The inter-Carolina state matchups are always interesting. I particularly love this matchup between the NC State Wolfpack and the East Carolina Pirates. Because these are two experienced teams.
NC State is the only team in the ACC that returned its Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, and Defensive Coordinator, and that doesn’t mention the 17 returning starters.
East Carolina returns 15 starters – seven on offense and eight on defense – and ranks among the top-15 FBS teams in returning production. The Pirates are also due for some positive regression and can give any team a fight.
The Wolfpack will be laying double digits in this game, but should they be?
Read on for our North Carolina State Wolfpack vs East Carolina Pirates odds, picks, and predictions during Week 1 of the 2022 college football season.
Read on for our North Carolina State Wolfpack vs East Carolina Pirates odds, picks, and predictions.
North Carolina State Wolfpack vs East Carolina Pirates
The Wolfpack have taken the money, with over 80% of the tickets and 75% of the handle on the Wolfpack. As such, the line has moved a point that way.
SP+ does project this spread at NC State -14.6, so the line could continue to move that way.
But is that fair? It’s always profitable to bet home underdogs, especially ones catching double digits. But on the contrary, NC State has won the last two matchups by a combined score of 92-9.
We’ll have to dig further to find value on either side.
The total has come down slightly, now sitting at 55 across the market after opening at 56.
North Carolina State Wolfpack vs East Carolina Pirates Prediction & Pick
The Wolfpack defense was ridiculous last season. They ranked third overall in Success Rate, which included leading all of FBS in Passing Downs Success Rate and Standard Downs Success rate.
The success mostly came from the front seven, which was able to stuff the run at an absurd rate. Considering the returning production, the Wolfpack likely have the best front seven in the ACC.
But NC State got in trouble sometimes, ranking 93rd in Passing Explosiveness Allowed and 109th in overall Explosiveness allowed.
That’s exactly where the Pirates thrived last season, finishing inside the top-40 in Explosiveness in every scenario. There are some question marks – two of the top-three wideouts are gone alongside a couple of offensive linemen – but Holton Ahlers is back alongside the top three running backs. Keaton Mitchell should have a massive season after picking up 1165 yards and nine touchdowns on 6.5 yards per carry.
Plus, East Carolina had some success on defense last year, ranking 37th in Success Rate and 20th in Havoc on that side of the ball.
The Wolfpack are going to be good this season, and I think they are worth betting to win the ACC. But this feels like a bad matchup.
I think the Pirates create enough explosive plays and are frisky enough on defense to keep this within the number. It will be sweaty, but the Pirates are experienced, playing at home with nothing to lose, and have the roster continuity to compete in Week 1.
North Carolina State Wolfpack vs East Carolina Pirates Key Matchups
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for North Carolina vs East Carolina below.
Key Matchup No. 1: Jordan Houston vs Keaton Mitchell
Both NC State and East Carolina finished top-30 nationally in Standard Downs Explosiveness last season. A lot of that had to do with their star running backs.
But NC State is replacing theirs. Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person are gone, leaving Jordan Houston to replace that production. Houston showed some explosiveness back in 2019, picking up 17 runs of 10+ yards and 12 runs of 15+ yards, but he’s slowly faded into the background behind other stars in the backfield. He has elite quickness and can be the backfield man in Raliegh, but he has a lot to prove.
In case you forgot about Jordan Houston pic.twitter.com/W1Gj9Rkn6K
— Wolfpack Stats (@ncstatestats) August 25, 2022
Houston will have to compete with Keaton Mitchell, who returns to Greenville after a massive 2021 season. However, his stats were a little tilted by a 222-yard performance against Tulane and 130+-yard performances against Marshall and Temple. Mitchell struggled in games against South Carolina, UCF, Houston, and Cincinnati.
All those teams have a common denominator – they are elite in the front seven. So, how will Mitchell respond to facing another experienced and elite front seven at home in Week 1?
Whichever running back can create more explosive plays will likely decide the outcome of this game – or at least who covers the spread.