BYU defense will be the deciding factor at ECU

Senior Fred Warner is the leader of the BYU defense (Trent Nelson, Salt Lake Tribune)

The BYU Cougars (1-6) take on the East Carolina Pirates (1-6) in a critical game for both schools. This season has been a disaster for both teams. However, each side feels this is a winnable game. For BYU, that will come down to how well the defense plays.

This game features a showdown between the worst defense in the nation (ECU), and the second to worst offense (BYU).

Worst vs. Almost Worst

ECU Defense National Rank BYU Offense National Rank
Points/Game 5013011.4129
Yards/Game 600130242.4129
3rd Down 57.9%130 33.0%108

What this means is the BYU offense will certainly be more productive. When BYU played Utah State, ranked 71 in total defense, the Cougar offense had its best game of the season in yards and points. Don't expect BYU to score 50 points, but Tanner Mangum and co. should score enough points to win the game, unless it is a shootout (just ask Connecticut).

The Cougar defense has had its struggles, too, this season. BYU is 78th in the nation in scoring defense (27.3 points/game), 96th in rushing defense (187 yards/game), 50th in passing defense (206 yards/game), 73rd in total defense (393.4 yards/game), and 109th in third down defense (44.3%).

Fred Warner and co. don't have the same luxury as the Cougar offense. ECU is a formidable offense. On the way to their 1-6 start, the Pirates have passed for 286 yards and ran for 107 yards per game.

While ECU averages nearly 400 yards per game, the Pirates score just 22 points. Turnovers have been a problem. Opponents have intercepted 10 passes. ECU has lost three fumbles. The only game ECU won was a game it had zero turnovers. 

Turnovers have killed BYU this season. The offense has turned it over way too much, and at the wrong time of the game. The defense hasn't forced enough turnovers. ECU will probably move the ball pretty well, so the Cougar defense has to create turnovers.

Provided the Cougar ball carriers can secure the ball, BYU will probably be better off using the same game plan as Utah State: run first. ECU surrendered over 400 rushing yards to James Madison and 390 rushing yards to USF. No opponent has rushed for less than 179 yards against the Pirates.

Both teams are going to be hungry for the win. The BYU offense has more to prove, but the outcome will come down to how well the BYU defense plays.

KEY TO THE GAME: Turnover margin. If BYU is +3 in turnover margin, and doesn't turn the ball over more then once, then the Cougars should come away victorious.

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