The first Top 25 game of the new season will be between teams you’d expect to find a slightly bigger rivalry between, as North Carolina with plenty of expectations this season in the ACC come and pay a visit to the South Carolina Gamecocks, hoping to build on the best two seasons in school history.
Steve Spurrier has gone on to win 66 of his first 103 games in Columbia, and has taken South Carolina to two consecutive 11-2 seasons which weren’t enough to win the SEC East or find themselves in a BCS bowl due to the impossible nature of their conference.
But South Carolina have high hopes once again heading into this season, which doesn’t include any games against any SEC West powerhouses. On the other hand, they do have to play in Georgia and against Florida in what should be their two biggest games of the season.
The big name for the Gamecocks is Jadeveon Clowney, a popular pick for the Heisman trophy and someone who could have easily found himself as a first round pick if he entered the draft in 2013. The best defensive end in the nation, it’s not just what his power and speed can do, but what his ability is forcing those around him to do, which is upgrade and improve their game.
North Carolina have a strong team, even if it ended last year without a bowl game due to the sanctions. They finished with a 5-3 conference record and 8-4 overall, which should have put them in the conference title game and claim their division, not to mention playing in a decently sized bowl.
Their main hope is the spread offense head coach Larry Fedora, entering his second season with the team, has installed. They have lost running back Giovani Bernard to the NFL, but they have one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in Bryn Renner, who has nine more returning starters with him on offense and 11 on defense. His running back situation might be now a committee thing, while his offensive line might use some time to gel, but they’re not such a weak team going in as lambs for the slaughter.
Prediction – Protection on Renner will determine the game. If North Carolina can keep their quarterback from hitting the grass too many times, they might have a shot of running their lightning speed offense quite well. If Clowney and co. have their way with the offensive line, it’s going to be an easy start for the 2013 season in Columbia.