believe what Steve the Pirate is trying to say is that there appears to be a tough road ahead for East Carolina given the inexperience on offense and the difficult schedule. However, we wouldn’t be surprised if they find their SEA LEGS by the end of the season. Let’s give them a 50/50 shot of making a bowl game. ARRRRRRRRRRR, Go Pirates!