BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Coastal Carolina (9-3, Sun Belt) vs East Carolina (7-5, American Athletic Conference), Dec. 27, 6:45 p.m. EST (ESPN)
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK COLLEGE LINE: East Carolina by 7 1/2.
Series record: First meeting.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Coastal Carolina is trying to reach double-digit wins for the third straight season and recover from two lopsided losses. East Carolina is trying to improve to 10-11 in bowl games after snapping a two-game losing streak with a 49-46 win over Temple. The Pirates are playing in their first bowl game since 2014. Last year's Military Bowl was canceled because of COVID-19 protocols within the Boston College program. The Chanticleers are trying to avoid their first three-game skid since suffering a pair of losses in 2019 after falling 47-7 to James Madison and 45-26 to Troy in the Sun Belt Conference championship game.
Two strong passing teams face porous pass defenses. East Carolina quarterback Holton Ahlers leads the nation's No. 16 passing offense against a defense that is 124th in stopping the pass. Coastal Carolina is allowing 282 yards a game through the air, which is 16 fewer than the Pirates are giving up. East Carolina is 131st in pass defense and has to contend with quarterback and three-time Sun Belt Conference player of the year Grayson McCall.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Coastal Carolina: McCall is the only one to win the Sun Belt Conference player of the year title that many times and may be playing his final game for the Chanticleers. He entered the transfer portal on Dec. 12. McCall ranks third nationally in passing efficiency.
East Carolina: RB Keaton Mitchell, a first-team All-AAC pick, has rushed for 1,325 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging 7.4 yards per carry. Had 222 yards and four touchdowns against Temple.
FACTS & FIGURES
East Carolina posted consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 2013-14. ... Coastal Carolina wasted no time in hiring North Carolina State offensive coordinator Tim Beck to replace Jamey Chadwell, who left for Liberty. Chad Staggs was elevated from defensive coordinator to interim coach for the bowl game. ... The Chanticleers are 1-1 in bowl games and East Carolina is 9-11. ... Coastal Carolina has gone 31-6 over the past three seasons. ... Mitchell is the first Pirates player to earn first-team all-conference honors in multiple seasons since Justin Hardy (2012-14). ... East Carolina hasn't committed an offensive turnover in the last six games, the program's longest such streak.
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