WIth the College Football Playoff semifinals and big New Year’s Day bowl games behind us, the 2014 bowl season continues with a Saturday afternoon game(12:00 pm ET) that features an intriguing match-up with an upstart and a traditional college football power squaring off. The East Carolina Pirates (8-1) of the American Athletic Conference and the Florida Gators (6-5) of the SEC in the Birmingham Bowl from Legion Field in Birmingham, AL. The Pirates lost their regular season finale to Central Florida 32-30 on a last second Hail Mary after rallying back from 17 points down in the 2nd half ot take the lead. ECU lost 3 of their last 5 games after starting the season 6-1. Florida lost their regular season finale 24-19 to in-state rival and defending National Champion Florida St. The Gators won 3 of their final 5 games after they began the season 3-3.
East Carolina is ranked 14th nationally in scoring offense with an average of 37.2 points per game and 6th among FBS teams in total offense with 532.8 yards per contest. The Pirates rank 53rd nationally in points allowed with 25.7 per game and 43rd in total defense 369.7 YPG allowed.
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Florida is ranked 54th nationally in scoring offense with an average of 20.5 PPG scored and 91st among FBS teams in total offense with 370.2 YPG. The Gators rank 21st nationally in points allowed with 21.2 per game and 8th in total defense 311 YPG allowed.
East Carolina vs. Florida Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
East Carolina Pirates +7
@ Florida Gators -7
Over 56 (-110)
Under 56 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
East Carolina vs Florida Pick
The Pirates are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games against SEC teams, 5-0 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games and 1-7 ATS in their last 8 games overall. The Gators are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 bowl games, 10-4 ATS in their last 14 neutral site games and 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games overall. The Over is 7-2 in the Pirates’ last 9 neutral site games, 9-3 in their last 12 games on fieldturf and 9-4 in their last 13 games against a team with a winning record. The Over is 6-2 in the Gators’ last 8 Bowl games, 7-1 in their last 8 games against a team with a winning record and 8-3 in their last 11 games overall.
The Gators will have the services of freshman starting quarterback Treon Harris, who is facing misdemeanor marijuana charges stemming from an incident last month. Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin will serve as interim head coach for the bowl game after the dismissal of Will Muschamp, for the final game before Colorado State’s Jim McElwain takes over the program.
The Pirates have the nation’s top quarterback-wide receiver combination in AAC Player of the Year Shane Carden, and Justin Hardy who have hooked up for for 27 career TDs, the most among active duos. Their offense has been among the most productive in the country, and have defeated power conference teams Virginia Tech (28-21) and North Carolina (70-41). The Pirates rank 2nd in passing offense nationally with 367.3 YPG, and will be boosted by the return of freshman receiver Trevon Brown (4TDs) from injury.
The Gators are dealing with multiple off-the-field distractions resulting from their state of transition with the coaching change from Muschamp to McElwain, and their offense is unsettled with Harris’ legal issues and their general underperformance under Muschamp’s tenure. Florida did improve their performance down the stretch as the coaching change became inevitable, but now with the reality of the change at hand their minds’ may be elsewhere. East Carolina can put up points in bunches, and they should be able to score even on the Gartors rugged defense. ECU is a good value play here as a touchdown underdog. Take the Pirates and the points.