Week 4 - East Carolina at North Carolina

Posted Sep 19, 2012

Week 4 CFN Fearless Prediction – East Carolina at North Carolina

East Carolina (2-1) at North Carolina (1-2) Sept. 22, 3:30, ESPNU

Here's The Deal: The muddled East half of Conference USA has an early frontrunner, and its name is East Carolina. The Pirates, a week after being humbled by South Carolina, defeated defending league champ Southern Miss in Hattiesburg for the biggest win of the erratic Ruffin McNeill tenure. Entering the final leg of a three-game road trip, ECU has a chance to further boost its confidence level before returning to conference play. Carolina is off to a rocky start under new head coach Larry Fedora. The Tar Heels, whose only win came against Elon, have lost back-to-back games to Wake Forest and Louisville. Against the Cardinals last week, they were outclassed at Papa John's Stadium, only making the game competitive with a late surge in the fourth quarter. This is the fourth straight year that these schools are meeting, with the Heels winning the last three games.

Why East Carolina Might Win: The Pirates have won both of their games on the strength of the defense. In Chapel Hill, though, the offense will need to locate its sea legs. Carolina is having problems on defense, especially when opposing passers put the ball in the air. Running the ball will be tough against a sturdy middle headed by DT Sylvester Williams and LB Kevin Reddick. However, QB Shane Carden figures to get a bunch of good looks in the direction of top target Justin Hardy, who has caught a touchdown pass in each game.

Why North Carolina Might Win: The Tar Heels have dropped consecutive games, but do not blame the offense. Carolina is hoping to get back all-star RB Giovani Bernard, who missed both losses with a knee injury. However, if he remains hobbled, the Heels are confident in QB Bryn Renner's ability to move the offense on his own. Rapidly developing in Fedora's attack, the junior burned a good Louisville D for 363 yards and five touchdown passes a week ago. He's employing a lot of different weapons, from RB Romar Morris and TE Eric Ebron to receivers Erik Highsmith and Sean Tapley.

What To Watch Out For: Carolina houses a terrific offensive line, with multiple next-level players on it. Their objective on Saturday will be to get to the second level to help neutralize East Carolina linebackers Jeremy Grove, Kyle Tudor and Montese Overton. The Pirates have done a nice job of making plays up field, collecting a dozen stops behind the line versus Southern Miss. Whether it's Bernard or A.J. Blue getting the bulk of the carries, he'll need to get a running start before absorbing his first contact.

What Will Happen: North Carolina needs to figure out if it's the team that rallied late against Louisville or the one that was outclassed over the first 45 minutes. The Heels defense may be a work-in-progress, but the offense has as much talent as anyone this side of Clemson in the ACC, especially when Bernard is at full strength. Renner will continue his evolution as the team leader, throwing a couple of touchdown passes to guide his guys to a much-needed win.

CFN Prediction: North Carolina 31 … East Carolina 20
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) North Carolina -14.5 O/U:
Must Watch Rating (5 – Ray Lewis: A Football Life, 1 – Frankenweenie): 2