We are just over three weeks away from welcoming the back-to-back defending Big Ten champion Michigan Wolverines back to the Big House to kick off the 2023 season!
Critics have heavily disparaged the 2023 Michigan football non-conference schedule, but the Wolverines could be playing a rematch of their 1888 game against the Detroit Athletic Club and I would still be excited to watch a regular-season college football game again.
Michigan Football doesn’t begin the season against the YMCA or the Detroit Athletic Club, but they begin their quest for a third consecutive Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff birth against the East Carolina Pirates in the first Maize Out of the season.
Before we preview the 2023 ECU squad, let’s take a quick look back at how the Pirates performed in 2022.
Brief 2022 ECU Year in Review
East Carolina was a slightly above-average football team in 2022. The Pirates finished the season 8-5 overall with a 4-4 record in American Athletic Conference play. The team often played to the level of their competition, for better or worse.
ECU narrowly missed upsetting NC State in the season opener, 21-20. The Pirates won games against BYU, Coastal Carolina, Memphis, and UCF. However, the team inexplicably lost games against Houston (42-3) and Navy (23-20).
The Pirates had the 36th-best scoring offense in FBS with 32.5 points per game and the 73rd-ranked scoring defense with 27.2 points allowed per game. As a team, the offense averaged 290.5 passing yards and 170.6 rushing yards per game. The defense allowed 291 passing yards and 112.5 rushing yards per game while also forcing 19 turnovers.
2023 ECU Outlook
To say East Carolina lost a ton of production would be a massive understatement. According to Bill Connelley of ESPN, the Pirates rank 130th of 133 FBS teams in returning production in 2023.
ECU loses FIVE YEAR STARTER QB Holton Ahlers who had almost 4,000 yards and a 28:5 TD-to-INT ratio last season. The Pirates also lost starting running back Keaton Mitchell (1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns) and 1,000-yard wide receivers Isaiah Winstead and C.J. Johnson. The defense also lost most of their starting secondary and linebackers.
ECU turned to the transfer portal to replace a lot of their lost production on both sides of the ball. Most of their additions on both sides of the ball are players that did not get a lot of playing time at their former Power 5 programs and are relatively unknown.
However, the one player to keep your eye on is returning RS Sophmore Quarterback Mason Garcia. According to 247 Sports, Garcia was a four-star recruit in the 2020 class. He is 6’5″ and 240 pounds, which is the same size as former Clemson and current Oregon State quarterback DJ Uiagalelei.
Should Michigan football fans be worried about the season opener against ECU? The short answer is no.
Obviously, the impending suspension of HC Jim Harbaugh will complicate things, but Michigan Football is on the short list of teams that can win a CFP National Championship and should have no trouble covering the spread against a team that lost all of their noteworthy production from last season and didn’t necessarily set the world on fire in the transfer portal.
Michigan football wins, 55-7