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Henry's Highlights
Friday, August 27, 2004

By Henry Hinton

Crystal ball cranks into action

©2004 Bonesville.net

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• PAT DYE: Short on Tenure, Long on Impact

• INSIDE PIRATE FOOTBALL
• Recruit Profiles
• Rookie Books
• Tracking the Classes
• Florida Pipeline
• NCHSAA & ECU: Smooth Sailing Again

• HIGH HOPES FOR HOOPS

• STEVE BALLARD: New Leader Takes Charge

• SCOTT COWEN: Busting Down the Door

• KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams

• BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate
 

Football fans always do it. They take a look at the upcoming schedule and make their game-by-game predictions.

Which games are winnable and which ones are not?

It's time to play “Predict the Record.”

Coaches will swear they do not play the game. But get real. This time of year they, too, are looking to see what kind of record their team is capable of producing.

So, get out your schedule and play along.

Let’s start with next weekend’s opener at West Virginia. Not much to talk about here. Rich Rodriguez starts his fourth year in Morgantown and the Mounties are in everyone’s Top 15. They are ranked as high as Number 4 in some polls. An undefeated season is being whispered about in the hills, leaving a Pirate team still trying to rebuild with little chance in this one.

ECU kicks off its home schedule on September 11 when Wake Forest comes back to town. The Deacons have had the Pirates number of late and Jim Grobe continues to show a propensity to have his team as prepared as any team in the country. Don’t be too quick to chalk this one up for Grobe, however. Noah Brindise’s offense may be finding a rhythm by game two and — with a wild crowd in Dowdy-Ficklen for opening day — call me crazy, but I see this one as winnable.

Week three will be the first league test for the Pirates when Cincinnati visits Greenville. The Bearcats and new head coach Mark Dantonio, who joins UC after a stint as defensive coordinator at Ohio State, will try to better a 5-7 record from last year that got Rick Minter fired after three straight bowl appearances. This one will be about the Pirates' ability to stop the prolific passing Gino Guidugli, who enters the season with nearly 9,000 passing yards. This one is a maybe… actually, a probably not.

A trip to Louisville will start the month of October. The Cardinals are picked by most to win Conference USA in their last season of participation in the league. The Cards offense is loaded. with Stefan Lefors at quarterback and the top two receivers and top three running backs returning. John Thompson’s defense will get a huge test at Papa John. Better not count on this one being a W.

Homecoming will feature the Tulane Green Wave on October 9. Great news in case you haven’t heard: J.P. Losman and Patrick Ramsey have both graduated. So has C-USA all-time leading rusher Mewelde Moore. There is no clear cut QB in New Orleans and history shows that, without that great field general, the Wave can be flattened. At this point, I see this one going the Pirates' way. Happy Homecoming and possibly Thompson’s first win in Greenville.

Next up will be Thompson’s good friend and mentor Jeff Bower at Southern Miss. ECU traditionally plays poorly in Hattiesburg and as usual Bower’s defense is loaded. Add to that nine returning starters on offense and this one shapes up to be another long day for the Pirates in Roberts Stadium.

October will close with a visit to Greenville by the U.S. Military Academy. This is always a big game with lots of fanfare. This year, add a big-name, high-profile coach to the mix. Bobby (“I was bored and willing to take any job”) Ross is the most recent coach to believe he can actually build a program at Army. And who knows, he might. But first year? Probably not. New coach. New system. Same result for the Black Knights. The Pirates should get this one. By the time he gets to Greenville, Ross will be wondering why he came out of retirement.

November starts in Houston and the Pirate defense will again be forced to deal with another terrific passing quarterback. Kevin Kolb returns after an amazing freshman year in which he threw for over 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. Coach Art Briles also has other weapons on offense. Winnable for ECU? Yes. But Brindise’s offense will have to put up some points.

Pirate fans looking to extend the warm weather season can accompany the team to Tampa on November 13 as ECU visits South Florida. You’ll get to see a great stadium too. Oh, by the way, don’t be shocked when you enter…it’s not a high school game. That crowd really is all that USF can draw for a home game. The Bulls will be hard to beat down there. Lots of returners on both sides of the ball. Unless ECU has built some significant momentum by then, this will be a tough one to win. Not impossible, but tough.

Memphis comes to town on November 20 and Tommy West is the new hero in Elvis-town after winning nine games last year. The Tigers have 19 returning starters including quarterback Danny Wimprine and Deangelo Williams, who might be the best running back in the league this year. Again, this late in the season a lot will depend on momentum and probably who is less injured, but Memphis has the upper hand on paper.

Thanksgiving weekend will feature the Charlotte matchup with N.C. State. Most people don’t give ECU any chance at all in this game. I don’t see it that way. The Wolfpack will miss Phillip Rivers more than anyone knows, in my view. Chuck Amato will have to rely on more of a running attack featuring T.A.McClendon, who has been known to get an injury or two. This late, anything can happen with an offense that reliant on a running strategy. Just for the heck of it, I’m picking ECU to win. (Why not? It’s my game anyway. You can play your own. Plus it will frustrate all my State friends to pick ECU.)

OK, then, under the category of “no way-no how,” I have West Virginia, Louisville, Southern Miss and Memphis.

Unfortunately, there are only two, Tulane and Army, under the heading of “we ought to beat ‘em.”

How does this compare to your prediction?

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02/23/2007 10:13:54 AM

 

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