College football scouting reports for ECU, UNC, Duke and NC State

csmith@newsobserver.comSeptember 27, 2013 

East Carolina (2-1, 1-0 C-USA) at North Carolina (1-2, 0-1 ACC)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m., Kenan Stadium

TV/Radio: WRAL-TV, WCHL-97.9, WTKK-106.1, WPTK-850, WNCT-107.9

PPG: East Carolina 31, North Carolina 23.3

Allowed: East Carolina 22, North Carolina 25

3 and out

•  Matchup to watch: North Carolina receivers vs. East Carolina defense.

Normally, the matchup would be East Carolina’s secondary, but UNC QB Bryn Renner spreads the ball around, forcing everybody to pay attention to Quinshad Davis, Sean Tapley and tight end Eric Ebron – who will likely be covered by a linebacker or safety. The Pirates have struggled in the secondary, giving up 268.7 yards per game, and will have to contain the trio, which has accounted for 423 yards and four touchdowns this season.

•  Magic number: 106th. That’s ECU’s national rank in average yards per play against FBS teams. Part of the reason is the Pirates are averaging just 2.4 yards per carry.

•  Why North Carolina is favored: UNC has advantages in just about every phase. The matchup of the UNC receivers versus ECU’s defense is coupled with the fact that the Heels’ offensive line features five players weighing over 300 pounds while all three Pirates D-linemen weigh less than 300 pounds. Carolina’s strength on the line is clearly senior James Hurst, but he might not be tested as much as in past games, with ECU missing both injured starting linebacker Jeremy Grove for the second straight game and starting nose tackle Terry Williams due to suspension.

Central Michigan (1-3, 0-1 MAC) at N.C. State (2-1, 0-1 ACC)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., Carter-Finley Stadium

TV/Radio: ESPN3 (online only), WRAL-101.5

PPG: Central Michigan 17.8; N.C. State 25.7

Allowed: Central Michigan 37.3; N.C. State 20.3

3 and out

•  Keep an eye on: CMU freshman quarterback Cooper Rush. He moved into the starting role following a 24-21 win over New Hampshire in which he passed for 326 yards and three touchdowns, including one that went for 97 yards.

Rush hasn’t had as much success since his first start, passing for two touchdowns to four interceptions. He has topped 200 yards in each of his three games, but the Wolfpack will look to add to the eight times he’s been sacked.

•  Magic number: 100. The Chippewas rank outside of the top 100 in rushing yards with 109.8 per game (106th), points for with 17.8 (111th) and points against 37.3 (112th). While they have the 57th best passing offense (239 yards per game), they have struggled on the ground, making their offense transparent.

•  Why N.C. State is favored: It starts up front, where the Wolfpack will have a decided advantage. CMU’s offense isn’t the same team without left tackle Eric Fisher, the No. 1 pick in last year’s NFL draft. The strength of the Pack is its defensive line while the weakness of the Chippewas is the offensive line. CMU has given up eight sacks and faces a Pack defensive front that has accounted for six sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss.

Troy (2-2, 0-1 Sun Belt) vs. Duke (2-2, 0-2 ACC)

Kickoff: 3 p.m., Wallace Wade Stadium

TV/Radio: ESPN3, WKIX-102.9, WDNC-620

PPG: Troy 45.3, Duke 35.5

Allowed: Troy 34.3, Duke 27.5

3 and out

•  Keep an eye on: Troy senior receiver Eric Thomas. The senior has been a threat the past two seasons, averaging 771 yards and eight touchdowns per season, but has lit up secondaries this season with 274 yards and six touchdowns through four games.

Thomas might not be stacking up receptions – six catches is his season high – but he is a deep threat with two receptions over 50 yards. That presents a challenge for a Duke defense that has given up 30 plays of at least 20 yards.

•  Magic number: 21. Blue Devils quarterback Brandon Connette has rushed for 21 career touchdowns. The junior has four this season to go with eight touchdown passes.

•  Why Duke is favored: The Blue Devils have shown they can score. The key is whether the defense can duplicate its effort against N.C. Central and Memphis.

Troy scored 48 points and gained 721 total yards in a loss last season at Tennessee. Some of those pieces are gone, but Troy still has big-play ability (four receivers have caught at least one 50-yard pass) and won’t be intimidated by visiting Wallace Wade Stadium.

Duke’s offense should overmatch Troy’s defense, which is giving up 421 yards per game, thanks to the rushing attack of Jela Duncan and Connette along with receiver Jamison Crowder (Monroe), who has had two games with 140 yards receiving or more and finished with three touchdowns last week.

Wake Forest (2-2, 0-1 ACC) at No. 3 Clemson (3-0, 1-0 ACC)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., Memorial Stadium

TV/Radio: ESPNU, WDRU-105.7, WDRU-1030

PPG: Wake Forest 21.2, Clemson 38.7

Allowed: Wake Forest 15.8, Clemson 20.7

3 and out

•  Keep an eye on: Clemson senior quarterback Tajh Boyd. The Heisman hopeful has thrown for six touchdown passes and no interceptions against Georgia and N.C. State to go with his three rushing touchdowns.

Boyd kicked off the season by shredding Georgia’s defense for five total touchdowns and accounted for every touchdown scored against the Dawgs and last week against the Wolfpack.

•  Magic number: 1-33. Wake Forest’s record vs. top-5 teams. The Tigers have won four straight in the series and seven of the past eight.

•  Why Wake Forest is the underdog: Clemson is one of the most explosive offensive teams in the country thanks to Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins, but their defense might be the difference in this game.

The Tigers have 8.5 sacks from the defensive line, including five from defensive end Vic Beasley, and will face an offensive line that has allowed quarterback Tanner Price to be sacked eight times.

Other area games

•  St. Augustine's (1-2) at Bowie State (2-1), 1 p.m., Bowie, Md.: The Falcons pulled out their first win of the season against Stillman, 35-7, putting up their best offensive and defensive numbers of the year. Bowie State scored 40-plus points twice before gritting out a 16-10 win over Concord last week.

•  Shaw (2-1) vs. Chowan (1-2), 6 p.m., Murfreesboro, Tenn.: The Bears were stymied last week in a 41-20 loss against UNC Pembroke but will start their CIAA schedule against a Chowan team allowing 54.6 points per game, including last week’s 78-35 blowout loss to Sacred Heart.

•  Campbell (1-2) vs. Valparaiso (0-3), 2 p.m., Valparaiso, Ind.: The Camels struggled in their last outing, a 30-10 loss to Charleston Southern, before the bye week. Campbell will look to rebound against a 0-3 Valparaiso team that has yet to hold its opponents to less than 30 points, including a 69-10 loss in the opener at North Dakota.

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