In my newspaper days, my coworkers and I were fond of calling out, “Warning: Journalists doing math,” but the truth is numbers do find their way into my stories frequently, especially sports-related numbers.
It’s hard to spend much time in sportswriting without having to dust off your middle school math skills from time to time. In journalism school I even took a fascinating class called “Precision Journalism” taught by a guru in the subject of data-based reporting, Dr. Philip Meyer.
I’m not sure I’ve produced much content that would make Dr. Meyer proud in my 27-year career, but since it’s a slow college sports time even by mathematical standards, I hereby submit my effort to number-crunch the upcoming East Carolina football season. For your edification and to the dismay of real mathematicians everywhere, I present Pirate Football 2018 by the numbers:
- 50. Percentage of Pirate matchups against teams from North Carolina, Virginia and Florida. ECU will line up against two schools from each of those states this season, and one each from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana and Connecticut.
- 0. The number of losses the North Carolina A&T Aggies, ECU’s season opening opponent, suffered last season. The Aggies went 12-0 in Division I Football Championship Subdivision, winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the Celebration Bowl en route to becoming the only undefeated squad in the FCS.
- 35.25. The average number of points the Pirates have scored against the North Carolina Tar Heels in UNC’s four previous visits to Dowdy-Ficklen, which have resulted in two victories for ECU and two for UNC.
- 5. The time in the morning when the Greenville-based members of the Pirate Nation will have to pull out of their driveways and start the drive to Blacksburg, VA, for a 12:20 kickoff against the Hokies on September 15. That will allow time for a drive-through biscuit and one bathroom stop, but if it sounds unappealing it’s time to make a hotel reservation.
- 217.2. Yards averaged by Tulane quarterback Jonathan Banks in his rookie season in New Orleans. Some pundits are predicting that the Green Wave could win the American West Division this season.
- 1. Number of non-Saturday games on the 2018 slate. The Friday, Nov. 23 contest at Cincinnati is the only game day to stray from the traditional college football calendar — a far cry from the not-too-distant days when Thursday night games seemed almost as common as Saturdays.
- 84. Touchdowns scored by the 2017 Central Florida squad that led the nation in scoring offense. Despite the departure of Tra’Quan Smith and Jordan Akins on offense and defensive stalwarts Mike Hughes and Shaquem Griffin to the NFL draft and a new head coach in Josh Heupel, several preseason prognosticators are picking the Golden Knights to win the American for the second consecutive year.
- 33. The number of consecutive days the Pirate players will get to sleep in their own beds this fall, thanks to three consecutive home games and a bye week between the second and third. They will travel to Temple for an Oct. 6 game, and they won’t need to pack their bags again until their trip to Tulane for a Nov. 10 matchup.
- 44. The minimum number of games involving at least one American squad scheduled to be televised on either a national or regional network this season. Three of ECU’s games are on the conference’s slate — against N.C. A&T on Sept. 1 on ESPN3, against North Carolina on Nov. 8 on ESPNU and against Virginia Tech on Sept. 15 on the ACC Network. (The number can be expected to increase as networks pick up games as the fall unfolds.)
- 107. The total number of players weighing more than 300 pounds on all rosters of ECU opponents. The team with the most big bodies? UCF with 19. The teams with the least 300-plus athletes? Connecticut, North Carolina A&T and Cincinnati with five each.
It might be summer, but educational efforts are alive and well in this world where the only number most Pirate fans can focus on is the countdown to the opening game. Useless information? Maybe. But if we’re meant to learn something new every day, at least I’ve helped you check that box today.
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