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College Football in the Carolinas
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View from the East
Monday, December 24, 2001

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Only the Bowl and TV Execs Are Happy

©2001 Bonesville.net

As diverse as the East Carolina offense prides itself in being it did not demonstrate an ability to control the ball, run the clock, and protect a lead this season — factors that were never more evident than when the Pirates were unable to hold a 30-point advantage in the last 30 minutes of the GMAC Bowl.

The Pirates showed why they were last in Conference USA in possession time and pass defense in losing the largest lead ever in a bowl game.

You could stack the negatives as high as the upper deck at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium but the fact is ECU probably helped itself in terms of future bowl desirability. No one from the GMAC Bowl was complaining about the Pirates’ fan support, which was generated amid a slow economy in the span of three weeks for an underachieving 6-5 team that had lost its last two games.

And ESPN executives will remember ECU as part of a showcase responsible for a double-overtime 64-61 outcome that easily eclipsed the all-time bowl record for point production. Excitement. That’s what the television folks look for and — win or lose — ECU seldom comes up short in that department.

Off-season Brings a Sense of Urgency

Maybe that’s an unfortunate statement on the world of sports we live in today, but it’s true. Excitement translates into ratings and that’s what television interests pay attention to.

ECU must wear the disappointment of the loss in the off-season but that can be a good thing, too. A win might have disguised some deficiencies that might not have been addressed with the same degree of urgency otherwise. It’s too bad that a talented, hard-working group of seniors couldn’t have gone out on a winning note but overall they were part of a significant period of growth for the Pirates program.

Just a thought, but it wouldn’t be too surprising to see one of those enterprising kickoff classics match Marshall and ECU to start next season. Thundering Herd quarterback Byron Leftwich has established his Heisman candidate credentials and ECU? At the very least, the Pirates’ running game looks promising — and they will entertain.

N.C. State ran into a Pittsburgh team in the Tangerine Bowl that continued an upswing from midseason. The Wolfpack’s fan support in Orlando will be a plus for future bowl consideration.

The season-ending downturn dropped ECU several notches in the State Line Power Rankings©. You know the poll is tight when three points separated the Nos. 2 and 6 teams in their head-to-head meeting. Overall records and performances against teams in the poll were the determining factors.

South Carolina is 8-3 overall, the best record in the Carolinas among Division I-A teams, and the Gamecocks were 1-0 against other teams in the poll (Clemson). USC is followed by UNC (7-5, 4-1 vs. poll teams), Clemson (6-5, 3-2), N.C. State (7-5, 2-2) Wake Forest (6-5, 3-2), ECU (6-6, 0-2) and Duke (0-11, 0-4).

We’ll plan on doing one more poll after the bowl games are completed. Here’s the latest:

State Line Power Rankings© [122401]

1. South Carolina ... Gamecocks try for repeat against Ohio State in the Outback Bowl.

2. North Carolina ... Tar Heels fans are excited about trip to Atlanta.

3. Clemson ... All aboard for Boise.

4. N.C. State ... Orlando proves a Pitt fall for the Pack.

5. Wake Forest ... Winning season but home for the holidays.

6. East Carolina ... Mobile collapse epitomized the Pirates’ puzzling inconsistency.

7. Duke ... The losing streak is at 23 games.

The record was 1-1 for the first round of bowl predictions, bringing the total for the season to 48-20. Here are the last three picks of the season:

OUTBACK BOWL
SOUTH CAROLINA vs. OHIO STATE
Tuesday, Jan. 1, 11 a.m.

THE BARE BONES:

As Yogi Berra would say, it’s deja vu all over again for the Gamecocks and the Buckeyes, who met in the Outback Bowl last season with South Carolina winning 24-7. The Gamecocks concluded practice in Columbia on Friday and will resume in Tampa this week.

“We still have some work to do and some things to cover, but all in all, we’ve had good preparation,” said Gamecocks coach Lou Holtz. “I’ve really been impressed with the focus and attitude of our players. They are fun to be around.”

Last year’s loss to South Carolina precipitated the dismissal of John Cooper as Ohio State coach. The Buckeyes have the momentum of a 26-20 win over Michigan under first-year coach Jim Tressel. OSU (7-4) will likely rely on the running of Jonathan Wells, who ran for 1,257 yards this season and a 5.4 yards per carry average.

