NORTH CAROLINA VS. SOUTH CAROLINA
Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT
Las Vegas Line: South Carolina -2.5; O/U 65
Can the ACC’s fortunes from the end of last season against the SEC carry over into the first FBS game of 2015? That’s Larry Fedora and the Tar Heels’ mission in this border war in Charlotte.
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier suffered one of those well-documented SEC losses to an ACC opponent on the final Saturday of the 2014 regular season, dropping a lopsided decision to rival Clemson.
Not only did it end the Gamecocks’ win streak over their in-state foe at five, but it closed their season at 6-6. The .500 finish, coupled with off-the-cuff comments Spurrier made about his remaining time in coaching, sparked controversy in the offseason.
Few coaches are probably as relieved to kick-off the season as Spurrier, but that relief could turn to angst rather quickly should North Carolina beat South Carolina. It’s a real possibility, too.
Tar Heel head coach Larry Fedora favors a quick-tempo offensive style, similar to those that gave South Carolina issues last season. Spurrier addressed last season’s defensive woes by bringing on NFL-tenured coordinator Jon Hoke to assistant Lorenzo Ward.
The tag-team coordinator dynamic is fascinating, and will be put to the test immediately by one of the best quarterbacks the Gamecocks will face all season, Marquise Williams.
Both of these defenses were susceptible to given up explosive plays in 2014. That means big-play threats Ryan Switzer (North Carolina) and Pharoh Cooper (South Carolina) could both play instrumental roles. Cooper’s impact hinges largely on the play of new starting Connor Mitch, however, and former Gamecock quarterback Dylan Thompson hinted to The State that Mitch will need time to settle in.
It’ll definitely be a learning experience just because your first time on the field in real action against a team that’s going to be fired up, you know, first game of the season, all that stuff, it’s going to take some getting used to.
In a game likely to be a shootout, that could be the difference-maker.
MY PICK: North Carolina 35, South Carolina 31