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Week 1 - North Carolina at South Carolina
Posted Aug 29, 2013

Week 1 Fearless Prediction - North Carolina at South Carolina

North Carolina (0-0) at South Carolina (0-0) Aug. 29, 6:00, ESPN

Why You Should Give A Hoot: The battle of the Carolinas kicks off the 2013 season in style, with an interesting interstate matchup at Williams-Brice Stadium.

South Carolina is enjoying heady times these days, authoring back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in school history. The upcoming season begins with similar optimism—and a No. 6 AP ranking—the product of deft recruiting and the coaching of Steve Spurrier and his staff. Still, the Gamecocks have loftier, yet-to-be-reached goals, such as earning a BCS bowl berth and winning a conference championship for the first time since 1969.

North Carolina has a little extra bounce in its step as the season approaches as well. The Tar Heels are no longer adapting to life with a new coaching staff, nor are they facing a postseason ban any longer. Second-year head man Larry Fedora brings energy and optimism to Chapel Hill, along with an offense that could be the envy of the ACC. Carolina is beginning to dream big now that the shackles of the NCAA are gradually loosening.

Why North Carolina Might Win: RB Gio Bernard and OG Jonathan Cooper sure will be missed, but Fedora’s Heels still have pop on offense. They’ve also got the best quarterback in this game, poised senior Bryn Renner. Renner won’t make mistakes, even when he’s under pressure. He’ll still have an excellent supporting cast that includes thunder and lightning backs A.J. Blue and Romar Morris, emerging WR Quinshad Davis, TE Eric Ebron and all-star LT James Hurst. Columbia on opening night is an enormous challenge, but one that the Carolina offense just might be up to.

Why South Carolina Might Win: Defense still wins big games. And the Gamecocks are considerably stingier than the Tar Heels. Obviously, DE Jadeveon Clowney will command maximum attention for his ability to take a game over. But the junior isn’t a solo act, getting plenty of help from DT Kelcy Quarles, DE Chaz Sutton and a very feisty defensive backfield. Carolina, on the other hand, will be a little soft up the middle, a major problem when facing an assertive South Carolina O-line that averages well over 300 pounds.

Who To Watch Out For: Gamecocks’ RB Mike Davis is an emergent star. He should see wide running lanes on Thursday night, because the Heels lack the girth to move the line of scrimmage.

- Renner is very good. He’ll have to be very great to engineer an upset of South Carolina in Columbia … at night.

- The Gamecocks will struggle to move the ball through the air. WR Ace Sanders is no longer around for Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson, and the secondary will be the strongest unit of the Carolina defense this fall.

- South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward has hinted that Clowney doesn’t give 100% 100% of the time. With a national audience in attendance, bank on No. 7 bringing it on every down.

- The Gamecocks have struggled with speed rushers in the past. Kareem Martin is Carolina’s best pass rusher, but not necessarily its fastest. The Heels will want to turn loose Norkeithus Otis, their 240-pound hard-charging “Bandit”.

What Will Happen: North Carolina is a solid football team, one with a shot of winning the ACC Coastal Division. The ACC Coastal, though, is not the SEC East. And South Carolina doesn’t often lose at home. The Gamecocks will outmuscle the Tar Heels on Thursday, winning the game at the line of scrimmage. With Davis starring on offense and Clowney dominating on D, South Carolina will survive a challenging opener by double-digits.
Prediction: South Carolina 30 … North Carolina 17
Line: South Carolina -12.5 o/u: 57
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 4