Fans of ECU football have been buzzing with positive vibes while Pirate Nation waits to find out its bowl assignment and opponent. Though the bowl assignment has seemingly been narrowed down to two possibilities (The Beef O’Bradys Bowl in St. Petersburg and the R&L Carrier Bowl in New Orleans) the range of possible opponents has been the subject of intense scrutiny.
Some fans want to see ECU matched up against a ‘big-name’ school, to see how successful this team really has been this season. Others would prefer an opponent that the Pirates could beat thoroughly, to ensure a Ruffin McNeill bowl victory. Which would mean more? This being the last weekend to speculate on ECU’s upcoming opponent, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each view point.
Pros – ‘Big-name’ School
If ECU goes into the bowl game as an underdog, there is little pressure on the team. If the Pirates get paired up with a Virginia Tech or a NC State or any other school with a recognizable name, the national consensus would be that ECU is the lesser opponent based on the opponent’s name alone. Therefore, the Pirates face a low-risk, high-reward situation. If they lose, the national media will not make a big deal of it. If they win, the Pirates will look that much better in the spotlight.
Cons – ‘Big-name’ School
Coach McNeill needs a bowl win, by any means necessary. Up until this point, his ECU coaching career has been remarkably average. With one bowl game on his resume (a 51-20 loss at the hands of the Maryland Terrapins), McNeill would be in a real pressure cooker if the Pirates face a traditional powerhouse opponent. Going into an underdog situation, most of Pirate Nation would still expect McNeill to pull out a victory. That is pressure that McNeill most certainly does not need.
Pros – Lesser Opponent
When it comes to bowl games, a win is a win. Facing a lesser opponent, like the possibility of facing UL-Lafayette in the R&L Carrier Bowl or another C-USA team, could be very beneficial to the Pirates. A more-than-likely win would go down in the books as a 9-4 season for ECU with a bowl win, ensuring a happy ending to a successful season. It is very similar to teams like Alabama scheduling W. Carolina or Wofford to help ensure wins. They know it isn’t a glamorous game, but it goes down as a win regardless.
Cons – Lesser Opponent
Facing a lowly opponent would not be as exciting for the fan base. Pirate Nation wants to see their team go up against the best. We schedule big name teams throughout the regular season for the possibility of pulling off upsets. It adds to the game. ECU fans still talk about beating Boise State in the bowl game a few years ago. If we play against a small school, the excitement will not be able to reach that level.
What’s your idea on the subject? Are you a ‘Big-namer’ or a ‘sure-thinger’ when it comes to the bowl games? Share your thoughts on the fan forums under the “Possible Opponents” thread.