The East Carolina Pirates have some unfinished business back in New Orleans. As the Conference USA delegates to the R+L Bowl in 2012, they left as the runners-up. Here in week 6, the Pirates are deep into their conference schedule and seeking a return to the Crescent City. Matched up against the Pirates this week are the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, who will be protecting their home turf in defense of their trip to the Mercedes Benz Superdome.
Race to the Bowl
Middle Tennessee is no stranger to the Dome. In fact, the Raiders won the R+L Carriers Bowl in 2009 as a member of the Conference USA, beating Southern Miss. East Carolina’s Pirates are 3-1 with a close loss to Virginia Tech and a big win over UNC in Chapel Hill last week. Last Saturday, ESPN named ECU QB Shane Carden as the winner of the Capital One Cup Impact Performance of the Week. Shane led the Pirates to a 55-31 routing of North Carolina. With Carden at the helm, ECU is averaging 37 points per game. He threw for 3 solid touchdowns last week. The East Carolina offense is ranked 24th overall in passing yards, averaging just under 300 yards by air each game.
Defending Their Turf
In contrast, Middle Tennessee suffered a 40-20 loss to UNC a month ago and lost again to BYU last week. They picked up their first conference win against Florida Atlantic in week 4. Middle Tennessee is allowing over 30 points a game and scoring just shy of 27 per game. The losses at BYU and Carolina, along with a close OT win vs FAU leaves them on the wrong side of scoring statistics. The Blue Raider Defense has its work cut out for them to stop the powerful passing game of the Pirates. History will be made this weekend in Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium as these two Conference USA teams meet for the first time.
Both teams share a lead in the Conference USA standings. It’s early but all signs point to these two teams leading the Conference into November. For MTSU, this may be their toughest Conference match up of the season. As the newest member of the Conference, they have a lot to prove. Middle Tennessee left the Sun Belt conference at the end of the 2012 season. East Carolina performed like a big Bowl school in Chapel Hill and they see MTSU as their biggest block to another Conference Title. The road to New Orleans will look a bit smoother if they can manage to overcome this hurdle this weekend.
So make your choice, can Middle Tennessee’s Defense hold the high scoring Pirates in Murfreesboro this weekend? Make sure you vote for your team in the poll at the top. Catch this game Saturday, 3:30 on Fox Sports. Follow the game cast here: Fox GameTrax.
Sun Belt Game to Watch
While Fox Sports Network (FSN) televises the East Carolina game at 5:30pm, ESPN3 will broadcast Texas State and defending R+L Bowl Champions Louisiana Lafayette. Like our Game of the Week, these two teams are jockeying for a position atop their conference leader board in the Sun Belt Conference.