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College Football Preview: North Carolina vs. (6) South Carolina
The college football season gets underway with a big game, when the sixth ranked South Carolina Gamecocks host the North Carolina Tar Heels to kick off the season. Head coach Steve Spurrier has a talented team led by defensive juggernaut Jadeveon Clowney.
The Gamecocks start the season firmly entrenched in the top ten in the college football rankings with aspirations of competing for a shot at the National Championship. It all starts with the game against the pesky Tar Heels.
North Carolina vs. South Carolina Odds: The point spread for this game opened up with the Gamecocks sitting at a (-10) point favorite and the total set at 56.5. With the money coming in on South Carolina that number has started to get higher and higher and can now be found at (-11.5) at several top ranked sportsbooks.
South Carolina enters this season with high hopes as they have posted back-to-back 11-2 seasons for the first time in school history. Although super star running back Marcus Lattimore left for the National Football league, the Gamecocks still have a very talented running unit led by tailback Mike Davis. It may not matter who is running the rock because they boast a huge offensive line that averages 314 pounds. While the line is great at opening rushing lanes, they need to improve on pass protection. Returning quarterback Connor Shaw will be on the move running for his football life if the O-line continues to struggle as they have over the last two seasons when they allowed 68 sacks. This could be a vulnerability that the Tar Heels will look to exploit in the opening game.
Head Coach Larry Fedora has set a winning foundation in North Carolina and the future looks bright. If they are able to pull off the incredible upset in week one, they will jump into the national spotlight. This team returns six starters on offense and seven starters from a stout defense that captured the ACC Coastal division regular season championship.
That defense is led by a senior stable of talented players to include Tre Boston (FS), Kareem Martin (DE), Jabari Price (CB), Terry Shankle (Ram) and Tim Jackson (DT). The defense will be out for blood as they blitz and send the house after Shaw in hopes of disturbing the Gamecocks offense. If the North Carolina offense can avoid Clowney this game could be very interesting.
It is attention-grabbing to note that the Tar Heels are 4-0 against the spread (ATS) in the last four Thursday games, but just 1-5 ATS in the last six road games. The Gamecocks are 7-2 ATS in the last nine home games and 7-3 ATS in the last ten games played on Thursday.
This should be a very entertaining game and will be a great way to kick off the 2013 college football season!
On Thursday, August 29th, the North Carolina Tar Heels will invade Columbia, South Carolina to collide with the Gamecocks. At-stake of course is a 1-0 start to the 2013 season, but for UNC a “W” could have far more implications.
Now some would say this is just a non-conference game and the outcome does not effect the Tar Heels chance of winning the ACC. Those people are right about this contest not effecting the conference race, but they are missing the bigger picture. For Head Coach Larry Fedora and his Tar Heels, this could be a program defining victory. South Carolina is the #6 team in the country (according to the AP poll) and if the Heels are able to escape Columbia with a win, it will easily be the biggest one for the Fedora Era in Chapel Hill.
Over the past few years the Carolina’s have become very fertile recruiting grounds, and you better believe all the top players in both states will have eyes on this game. For UNC nothing would be better than telling potential recruits at home and in South Carolina we beat the Gamecocks in their house with Jadeveon Clowney on the field, now that would be priceless. UNC has gotten its fair share of players from South Carolina including star wide receiver Quinshad Davis but for the most part the players from the neighbor to the South don’t even consider the Tar Heels. As far as keeping talent in state, a win versus an SEC title contender could go along ways to making sure guys like Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall and D.J. Humphries consider staying at home.
Undoubtedly a “W” would provide this program tons of momentum. In my opinion South Carolina is the best team UNC will face all season, having success against them should give this team the confidence it will need when they do battle with ACC foes. A confident team along with solid play and a little luck could take this team all the way to Charlotte. For those of us who are tired of North Carolina being called “the sleeping giant” well, August 29th will give the giant a chance to awake!
