North Carolina State Wolfpack vs. South Carolina Gamecocks Preview and Pick

North Carolina State Wolfpack (0-0) +13.5, 45 O/U at South Carolina
Gamecocks (0-0) -13.5, 45 O/U, Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia,
S.C., 8 PM Eastern, Thursday

by Badger of

College football opens its glorious season Thursday night when the
Ole Ball Coach Steve Spurrier and his South Carolina Gamecocks host
the North Carolina State Wolfpack on ESPN.

Look for the folks at ESPN to feature Spurrier as much as they can because his celebrity is the lone asset worthy of the opening night
draw, as neither team is really worthy of the national showcase game
on the field.

South Carolina hit the skids in 2007 losing their final five games of
the regular season to finish at 6-6 (5-5 ATS), including an
embarrassing loss to Vanderbilt and a season-ending loss to in-state
rival Clemson. But there is a reason the Gamecocks are nearly two
touchdown favorites, its because the Wolfpack is even lower right now.

North Carolina State head coach Tom OBrien is in second year of a
complete rebuilding project that finished 5-7 (5-6 ATS) in 2007.
OBrien, who surprised many when he left Boston College for Raleigh
last year, seems to have the team on the right track as they won four
of their last six games to close out last year to make the goal of an
above .500 season in 2008 obtainable for the Wolfpack.

The game originally opened with South Carolina listed as 11.5-point favorites, but most sportsbooks have already moved the Cocks up to
13.5-point chalks. In fact, most of the offshore sportsbooks have USC
listed as 14-points faves already due to heavy action on Spurriers

The over/under total also has moved quite a bit already, starting out
at 48.5 and dropping down to 45 already at just about every house
that books a bet.

Dont expect this game to offer up much in the way of offense, as
neither team really knows who to play at quarterback.
South Carolina will likely start junior Tommy Beecher (only 25 career
passes although 2 TD) at QB over Chris Smelley, while N.C. State
will more than likely go with senior Daniel Evans (57.2 comp%, 2,030
yds., 12 TD, 13 INT) who has been lackluster enough that he still
hasnt earned the job away from redshirt freshman Russell Wilson
and true freshman Mike Glennon.

Beecher (and/or Smelley) will have more weapons to use as well, as the Gamecocks have senior receiver Kenny McKinley (968 yds., 9 TD) on
the outside and running back Mike Davis (518 yds., 5 TD) out of the
backfield. Davis will have to show he is over his fumble troubles of
07 though if the Gamecocks are to put together a ground game in 2008.

N.C. State will be missing perhaps their top talent on offense, as
receiver Donald Bowens (598 yds., 3 TD) hurt back has already been
declared a season-ending injury. Running backs Jameele Eugene (667
yds. 5 TD) and Andre Brown (447 yds., 5 TD) will both be counted on
heavily to take the pressure off of the rest of the unit, especially
the quarterback. With inexperience in the line and on the flank too,
that may be too much to ask of Eugene and Brown.

South Carolina should be stronger than N.C. State on defense as well. A Gamecocks defensive line that was decimated by injuries and
academic issues in 2007 is back to full strength again this year,
which could make the Gamecocks 4th-ranked pass defense in 07 even
better this season.

The Wolfpack defense ranked 11th in the ACC in total defense and were
absolutely abysmal versus the run last year (allowed 186.4 ypg). And
the bad news is that they return only four starters and one of them
(defensive back Clem Johnson) is out indefinitely with a broken jaw.

These two teams havent faced each other since the Wolfpacks 10-0
victory back in September of 1999. N.C. State was a 7.5-point
favorite, as they covered and the game came in well under the closing
total of 43.

There are a few interesting historical betting trends to note.

The Gamecocks havent fared all that well versus teams from the ACC
lately, as they are just 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games overall
versus the conference. The Cocks are just 9-9 at home ATS in the past
three seasons as well.

N.C. State played well on the road last year (2-2 ATS) and has
traditionally been a strong under play (11-21 over/under record since
2005) as they have come in under the total in 18 of their last 28
games on grass.

Badgers Pick: Most coaches will tell you that this early in the
season the defense is usually ahead of the offense, and with
inexperienced/questionable quarterback play for both teams that adage
should hold true. I still like South Carolina to cover the spread,
but I think the best bet is to take the under of 45.