Football

ECU has strong showing in football poll

Pirates in position: ECU debuted at No. 23 in the first college football playoff poll, and no other non-Power 5 team appeared in it.

Translation: If the Pirates win out, they’re all but guaranteed to represent that group in the Peach, Fiesta or Cotton Bowl. It will take another ECU loss to open the door for Marshall (8-0), assuming the Thundering Herd finishes the season unbeaten.

The playoff committee said the difference between ECU and Marshall was strength of schedule. ECU went 2-1 against the Power 5 conference teams. Marshall won’t play one all season.

College football writer Stewart Mandel tweeted this, shortly after the poll was released: “How bad is Marshall’s schedule? According to Sagarin’s ratings, worse than 19 FCS teams.”

The Pirates are at Temple on Saturday, hoping to rediscover the crispness that has been missing since blowing out UNC on Sept. 20.

UCF rolling: UCF played its best offensive game to date in a 34-14 victory over Temple. Justin Holman threw two first-half touchdowns as the Knights raced to a 24-7 lead. After opening with consecutive losses while trying to find a quarterback, the Knights have won five straight and have kept pace with ECU in the AAC standings.

It wouldn’t surprise many if the Knights, 3-0 in the AAC, stayed unbeaten in league play entering their Thursday, Dec. 4 showdown against the Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen.

Why? The Knights’ next four league opponents are a combined 3-11 in the AAC. The road to Greenville starts Saturday at UConn.

Bowl watch: ECU already is bowl eligible, and UCF is expected to clinch with its sixth win Saturday. Houston, Memphis, Cincinnati and Temple need two more wins to qualify. Houston and Memphis are in good position. Both play Tulsa and Tulane, and Houston also gets SMU, while Memphis gets UConn.

Cincinnati played Tulane late Friday and still has a date with UConn. The Huskies’ Nov. 29 game at Temple likely will have bowl implications for both.

The AAC has ties to six bowl games, plus the possibility of sending ECU into the football playoff mix if the Pirates remain the highest ranking non-Power 5 team.

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