South Carolina begins the 2013 season as the sixth-ranked team in the country as they prepare for another brutal run through the SEC, but on Thursday night, they have some rival business to take care of as they host North Carolina of the ACC.
The Tar Heels finished a very respectable 8-4 in 2012, with three of those losses coming on the road, powered by an offense that finished eighth in points scored. Bryn Renner returns to lead the show, and he has his favorite target, Quinshad Davis, back as well. If the line can hold up, the Tar Heels have the potential to put up a lot of points and they’ll be tested against one of the best defenses in the country in South Carolina. The defense needs to get pressure on the opposing quarterback as their secondary has some experience, and they’re still getting used to the 4-2-5 formation that they use.
The Gamecocks were 11-2 last season, losing only at LSU and Florida, and the defense is the story heading into the campaign, specifically Jadeveon Clowney. The defensive end could be the favorite for the Heisman and is being touted as the #1 pick in the draft if he enters, but he is just a piece in what should be a top-10 defense from front to back. Connor Shaw should be the starting quarterback, and the Gamecocks should pass more now that Marcus Lattimore is gone, although South Carolina does have a couple of possible replacements.
South Carolina, which has won 13 straight season openers, are favored by 12.5 points on the college football betting odds in their first meeting with North Carolina since 20067, which the Gamecocks won 21-15. The matchup to watch will be UNC’s offensive line against South Carolina’s front seven; if they can’t control Clowney and company, Renner will have a long game.
Pick: South Carolina -12.5