The expectations are pretty high for the South Carolina Gamecocks this season and while for many SC backers that’s a nice thing; for Head Coach Steve Spurrier he has his own set of expectations. Connor Shaw is back at QB for his senior season and he has plenty of experience under his belt and he is a dual threat as he ran for 435 yards and threw for nearly 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns a season ago. Mike Davis looks to be the starter at running back after playing in 12 games last season and averaging 5.3 yards per carry in limited action though it may be closer to a committee situation. Bruce Ellington is now the number one wide out but last season working with the now departed Ace Sanders the Gamecocks had some balance and to keep that going someone is going to need to step up with one likely candidate being Damiere Byrd though look for Shaw to go to tight end Rory Anderson often as he is one of the better TE’s in the country. For South Carolina it really is about the defense and they have perhaps the best defensive player in the nation with Jedeveon Clowney. Clowney can bring the heat and he has been unblockable at times but the South Carolina defense doesn’t end there. Chaz Sutton has been banged up but he should be good to go, Jimmy Legree is another in the long line of Gamecock corners, and Brison Williams is more than just game tested at safety. The Gamecocks hit the regular season ranked anywhere form sixth to eighth in the nation but now the will need to prove it on the field as they don’t draw an easy first part of their schedule with this game followed by Georgia next week.
Larry Fedora enters year two as head Coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels and he has plenty to work with to make another winning run at the season. QB Bryn Renner can get it done coming off of a season where he threw for 28 touchdowns completing over 65 percent of his passes. With Giovani Bernard gone UNC gives the ball to Romar Morris who averaged 5.6 yards per carry last season and A.J. Blue who averaged 5.3 yards per carry and scored nine touchdowns a year ago. The Tar Heels are young but not inexperienced at wide receiver as last year’s leader with 61 catches, Quinshad Davis is back as is Sean Tarpley and freshman Ryan Switzer is turning heads in the return game. Last year’s leading tackler, safety Tre Boston is back as is corner Tim Scott and linebacker Travis Hughes. Kareem Matin can get after the passer and Shown Underwood can plug up the middle and linebacker Jeff Schoettmer has a big motor. Fedora was a winner at Southern Miss with a lot less and the pieces he was left are left over from one of the best recruiters and evaluators of hidden talent of all time, Butch Davis.
The Tar Heels senior signal caller, Bryn Renner, has put together two good seasons in Chapel Hill and enters this season with the chance to break several UNC passing records. He needs 2,921 yards to break T.J. Yates’s all-time yards mark, 279 completions to break Yates’s mark of 795 and needs only 14 touchdown passes to break Darian Durant’s record of 68. As great as Renner’s numbers have been he is still missing that signature win or memorable performance that will define his career, which is what he can get with a win over SEC power South Carolina.
Bryn Renner has had some nice moments as the Tar Heel starting quarterback with 8 games of over 300 yards passing and 9 games with 3 or more touchdown passes. However, his record as a starter is only 15-10 while going 0-3 against ranked opponents. Perhaps his most memorable performance came last season in a loss to Louisville in which he almost led the Heels back from a 29 point halftime deficit with four second half touchdowns before falling short in the final minute. Some could argue that his signature win was against N.C.State last year, something Yates was never able to do, but that game will always be remembered for Giovani Bernard’s punt return more than anything else.
The Heels senior leader has not had many opportunities to compete against elite defenses in his time at Carolina. The Heels have not played Florida State for several seasons and Virginia Tech was subpar last season by its standards, making this a huge chance for Renner to show what he can do against top level competition. Playing well against a highly regarded defense like South Carolina is exactly what Renner needs to gain some of the national recognition that some of his counterparts enjoy like Clemson’s Tajh Boyd who has lost twice to the Gamecocks. What better way for Renner to prove that he is just as good if not better than beating the team that this season’s ACC Heisman contender has had his most trouble against. A win over South Carolina would be the Tar Heels first win over a top 10 team since 2009 and would go along way in helping Renner’s legacy as a Tar Heel great.
Most years, national title hopes are built around a star quarterback or running back or the overall strength of a particular unit. This year, maybe for the first time, title hopes have been tethered to one 6-foot-6, 272-pound defensive end. He and Johnny Football [Manziel] are the only two guys in America that people are talking about," South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier said this summer. "Jadeveon's hit and Johnny's adventures."
Phil Steele's college football preview magazine has only one of South Carolina's units ranked in his preseason top 15: defensive line. South Carolina is No. 3 behind Notre Dame and USC. The ranking, though, is really based on one guy since you'd be hard-pressed to name anyone who plays alongside Jadeveon Clowney. No true defensive player has won the Heisman Trophy, although Notre Dame linebacker Manti T'eo finished second last year to Texas A&M's Manziel. And despite the fact Manziel was a freshman and T'eo was a senior, the vote wasn't that close.
