PREGAME CHATTER: East Carolina didn’t know it before the year began, but the Pirates are dying for this game. After what can only be called a disappointing overtime loss to Tulane last week, the Pirates face the former Conference USA powerhouse Southern Miss, which has turned into the conference’s doormat.
WHAT IT MEANS: It’s all about righting the ship today. East Carolina still controls its own destiny as far as the Conference USA championship is concerned but can’t afford any more slip-ups. East Division contender Marshall is still undefeated in conference play.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Receiver Justin Hardy lit up the field last week with 17 receptions for 230 yards. He didn’t score though, and he’ll need to start finding the end zone – three touchdowns on 57 catches – for the Pirates to win the conference.
ODDS: East Carolina by 22.
TV/RADIO: FSN/WNCT 107.9 FM
PREGAME CHATTER: The Blue Devils have won four of the past five meetings and looked like a new team after returning starter Anthony Boone last week against Navy. Still, both teams are searching for their first ACC win.
WHAT IT MEANS: This is an elimination game. If either team has slim hopes of going to the ACC Championship Game, this has to be a win.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Duke’s defense. Even in two losses, Duke’s offense has been good. Whether the Blue Devils win or lose likely will hinge on the defense.
ODDS: Virginia by 3.
TV/RADIO: FSN/WTIB 103.7 FM
PREGAME CHATTER: The Bishops held their own in a physical, rainy game at Christopher Newport last week, ultimately falling, 20-8. A reeling Greensbro team is next as N.C. Wesleyan looks to find consistency between weeks.
WHAT IT MEANS: For N.C. Wesleyan, a win means it is back in the wide-open USA South hunt.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Jacques Alston. N.C. Wesleyan’s playmaker out of the backfield will be on the Pride’s mind. If the Bishops can establish Alston, they stand a good chance of winning this game.
KICKOFF: 1 p.m.
– Justin Hite and Nick Piotrowicz