Virginia Tech and East Carolina have had their fair share of close games over the past decade. This year, the Hokies enter this game after blowing out ECU last year, but the Pirates treat this as somewhat of a rivalry and have had their own recent success with back-to-back wins in 2014 and 2015 plus an upset win in 2007.
Both teams have had completely different starts as the Hokies are 2-0 and ranked 16th in the country while ECU is 0-2 with a 20-point home loss to JMU and a 36-point loss at West Virginia. Despite the slow start, ECU will be ready to go for their biggest home game of the year. With that said, here's our key matchups for the Hokies and the Pirates.
CB Greg Stroman vs. WR Jimmy Williams
Jimmy Williams and Greg Stroman have faced off before and on Saturday, the two senior playmakers will face off again in the most intriguing matchup in this game. Stroman has quietly played well early on this season while Jimmy Williams is ECU's top receiver this season after a breakthrough junior season. Winning this matchup will be critical for ECU if they want to have a shot at pulling off the upset.
Stroman has been very reliable in coverage this season and has rarely had any passes thrown his direction. So far, Stroman only has 3 tackles and 2 pass breakups, but that is due to his great man coverage that has made quarterbacks consistently look elsewhere. When Stroman has been targeted, he has stepped up to the challenge so far this season.
However, Jimmy Williams will give Stroman a challenge as someone who has the potential for a big play every time he touches the field. So far, Williams has been solid with 10 catches for 127 yards and 1 touchdown. Last year, Williams had a breakout season with 45 receptions for 818 yards, 8 touchdowns, and an impressive 18.2 yards per reception. Williams proved last year that he can be a dynamic playmaker on the outside and should receive a lot of attention Saturday.
This should be the most entertaining matchup to watch in this game as Stroman has the speed to stay up with Williams and Williams is about the same height as Stroman. If Stroman can limit Williams on Saturday, it's hard seeing ECU having any chance at staying up with the Hokies' offense especially with the Pirates' early season defensive struggles.
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RT Kyle Chung vs. DE Kiante Anderson
East Carolina doesn't list a left and right defensive end so you can expect that East Carolina's star pass rusher Kiante Anderson will line up against the Hokies' less proven offensive tackle, Kyle Chung. Chung has looked solid so far, but Anderson will give Chung a good test for him with Clemson's elite defensive line looming in two weeks.
Kiante Anderson showed promise last season making 6 starts and finishing the season with 4.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks. This season, Anderson has taken his game to the next level early on with 3.5 total tackles for loss including 2 sacks in his opening two games. Anderson has emerged as ECU's best defensive lineman this season and will look to be a difference maker against the Hokies.
Kyle Chung was a surprise winner of the starting right tackle job, but has played well in his first two games. However, Anderson may be the biggest challenge for Chung yet, and will test the senior RT to see if he can step his game up. If so, it'll be another encouraging sign of the talent of the right side of the offensive line with Clemson's elite defensive line looming September 30th.
This should be a matchup to watch Saturday as it's very likely that ECU will line up Anderson against Chung. If Chung plays well, it will make life extremely easy for Josh Jackson to pick apart the ECU defense. If Anderson can get some pressure, a game that should blowout may be a little closer than many think including those in Vegas.
WR Cam Phillips vs. CB Travis Phillips, Chris Love
East Carolina has a pair of senior cornerbacks in Travis Phillips and Chris Love who will primarily be responsible for covering Cam Phillips, but neither cornerback has played well early. Both may be seniors, but neither have much starting experience with both just becoming starters this season. That lack of experience has shown early on and could be an issue on Saturday against one of the East Coast's best receivers.
Cam Phillips has played quite well to start the season with 13 catches for 228 yards and 2 touchdowns. Phillips has averaged an impressive 17.5 yards per reception so far this season and has consistently been able to make big plays and stretch the field. Phillips should claim the Hokies' career receptions and receiving yards records this season and with the way he's played so far, he may break all of Isaiah Ford's single-season receiving records with this game being another chance to make a big step towards doing so.
East Carolina will likely look to give their cornerbacks safety help as often as they can, but Phillips has played extremely well even as the featured receiver that draws all of the attention. Phillips isn't a big receiver, but he has underrated speed and great agility combined with being a very technically sound receiver, helping him cause lots of problems.
ECU's cornerbacks will get some help in coverage against Cam Phillips, but Phillips has caused problems no matter how teams have covered him so far this season and that won't change this week against a weak ECU defense.
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