If South Carolina is really going to compete for the national title, it's going to take more than Clowney. "It's time to start talking team, team, team, and Jadeveon is ready for that," Spurrier said. Actually, Spurrier is the most important cog in South Carolina's production line. The "Old Ball Coach" is 68 now and, incredibly, entering his ninth year in Columbia. He has won 31 games the last three seasons and brought everything to the program except an SEC title, which could happen this year. Spurrier's greatness of late has been his ability to adjust from his free-wheeling days at Florida to today's more conventional approach. South Carolina finished No. 82 nationally in total offense but won a school-record 11 games last season with consistency and defense. The Gamecocks won games by three, four and five points.
Spurrier has raised the bar but isn't sure the talent matches his team's top-10 ranking. We've got to play better than people think we are," he said. There's enough there, however, to suggest another run to glory. The Gamecocks return both top quarterbacks, Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson. Shaw will be the starter, but Spurrier will continue to use both players. Thompson is the better passer, and Shaw is the team's leading returning rusher after gaining 435 yards last season.
The schedule, though, is what really has Gamecocks fans excited. They play at Georgia on Sept. 7 but miss the top three teams — Alabama, Louisiana State and Texas A&M from the SEC West. Spurrier argues: "Who knows if they're going to be the top three.… Maybe Auburn or Mississippi State or one of those other teams will jump up. Arkansas was supposed to be good last year and they went south.…" Valid point, but South Carolina also gets its two other tough games, Florida and Clemson, in Columbia.
As South Carolina prepares for Thursday's game against the North Carolina, Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier had a message Sunday for those following his team, the Gamecocks can be beaten by the Tar Heels. They can beat us, yeah, we know they can beat us," Spurrier said of UNC. "Vanderbilt can beat us. Shoot, almost every team we play can come in here and beat us. They play very well, we don't take care of the ball. Somehow or another, they don't have to throw too much, a lot of stuff can happen in football. We know we have to be ready."
South Carolina has won 13 consecutive season-opening games dating back to the 2000 season, and Spurrier is 22-1 all-time in openers. That will mean nothing Thursday at 6 p.m. ET, however, as UNC will enter Williams-Brice Stadium confident that its fast-pace offense can put the Gamecock defense on its heels.
Quarterback Bryn Renner enters not having thrown an interception in his last 91 attempts and owns the school record for most touchdown passes in a season (28).
But the Tar Heels, who went 8-4 last season, will be replacing three graduated starters on the offensive line this year. With South Carolina sporting potentially the top defensive line in the country, led by Heisman Trophy candidate Jadeveon Clowney, that could be a problem. The Rock Hill native apparently has continued to wreak havoc at Gamecock practices as, when asked how his offensive line was blocking, Spurrier had a quick answer. "It's been very good when Clowney is not in there," Spurrier said. "We messed up and called a few passes when he was in there. He messed up our protection a little bit, but that is also going to be interesting, to see how every team handles Jadeveon over there."
While several key performers have missed significant practice time, the Gamecocks appear to be healing. Wide receiver Bruce Ellington has returned to practice and has been listed second team at one of the wide receiver positions. While junior Rory Anderson is listed as the starter at tight end, he has not fully participated in practice in 10 days. Sophomore Jerell Adams, listed as second team tight end, has also struggled with an ankle injury but is expected to play on Thursday. "Bruce ran around yesterday. We'll see how he does as we go through the week here," said Spurrier. "I wish we were throwing better. I wish our quarterbacks and receivers were hitting and catching better. We'll keep working on it up to game time, and see if we can't pitch it around a little bit better than we have the last few days. Other than that, everything's about according to schedule."
List as questionable for Steve Spurrier’s squad is: Damiere Byrd (hamstring), Chaz Sutton (foot), and Jadeveon Clowney (shoulder).
Spurrier is known for his smoke screens and it was used when Clowney’s minor shoulder injury was announced to the public. He wanted to lead the public and the Tar Heels to believe that Clowney would indeed miss the game.
Questionable players for the Gamecocks on Thursday are: Bruce Ellington (hamstring), Rory Anderson (hamstring), Cedrick Cooper (elbow), Cody Gibson (knee), Gerald Turner (ankle), James King (foot), Kyle Morini (elbow), and Mike Matulis (shoulder).
Defensive end Devin Washington has been ruled out indefinitely while he recovers from a concussion.