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East Carolina In Pursuit Of Championship Run

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Montese Overton and East Carolina are in pursuit of a Conference USA championship run. Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images.
Montese Overton and East Carolina are in pursuit of a Conference USA championship run. Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images.

The Tulsa-East Carolina game is finally here. A matchup that looked certain to be the Conference USA game of the year now is just another game.

Tulsa has struggled this year and its quest to be a back-to-back conference champion is nearly gone. The Golden Hurricane are 2-6 and 1-3 in the conference. One more loss and Tulsa will not even be bowling. What went wrong this year for Bill Blankenship's Tulsa team, which returned a lot of starters from a championship roster?

Tulsa is coming off a 34-15 home loss to Texas-San Antonio. 

"We ought to apologize to our homecoming fans and the folks that have been a part of this, because we surely did not represent Tulsa football very well today," Hurricane coach Bill Blankenship said. "Just couldn't get out of our way again. Turnovers. Opportunities were there. We didn't take advantage of them."   

Turnovers have unraveled this Tulsa team, which is coming off back-to-back four turnover games. The offense has not produced and have seen an enormous dropoff in the touchdown department. Tulsa scored 60 offensive touchdowns all of last year and have only scored 18 through eight games this season.   

While Tulsa has struggled, ECU has hit bumps in the road, but still is hitting its stride offensively. ECU is 6-2 and 4-1 in the conference. Its lone conference loss came to Tulane by three points and their other loss was to Virginia Tech by five points. ECU knows how to keep games close and has an advantage in tight spots because of its productive offense.   

ECU quarterback Shane Carden already has thrown for 2,589 passing yards and 19 touchdowns. If it wasn't for a costly interception against Tulane, ECU would be undefeated in the conference. The Pirates lost to Tulane, 36-33, in overtime. Saturday's game against Tulsa will define how ECU's season will finish. If the Pirates can beat Tulsa, ECU can make a run and finish with wins against UAB, Marshall and even North Carolina State.  

Who Wins The Game And Why

I am still waiting on Tulsa to turn it around and play like they should be playing, but I'm not sure if they can. If Tulsa can't win this game, the Golden Hurricane may be seeing a nine-loss season with Marshall, Louisiana Tech and North Texas remaining.   

The story of Saturday's game will be offense and Tulsa does not have enough offensive production to match ECU's 36.8 points per game. If Tulsa were to finally find its offense, it will need to find its defense, too. Tulsa's defense is giving up 31 points per game, which is an 11-point differential from what Bill Blankenship's team has scored.   

I'm predicting ECU 34, Tulsa 20.