Southern Mississippi (7-4) at East Carolina (7-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 28th, 1:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (43,000) -- Greenville, North Carolina. Television:CBSCSN. Home Record: USM 6-0, ECU 4-1. Away Record: USM 1-4, ECU 3-3. Neutral Record: USM 0-0, ECU 0-0. Conference Record: USM 5-2, ECU 6-1. Series Record: Southern Mississippi leads, 26-8.
GAME NOTES: A spot in the Conference USA championship game is on the line this weekend in Greenville, as the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles take on the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
ECU, the defending C-USA champions, hold a one game lead over USM in the East Division, so the winner of this game will move on to the league title game to be held on December 5th. UCF is also in the mix at 5-2, but won't have the chance for the title, as it lost to both USM and ECU this season.
The Pirates took one step closer to repeating as East Division champions last weekend, when they defeated UAB by a 37-21 score. It marked the eighth win in the last nine league home games for ECU, which improved to 7-4 overall and 6-1 within the conference.
As for the Eagles, they are looking to return to the C-USA championship game for the first time since losing to Houston in 2006. USM moved closer to that goal last weekend, capturing a 44-34 victory over Tulsa. The win was the second in a row and fourth in five games for the Eagles, who now stand at 7-4 overall and 5-2 in league play.
USM has had its way with ECU over the years and owns a 26-8 advantage in the head-to-head series. The Eagles have won six of the last seven meetings overall and each of the past seven encounters played in Greenville.
Martevious Young threw for 276 yards and a career-high four touchdowns, leading USM past Tulsa over the weekend. He completed 12-of-21 pass attempts and added 59 yards on the ground. It was another terrific effort by Young, who moved into a starting role earlier in the year after Austin Davis was lost with a foot injury. Young has now completed 61.8 percent of his pass attempts, with 12 scores and only one pick, while contributing 251 yards on the ground. DeAndre Brown has started to regain his form that made him one of the top freshman wideouts in the nation least season and he leads the Eagles with 36 receptions, 575 yards and seven scores in nine games. Last weekend, Brown had three catches that went for 135 yards and a pair of scores, including one for 95 yards. For the ground attack, the Eagles are averaging a hardy 188.3 ypg behind the duo of Damion Fletcher and Tory Harrison. Fletcher heads the club with 877 yards and eight scores, while Harrison checks in with 547 yards and eight touchdowns.
Defensively, the Eagles haven't been all that good this season, but that is the case for many of the teams in C-USA. Last weekend, USM was exploited by Tulsa for 589 total yards, including 396 through the air. The unit, though, stepped up by forcing three turnovers and holding Tulsa to just six points over the final two quarters. USM has been able to compensate for the 382.8 total ypg is giving up on the year by recording 25 takeaways and 33 sacks. Cordarro Law heads the team with 13.5 TFLs and 7.5 sacks and he had a sack and two forced fumbles in last weekend's win. Korey Williams is another player to keep a look out for, as he tops the roster in tackles (103), while adding nine TFLs and 6.5 sacks to the mix.
Dwayne Harris totaled three touchdowns last weekend, helping ECU defeated UAB in a crucial league game. The versatile wideout grabbed eight balls for 108 yards and two scores, in addition to returning a kickoff 99 yards for another touchdown. It was the third kickoff return for a touchdown this season by Harris, who also leads the team with 62 receptions for 727 yards and five scores. Patrick Pinkney has been responsible for getting him the ball and he was effective last weekend, completing 20-of-25 pass attempts for 250 yards and three touchdowns. The veteran quarterback doesn't post big numbers, but he always seems to get the job done and has now thrown for 2,207 yards on the year. Dominique Lindsay paces ECU's ground attack, which is churning out 147.5 ypg, with 856 yards and he is averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
The Pirates possess one of the top defensive units in the league despite what the numbers would indicate in last weekend's win over UAB. In that game, ECU was torched for 520 total yards, including 273 rushing, although many of those yards came when the game was out of reach. Still, the Pirates countered by forcing two turnovers and recording four sacks. For the season, ECU has now recorded 28 takeaways and 25 sacks, while limiting foes to just 21.4 ppg. Van Eskridge leads the defense with 55.5 tackles and four interceptions and that includes a pick last weekend. C.J. Wilson is player capable of dominating up front and the defensive end leads the team with 5.5 sacks for the year.
This is obviously the biggest game of the season for both teams, as the winner gets the chance to play for the conference title. ECU is a team that gets the job done in all phases of the game and that is why it should prevail over a dangerous USM squad this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: East Carolina 31, Southern Mississippi 24
11/25 10:49:45 ET