A win for East Carolina over SMU will give the Pirates a 3-5 American Athletic Conference record to match the 2015 season. ECU-SMU kicks off at noon Saturday on ESPN-Plus.
Here are three questions about the matchup:
1. Buechele TD-to-INT ratio?
This is one of the most difficult matchups this year for the Pirate defense, mainly because of the comfort level SMU’s coaching staff has in its senior quarterback and the confidence that quarterback, Shane Buechele, has in the Mustangs racking up points against anybody. Last year’s ECU-SMU shootout in Dallas featured Pirate quarterback Holton Ahlers passing for 498 passing yards and six touchdowns, and Buechele had 414 yards with five TDs and an interception.
Buechele has been terrific again this year. After throwing two interceptions, one touchdown on 367 yards against Texas State to begin the season, he has totaled 20 touchdown passes with two INTs in eight games.
2. Another 100 for Mitchell?
East Carolina starting running Rahjai Harris had a streak of three straight 100-yard rushing games earlier in the year. Harris has been solid since then, but his backup, fellow freshman Keaton Mitchell, has especially excelled in his role with consecutive 100-yard outings heading into this weekend.
Mitchell ran 17 times for 124 yards against Cincinnati, then a standout second half a week ago at Temple helped him finish with 13 carries for 103 yards versus the Owls. SMU ranks sixth in the American Athletic Conference in pass defense and fifth in rush defense, yielding 182.6 ground yards per contest.
3. Emotions from teams?
Thanksgiving week games can sometimes be tricky.
Last year at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium to end the season, it would have made sense for the host Pirates to be the more motivated team at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, but instead Tulsa enjoyed a hot start to lead 21-3 at halftime and then 28-3 early in the third quarter to seize momentum with ease in a flat performance by the Pirates to finish coach Mike Houston’s first season in Greenville. Houston might be able to use that game as motivation this week and end this season with a signature victory over the Mustangs and close the campaign with consecutive wins for momentum going into the offseason.