East Carolina (7-3) at Tulsa (2-9) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: H.A. Chapman Stadium (30,000) -- Tulsa, Oklahoma. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: East Carolina 5-0, Tulsa 2-3. Away Record: East Carolina 2-3, Tulsa 0-6. Neutral Record: East Carolina 0-0, Tulsa 0-0. Conference Record: East Carolina 4-2, Tulsa 2-5. Series Record: East Carolina leads, 6-5.
GAME NOTES: The East Carolina Pirates will play their final road contest of the season on Friday night, as they pay a visit to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in American Athletic Conference action.
After suffering back-to-back losses on the road to begin the month, ECU finally got back in the win column last weekend, flattening Tulane in a 34-6 final. The Pirates, who were among the nationally ranked for six weeks this season, are now sitting at 7-3 and on the outside looking in at the AAC title chase, with a 4-2 league ledger.
At no point has Tulsa had such grandiose expectations, as it is a meager 2-9 overall, with a 2-5 mark against conference foes. Since a 38-31 overtime win against Tulane, the Golden Hurricane have lost nine of 10 games, with the lone win coming at home against an SMU team still in search of its first victory. This is the final game of the season for Tulsa, which had its postseason hopes put to sleep weeks ago.
These two teams both transitioned from Conference USA to the AAC this season. Last year, when they met in C-USA play, ECU ran away with a 58-24 win, its fourth straight and sixth in 11 all-time meetings with Tulsa.
ECU's offense has had its share of highlights this season, but none more impressive than what Justin Hardy did last weekend. The Pirates' leading receiver pulled in nine catches in the win over Tulane, setting the record for most career catches at the FBS level in the process. Hardy's career has been stellar and he has maintained such a strong level of play this season, with 1,106 yards and seven touchdowns on 89 reception. He is one of only two receivers in the AAC with more than 800 yards receiving. Cam Worthy (38 receptions, 748 yards, two TDs) and Isaiah Jones (66 receptions, 670 yards, five TDs) are excellent secondary targets.
Of course, there is plenty of work to go around for ECU, which is second in the nation in passing offense (367.3 ypg) and third in total offense (547.2 ypg).
Shane Carden usually gets the praise for the squad, and deservedly so. The Pirates' quarterback has racked up 3,574 yards on 63.6 percent passing this season, while having only five interceptions on 462 total attempts. Strangely enough, he has not been as prolific in finding the end zone with his passes, with a solid, but not overly impressive 21 touchdown passes. Carden threw for 358 yards and two touchdowns on 31-of-44 passing in the win over Tulane.
The incredible passing attack has been supplemented with solid production on the ground. Breon Allen leads the way, with 808 yards and eight touchdowns, while Chris Hairston (364 yards, two TDs) and Marquez Grayson (255 yards, four TDs) have each gotten some work.
Many teams that put up such outrageous offensive numbers often fall victim to a lack of defensive production, if only for the simple fact that opposing teams get more time with the ball against quick-strike foes. The Pirates have bucked that notion to an extent, ranking fourth in the AAC in yards allowed (362.2 ypg).
While it may not be in the upper half of the AAC in terms of wins and losses, Tulsa is actually one of the four top offensive teams in the conference, producing 414.7 yards per game. Unfortunately, the Golden Hurricane have not been able to translate that into larger point totals, as they rank seventh in the league in scoring (24 ppg).
Dane Evans has started all 11 games at quarterback for the Golden Hurricane and has done fairly well. He may have 15 interceptions and a completion rate of just 56 percent, but he has racked up 2,903 yards and his total of 22 touchdown passes is just a tad better than Carden, who was getting some Heisman talk earlier in the season. Evans was as puzzling as ever against Houston, as the positives of 258 yards and two touchdowns were outweighed by his three interceptions.
Keevan Lucas (95 receptions, 1,134 yards, 11 TDs) may not have the career numbers of Hardy, but he has actually been the AAC's best receiver this season, at least in terms of pure numbers. He leads the league in receptions, yards and touchdowns, although he has played one more game than Hardy. Keyarris Garrett (44 receptions, 636 yards, four TDs) could be a No. 1 receiver on many other teams.
Zach Langer gets the bulk of the carries for the running game, and he has amassed 801 yards and four touchdowns on 196 attempts. James Flanders (359 yards) has gotten his work done on 79 carries.
While the offense has firepower, Tulsa's defense has been less than stellar. The Golden Hurricane is ranked ahead of only SMU among league teams in yards allowed (484.6 ypg) and scoring defense (38.4 ppg).
Hardy will likely pad his new record quite a bit in this one, as the Pirates' high-octane offense will be moving up and down the field at will against Tulsa's battered defensive front.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: East Carolina 45, Tulsa 21Game Date and Time
Friday, November 28, 8:30 p.m. (ET)