North Carolina Tar Heels (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date/Time: September 3rd, 6:00PM EST
Where: Bank of America Stadium Charlotte, N.C
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UNC +3/USC -3
Over/Under Total: 64
A Carolina border war will reign in the 2015 college football season on Thursday night when the North Carolina Tar Heels meet the South Carolina Gamecocks inside Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. The Gamecocks are looking to rebound after a disappointing 2014 campaign that was plagued by issues on the defensive side of the ball. After starting last season as the 9th ranked team in the country and an SEC East favorite, the Gamecocks plummeted to a 7-6 record marking one of the worse seasons in the Steve Spurrier era. After some coaching and personnel changes in Columbia, the Gamecocks look to prove to the nation that they will return as a force in 2015 in a rivalry environment against North Carolina on Thursday.
On the other side of the field, North Carolina is still looking for that breakout type year after several mediocre seasons at the helm of coach Larry Fedora. In fact, this may be a make or break type of year for Fedora as the Tar Heels have regressed slightly each season since his 8-4 debut in 2012. The good news for North Carolina fans is that the Tar Heels have 17 returning starters including 10 on the offensive side of the football. Despite a few setbacks to the offensive line this fall, the rest of the offense returns everyone including star quarterback Marquise Williams who has become a star in the ACC.
Williams had an outstanding 2014 season leading the Tar Heels as one of the better offenses in the ACC. Williams connected on 63% of his passes totaling 3,068 yards with 21 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. However, Williams’ success was not just with his arm as he also the led the offense in rushing with 788 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. The dual threat quarterback and up tempo offense is exactly what thwarted the South Carolina defense in 2014. The Gamecocks defense failed to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks and wore down late in games each of which will be the result if they are not able to contain Williams this Thursday.
The Gamecocks defense does return 8 starters from their 2014 class but they still have plenty of concerns in the secondary where they are both inexperienced and thin at the position. Up front, the Gamecocks have some guys that are starting to get some experience under their belt. Defensive ends Marquavius Lewis and Cedrick Cooper need to have a big year to give the South Carolina defense some type of an established pass rush. If those guys up front can play well, the Gamecocks should like their chances to pull out the victory.
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Currently, South Carolina is listed as 3 point favorites at most betting shops with the over/under total listed at 64. Due to both Fedora and Spurrier’s reputations for developing strong offensive game plans along with the defensive concerns from both teams, this opening game of the college football season could easily turn into a high scoring affair. In terms of the betting market, the Gamecocks are getting a little more love from the betting public but it is not by a wide margin. An estimated 57% of public bets have favored South Carolina and the betting line has had virtually no movement.
South Carolina’s offense is also a bit of a wildcard as they have to replace all of their skill position players. Sophomore Connor Mitch will take the helm behind center. Mitch was a highly rated start out of high school in North Carolina where he set several state passing records. However, he has very little experience at the college level and it will be very interesting to see how he plays this season under Spurrier.
One of Mitch’s key roles will be finding a way to get the ball into the hands of junior wide out Pharoh Cooper. Cooper posted 1,135 receiving yards with 9 touchdowns last season while becoming one of the spectacular playmakers in the SEC. Look for South Carolina to utilize Cooper in a number of way including a wildcat formation in the quarterback position. Finding ways to exploit North Carolina’s defense is something Steve Spurrier will look to do on Thursday night and the success of the Gamecocks offense will likely rely on the fact of how well these young players execute.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: If the Gamecocks defense is improved like I expect, they are the more talented and physical football team. Do not be surprised if running back Brandon Wilds has a great game as South Carolina makes a statement to start off the season. Take South Carolina -3! Bet your Heels/Cocks pick for FREE by taking advantage of a massive 100% sign-up bonus at 1Vice Sportsbook!