Not all 8-5 records are alike. Take last season's East Carolina team, which got to the postseason for the first time since 2015, and once there thumped Coastal Carolina, 53-29, in the Birmingham Bowl. The offense entertained for much of the campaign and featured a top-20 passing attack. The successful season marked an affirmation of the direction of the program under fourth-year head coach Mike Houston, who arrived amid some fanfare from a decorated run at James Madison, and slowly but surely seems to have the Pirates finally pointed in the right direction after the program floundered in the wake of the ill-advised Ruffin McNeil dismissal in the middle of the last decade.
But drill a bit deeper, and that 8-5 appears a bit hollow. The team endured three losses by three points or fewer, including a beyond-bitter 21-20 loss in the opener vs. NC State in what could have been a real win for the program. It was all the more maddening because of PK Owen Daffer, who pulled a potential game-tying PAT with 2:58 remaining, and then, with a chance to redeem himself and win the game in the final seconds, pushed a 41-yard FG try wide right. It all erased a dramatic rally from a 21-7 deficit in the fourth quarter that could perhaps have set the tone for a memorable campaign in Greenville. Daffer also figured in another frustrating loss a few weeks later vs. Navy, when his miss from 37 yards at the start of the second overtime opened the door for the Midshipmen to steal a 23-20 verdict. Later in the season, ECU would also blow a fourth-quarter lead in a 27-25 loss at Cincinnati. Even after the somewhat happy ending in the bowl game, a lot of Pirates backers were left to wonder "What if?" after those three gut-wrenching defeats. In their minds, ECU should probably have been at least a 10-win team a year ago...
Bruce Marshall's full breakdown of East Carolina's 2023 outlook, which includes how he's playing their win total, can be found below as part of SportsLine's preview of the AAC season.
2023 East Carolina at a glance
- Last Year: 8-5 SU, 8-5 ATS, 7-6 O/U
- Returning starters: Offense 4; Defense 6
- Win total: 5.5 (Over +110, Under -130)
What do you need to know about East Carolina before locking in your AAC futures bets? And which side of their win total makes for the best play? ... Join SportsLine right now to see AAC futures betting strategy from a veteran college football expert!
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