The Gamecocks allow an average of 144.2 yards per game rushing, 54th nationally. More importantly perhaps, South Carolina is allowing just 18.4 points per game, 12th nationally.

NUTS AND BOLTS: Lou Holtz has an 11-8-2 record in bowl games. ... The Gamecocks must deal with a 44-day layoff between their last game, a 20-15 win over Clemson on Nov. 17. The Buckeyes last game was Nov. 24, at Michigan. ... South Carolina is ranked No. 14 nationally. ... USC’s all-time record against the Big Ten is 3-5. ... Buckeyes quarterback Steve Bellisari was suspended from the team following a DUI charge before a 34-22 loss to Illinois on Nov. 17. He’s been reinstated but Craig Krenzel is expected to start in Tampa.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN: The Buckeyes will have to rely on the ground attack unless Bellisari reappears. OSU wants revenge. The Gamecocks want to prove last year was no fluke.

PREDICTION: South Carolina 24, Ohio State 21.


PEACH BOWL
NORTH CAROLINA vs. AUBURN
Monday, Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m.

THE BARE BONES:

Tar Heels fans, who haven’t been to a bowl game since 1998, will be heading to Atlanta en masse. The UNC delegation to the Georgia Dome is expected to top 20,000. They’ll see an Auburn team that lost three of its last four. The high point for the Tigers was a 23-20 win over Florida but that was before tailback Carnell Williams broke his collarbone early in the Alabama game.

Auburn coach Tommy Turbeville has used two quarterbacks, just as his UNC counterpart, John Bunting, has. Freshman Jason Campbell and senior Daniel Cobb have each passed for over 1,000 yards for the Tigers. Senior Ronald Curry and freshman Darian Durant have comparable numbers for the Heels.

“We played hard all year long,” Turbeville said “We made a lot of things happen.”

UNC revived its season after an 0-3 start.

“If we don’t win this football game, it really diminishes the real gains we made,” Bunting said. “... I’m very proud of my staff. They did a tremendous job holding this team together.”

NUTS AND BOLTS: Auburn is 3-4 against bowl teams while UNC was 4-4. ... UNC is 15th nationally in total defense, allowing just 305.3 yards per game. ... Although 7-4 overall, Auburn is averaging fewer points scored (22.2) than allowed (24.1). ... Senior Tigers offensive tackle Kendall Simmons won the Jacobs Trophy as top blocker in the SEC, which should make for an interesting matchup against UNC All America defensive end Julius Peppers. ... Tigers linebacker Dontarrious Thomas led his team with 114 tackles, including nine for loss.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN: Auburn’s late-season search for offense will continue against a stout UNC defensive unit.

PREDICTION: North Carolina 24, Auburn 22.


HUMANITARIAN BOWL
CLEMSON vs. LOUISIANA TECH
Monday, Dec. 31, 12:30 p.m.

THE BARE BONES:

It took some long green to get Clemson onto the blue synthetic turf in Boise where the quarterback matchup should be worth tuning into. Just don’t try to adjust the color control.

The Bulldogs feature quarterback Luke McCown, who threw for 3,337 yards and 28 touchdowns during his sophomore season. The Tigers counter with run/throw threat Woodrow Dantzler, who may even line up some at running back, according to reports. Louisiana Tech averages 34.7 points and Clemson averages 29.1, so the scoreboard operator could be busy.

The Bulldogs are 0-3 against bowl teams, including a 48-41 loss at Auburn in overtime. Clemson was 2-4 against bowl teams, losing the last four.

NUTS AND BOLTS: Clemson kicker Aaron Hunt is 5-for-5 from 40 yards and beyond. ... The Tigers are making their third straight bowl trip. Clemson and the ACC committed over $500,000 in ticket commitments and corporate sponsorship to get the bid. ... Clemson is allowing 28.6 points per game while Louisiana Tech is allowing 31.0.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN: An offensive show appears likely.

PREDICTION: Clemson 35, Louisiana Tech 28.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

Click here to dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 01:03:44 AM
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