USF vs East Carolina College Football Betting Preview: Odds and Picks for AAC Conference Game

USF vs East Carolina College Football Betting Preview: Odds and Picks for AAC Conference Game article feature image
Credit:

Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images. Pictured: Holton Ahlers.

USF vs. East Carolina Odds

Thursday, Oct. 28
7:30 p.m. ET
ESPN
USF Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
+8.5
-108
56.5
-110o / -110u
+300
East Carolina Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
-8.5
-112
56.5
-110o / -110u
-400
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

The South Florida Bulls travel to Greenville to take on the East Carolina Pirates in a clash between two programs sitting in the middle of the American Athletic Conference standings.

South Florida saw itself get outscored by an average of 25 points against FBS opponents the first four weeks of the season. Since a bye week, the Bulls have been playing better, losing by one to Tulsa and toppling Temple by 20. But those two teams rank 83rd and 113th in the nation, respectively, according to Collin Wilson’s Betting Power Ratings.

East Carolina has also elevated its level of play recently — but its done so against better competition. The Pirates suffered back-to-back one-score losses to Central Florida and Houston (ranked 52nd and 41st). They continue to be undervalued by oddsmakers after covering four in a row against FBS competition.

This game has massive implications for East Carolina’s hopes to make it to bowl season, but the question is whether or not it can win by double digits to cover the spread.


South Florida Bulls

USF Offense

Last week against Temple, the USF offense proved to be dominant, outgaining the Owls by 373 rushing yards. It cranked out 34 first downs and owned control of the ball for nearly 45 minutes.

The South Florida offense is one-dimensional and relies heavily on its rushing attack that ranks 16th in the country in rush rate (63%). The ground game hadn’t found much success before last week, as it ranks 92nd in the nation and averages 3.9 yards per carry against FBS teams.

The Bulls boast a bruising running back in Jaren Mangham that has 12 touchdowns on his 96 carries.

USF doesn’t pose much of a passing threat with quarterback Timmy McClain. He’s completing 57% of his passes and averaging 7.7 yards per attempt but has two touchdowns to go along with two interceptions on the season.

The unit ranks 113th in Passing Success Rate, and only one player — Xavier Weaver — has over 200 yards receiving through seven games.

USF Defense

The South Florida defense has allowed 35 points per game against FBS teams, which ranks 110th in the country. It’s allowed nearly 480 yards of total offense and an astonishing 7.3 yards per play (126th).

There aren’t many areas that the USF defense excels in. It ranks 97th in Rushing Success Rate and 126th in Passing Success Rate. The Bulls sit at among the bottom of the country at 128th in tackling, according to PFF.

They have shown an inability to pressure the quarterback, ranking 110th in defensive pass rush and have recorded only four sacks on the entire season.

The best way to slow down opposing quarterback Holton Ahlers is by pressuring him in the pocket, and that’s been a weakness for USF all season.

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East Carolina Pirates

East Carolina Offense

The ECU offense is a well-balanced group that averages 29 points and 420 yards of total offense.

The offense begins with Ahlers, who has accounted for 14 total touchdowns this season. Ahlers has completed 60% of his passes and averaged 7.4 yards per pass attempt.

He has a deep receiving core to work with and has hit nine separate receivers for a touchdown this season.

The unit also has a two-headed monster in the backfield in Rahjai Harris and Keaton Mitchell. It’s been the freshman Mitchell who has been seeing a larger role recently while averaging 8.4 yards per carry to go along with four touchdowns.

The Pirates rank 49th in explosive plays, and third-year head coach Mike Houston isn’t afraid to pull out some trickery, especially on a nationally televised prime-time game.

East Carolina Defense

The ECU defense is on a similar trend as last year, getting better and better as the season goes on.

The defensive front ranks 42nd nationally in Defensive Line Yards and won’t have an issue handling the USF offensive line. It’s created 56.5 tackles for loss to go along with 19 sacks on the season.

The Pirates defense will have a significant edge in creating Havoc, a stat in which they rank ninth nationally. The unit is spearheaded by a deep linebacking corps that has assisted in creating 14 turnovers this season — nine interceptions and five fumble recoveries.

The group owns the 39th-ranked Passing Success Rate and will have no issue against the Bulls’ passing attack.

East Carolina will lean on its linebacking corps to slow down the run and force USF to beat it through the air.


USF vs. East Carolina Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how USF and East Carolina match up statistically:

USF Offense vs. East Carolina Defense
Offense
Defense
Edge
Rush Success 46 70
Line Yards 65 42
Pass Success 113 39
Pass Blocking** 80 102
Big Play 76 66
Havoc 73 9
Finishing Drives 106 76
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

East Carolina Offense vs. USF Defense
Offense
Defense
Edge
Rush Success 92 97
Line Yards 112 99
Pass Success 84 126
Pass Blocking** 121 110
Big Play 49 115
Havoc 113 123
Finishing Drives 112 86
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling 128 78
Coverage 92 46
Middle 8 102 52
SP+ Special Teams 34 36
Plays per Minute 90 53
Rush Rate 62.9% (16) 50.7% (91)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.


USF vs. East Carolina Betting Pick

East Carolina is one of the sneakier teams in the American Athletic Conference. It’s lost a few tough games to solid opponents by one score but has taken care of business in games it was supposed to.

South Florida is still in rebuild mode and has put up only two competent performances all season.

Offensively, the Bulls are one-dimensional, and if the run game isn’t moving the chains, then this unit stalls.  Defensively, they haven’t stopped anyone all season, and that trend should continue on a short week.

ECU had an opportunity to beat both UCF and Houston in the last two weeks, but self-inflicted mistakes cost it. The Pirates will be able to cruise offensively in the run game and through the air.

I make this number 13 and see value on East Carolina at anything below that number.

Pick: East Carolina -10 (Play to -13)

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