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NCAA Football Picks: Pirates Capable of Pulling Upset in South Florida

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Oskeim Sports previews Saturday’s college football game between East Carolina and South Florida.  Oskeim recommends taking the points with the Pirates as one of his NCAA Football picks for September 22.

Oskeim also recommends grabbing the points with Rutgers as one of his NCAA Football picks for Saturday.

Despite having one of the youngest teams in the nation (12 returning starters), East Carolina showed a lot of resolve after losing its season opener to an FCS school (North Carolina A&T) for the second straight year.

Third-year head coach Scottie Montgomery, who has his best team yet in Greenville, rallied his players and destroyed North Carolina 41-19 as a fifteen-point underdog.

The Pirates arrive in town off an early-season bye (Hurricane Florence) and catch South Florida off consecutive come-from-behind wins over Georgia Tech and Illinois.

The Bulls were outgained by 176 yards against Georgia Tech and scored seventeen unanswered points, including a 50-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter, to defeat Illinois 25-19 as fourteen-point favorites.

This will likely be a high-scoring affair as East Carolina’s offense has been 0.6 yards per play better than average from the line of scrimmage, whereas the Bulls’ stop unit has been 0.1 yards per play worse than average.

The Pirates’ attack owns a 0.6 yards per play advantage in this game and should have success moving the ball against a pedestrian South Florida defense.

Not surprisingly, South Florida’s offense possesses an even greater advantage from the line of scrimmage over an East Carolina stop unit that is allowing 5.1 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 4.7 yards per play against a mediocre defense.

The Bulls have been 0.5 yards per pay better than average offensively (6.4 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow 5.9 yards per play to a mediocre attack) and have a 0.9 yards per play advantage overall from the line of scrimmage against East Carolina.

However, new defensive coordinator David Blackwell is one of the best coaches that no one has heard of. During his four-year tenure as Jacksonville State’s defensive coordinator, he was a finalist for the FCS Defensive Coordinator of the Year award twice.

With Blackwell as its coordinator and linebackers coach from 2014-17, the Jacksonville State defense collectively ranked first in the FCS in defensive completion percentage and second in rushing yards allowed per carry and pass efficiency defense.

After allowing 45.0 points and 542 total yards per game last season, the Pirates’ defense has already shown significant improvement under Blackwell. Montgomery also made an excellent hire in Kirk Doll, who was the Pirates’ special teams coordinator from 2012-15.

From a technical standpoint, South Florida is 0-6 ATS in its last six games as a double-digit favorite and 1-4 ATS in its previous five conference affairs.

Finally, my math model only favors the Bulls by 16.8 points so the value is squarely on the side of the well-rested road underdog. Grab the three touchdowns with the Pirates as one of Oskeim Sports’ NCAA Football picks for Saturday.

Oskeim Sports’ NCAA Football Picks for Saturday, September 22:

  • East Carolina (+21) (-110) over South Florida
  • Rutgers (+6) (-110) over Buffalo