The 2013 college football season kicks off with 16 Thursday games, one of the most interesting matchups features the sixth-ranked Gamecocks of South Carolina and the SEC taking on the North Carolina Tar Heels of the ACC in Columbia, SC at 6:00 pm ET. The two schools have met only one time since Steve Spurrier (66-37 at USC) took over as the head coach for the Gamecocks a 21-15 SC win at Chapel Hill in 2007.
South Carolina has finished with an 11-2 record in each of the past two seasons, and ended their season with a 33-28 win over Michigan in the Outback bowl in a game that will forever be remembered for the hit that returning All-American defensive end and 2012 SEC Defensive Player of the Year Jadeveon Clowney laid on Michigan’s Vincent Smith. Clowney returns this season as a favorite for the Heisman Trophy.
North Carolina finished with an 8-4 record last season, and the Tar Heels and 2nd year Head Coach Larry Fedora feature a fast-paced offense led by an experienced quarterback in Bryn Renner who has thrown for 54 touchdowns over the past two seasons. North Carolina ranked 56th nationally in total defense last season with an average of 389.6 yards per game allowed, but the Heels struggled in stretches with three consecutive games where they allowed over 500 yards of total offense including a 68-50 loss to Georgia Tech. The fast pace of the UNC offense means that their defense will often be back on the field with little rest, and puts a great deal of pressure on the unit which plays an unconventional 4-2-5 base scheme. UNC was 6-6 ATS last season.
South Carolina returns Senior quarterback Connor Shaw who has a 17-3 record as a starter and 32 TDs and 15 INTs in his career, and Junior Dylan Thompson who led USC to a win over Clemson last season and threw the game-winning TD in the win over Michigan, will also see time on the field. Clowney, who had an astounding 3.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks last season, leads the defense for USC which also features senior defensive end Chaz Sutton (7 tackles for loss and 5 sacks). The Gamecocks were 8-5 ATS last season.
North Carolina vs. South Carolina Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
North Carolina Tar Heels +12
@South Carolina Gamecocks -12
Over 56.5 (-110)
Under 56.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
North Carolina vs. South Carolina Pick
The Tar Heels ranked 10th out of 12 ACC team last season defensively, but they are more experienced this season with of their starters returning. They also have an experienced QB in Renner, and his top target in wide receiver Quinshad Davis who had 61 receptions for 776 yards a season ago. The key match-up upfront will be offensive tackles James Hurst on left side and redshirt freshman Jon Heck on the left side against Clowney.
The call here is that Fedora will be able to come up with an effective game plan to protect Renner and neutralize Clowney enough to keep this game close all the way through. UNC’s quick style of play and the early season heat should give their offense an advantage against a very tough USC defense. UNC ranked 14th in the nation in total offense last season with 485.6 YPG and 8th nationally in scoring with 40.6 PPG a year ago. Their style of play is what will allow them to compete with a South Carolina defense that should again be among the nation’s best. Spurrier is 22-1 all time in his opening game of the season, but with a 12 point cushion the Tar Heels are an attractive play here. Take the points and North Carolina in this one.