The ECU Pirates travel to Raleigh in Week 1 for a showdown with the NC State Wolfpack. Kickoff is set for 12:00 PM EST on Saturday, August 31 at Carter-Finley Stadium and the game will be televised on the ACC Network.
Taking a look at the Week 1 college football odds, NC State opened as a big 20.5-point home favorite earlier this week. That line has moved down pretty substantially after early betting, as the Red Wolves are currently listed at -17.5. The total for the game is sitting at 55.5 points.
Vegas Betting Preview & Game Odds: NC State vs ECU
ECU will look for a fresh start in 2019 after firing head coach Scottie Montgomery during the off-season. Montgomery didn’t accomplish much with the Pirates over his three year tenure, going just 9-26 and failing to qualify for a bowl game. New coach Mike Houston will look to turn things around quickly after leading James Madison to an impressive 37-6 record since 2016. QB Holton Ahlers is returning as starting quarterback after passing for 1,785 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also led the team in rushing, which certainly wasn’t a good sign for an offense that managed just 22.8 points per game and 129.7 yards on the ground. Ahlers will need to be more accurate with his throws if ECU hopes to find a spark offensively, as he completed less than 50% of his passes despite throwing just three interceptions all year. However, it could be another long year for the offense due to an extreme lack of depth at other important positions. The biggest loss is likely the departure of Trevon Brown, who racked up more than 1,000 receiving yards in 2018.
The Pirates also really struggled on the defensive side of the ball, allowing opponents to average a whopping 37.3 points per game on 440 total yards of offense. They were especially bad defending against the pass, surrendering over 270 yards per game through the air (121st overall).
NC State is also a team that is transition, albeit after a far more successful 2018. The Wolfpack went 9-4 overall and finished third in the ACC Atlantic division behind Clemson and Syracuse before falling short in the Gator Bowl against Texas A&M. There will be a ton of new faces on offense to start the 2019 season, as QB Ryan Finley and two of their best receivers have moved on from the program. Finley was fantastic in his final year with NC State, passing for almost 4,000 yards and adding 25 touchdowns. It looks like the next quarterback will be either Matthew McKay or Bailey Hockman, although both are expected to share playing time to start the season. As a whole, the offense averaged an impressive 33.8 points (31st overall) on 456 total yards per game.
The Wolfpack had some struggles on the other side of the ball last year, especially against the pass. Opponents averaged an alarming 271.2 yards per game through the air, which was well above the national average. However, NC State did do a good job in terms of points per game allowed, giving up an average of just 22.7 (37th overall).
NCAA Football Betting Predictions & Free Pick: NC State -17.5
I think this line is a bit of an overreaction to the huge amount of turnover on the NC State offense. While I’m certainly not expecting them to be the powerhouse that they were in 2018, there is no reason to think that ECU will be able to keep pace with a superior Wolfpack team for more than a few quarters. The Pirates may be a team on the rise eventually, as it is hard to argue with Mike Houston’s track record at other schools. However, to assume that a rebuild of this magnitude will pay dividends in the first game of his tenure is a bit of a reach. I think that NC State should win this game by at least 20 points, so the fact that the line came down makes me like the Wolfpack side even more.
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ECU really didn’t play well on either side of the ball in 2018 and other than the head coach, not all that much has changed. The defense is returning seven starters, but this is still the same unit that gave up almost 40 points per game last year. NC State has shown some weakness against the pass in recent history but Ahlers doesn’t appear to have any dangerous receiving weapons after the departure of Trevon Brown. Not having to lay at least three touchdowns to nab a Wolfpack team playing in their home opener against a sub-par team seems like fantastic value to me – give me NC State!