Gamecocks, Tar Heels Set To Open Their 2015 Seasons With In-State Clash
The South Carolina Gamecocks could not have gotten off to a much worse start than they did last season when they opened with a brutal 52-28 loss to the SEC rival Texas A&M Aggies that really set the tone for the year. They will be hoping for a better result when they clash with an in-state rival in September. The Gamecocks are listed as slight favorites looking forward to their season opener against the North Carolina Gamecocks and there is a sense for both teams that winning this game will really provide an early spark. The Tar Heels are entering a critical fourth season under head coach Larry Fedora and expectations are high so it will be interesting to see if they can take down South Carolina at the home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers in Charlotte.
North Carolina Tar Heels vs. South Carolina Gamecocks
Thursday September 3, 2015 – 6:00 PM ET
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
Betting Line: South Carolina -3
Betting Preview: North Carolina
Fedora’s win total has dropped in each of his first three seasons at UNC but there is reason for optimism heading in to 2015 with 10 returning offensive starters including quarterback Marquise Williams, who is the type of dual-threat weapon that can really torch opposing defenses. The offensive line should be better and Williams will have some dangerous weapons in the backfield with running backs TJ Logan, Elijah Hood and Romar Morris lining up with him. Quinshad Davis, Mack Hollins and Bug Howard look like basketball players with all three receivers standing at least 6’4’’ and they should test the Gamecocks secondary. North Carolina’s defense ranked last in the ACC in nearly every single category last season but former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik is the new defensive coordinator and it’s expected that his 4-3 unit should be much better than last year’s terrible group.
Betting Preview: South Carolina
Steve Spurrier is also banking on a new defensive coordinator in Jon Hoke getting things turned around on that side of the football after South Carolina’s defense was beaten up game after game last season. The Gamecocks will get more creative with a 4-2-5 base unit that should take advantage of the skill set of safeties TJ Gurley and Jordan Diggs but there will also be an emphasis on getting more out of the defensive line especially when it comes to getting after the quarterback. Sophomore quarterback Connor Mitch is the frontrunner to replace Dylan Thompson and has reportedly made significant progress throughout the summer and considering he threw only six passes last year that’s important. Brandon Wilds and David Willis are more than capable of sharing the workload at running back and the Gamecocks will likely have to lean on them early as Mitch is brought along at the quarterback position.
Outlook & Pick
The Gamecocks aren’t going to contend for a division title in the SEC this season but they upgraded on defense and even without Thompson their offense should be good enough to challenge North Carolina’s stop unit. The problem is that they will really have their hands full keeping Williams and a really good Tar Heels’ offense in check on the other side of the football, which could cause big problems. We aren’t expecting South Carolina to get beat up the way it was by A&M last season but look for this to be a close game with North Carolina pulling out the win in the fourth quarter thanks in big part to Williams putting on a show and torching the Gamecocks defense both through the air and on the ground.
Pick: North Carolina +3