South Carolina meets North Carolina in the opening game of the 2015 college football season. The game will be contested in Charlotte, NC at the home of the Carolina Panthers.
South Carolina (-2.5) vs. North Carolina - 6:00 ET ESPN (Charlotte, NC)
South Carolina will battle North Carolina in a true neutral site, with Charlotte at virtually equal distance between Columbia, SC and Chapel Hill, NC. This is the 3rd consecutive season that South Carolina, under Head Coach Spurrier will appear in the lid-lifter game. Two years ago, the Gamecocks defeated North Carolina in this contest (27-10) as an 11-point favorite on the college football odds. Last year, as a 9-point underdog, the Gamecocks lost 52-28 to Texas A&M. It proved to be a microcosm of the defensive season for the Gamecocks. In the previous 3 seasons, South Carolina allowed less than a cumulative 19 PPG, while authoring 3 consecutive 11-2 SU seasons. Those all culminated with Bowl victories.
Last year, despite six defensive starters returning to the fold, South Carolina allowed an uncharacteristic 30 PPG on 433 YPG. That included 212/5.4 overland and a 200/200 Club defensive season. Along the way, the defense surrendered 3 double-digit 4th quarter leads, which led to South Carolina finishing the year at 7-6 SU, 5-7 ATS. Consider it to be a major bounce back season for South Carolina under 11th year Head Coach Spurrier. Nine returning defensive starters will be entrusted with the task of returning the Gamecocks to the defensive standards of old. Guiding the group will be new DC Jon Hoke. Combined with a trio of JUCO linemen, it will be a turnaround season for the South Carolina defense. QB Connor Mitch, who is highly touted, takes the reins of a South Carolina offense which returns just four starters. Expect Mitch to have great success against a North Carolina defense that was even worse than the Gamecocks' last season.
In the first 2 years, under 4th year Head Coach Fedora, the Tar Heels allowed an average of 25 PPG. Last year, the bottom fell out on the defensive side of the ball. In what many feel was the worst North Carolina defense ever, the Tar Heels allowed a whopping 39 PPG, including 241 yards or more, both rushing and passing. And that was with seven returning starters! Again, this year, North Carolina will return seven starters to the defensive side of the ball (is that good or bad?!). Along with 10 returning offensive starters, led by QB Marquise Williams, this Tar Heel team is now one of the most veteran experienced teams in the country. With a total of 17 RS, returning starter aficionados will be all over the Tar Heels in this opening game. They will point to the fact that DC Chizik (the former Auburn HC) has been hired to put his finger in the dyke. Don’t expect that to happen overnight or even in this first game! Remember that 7 losses by North Carolina last year were by an average of 20+ PPG. No question that the Tar Heels’ offense should be potent behind electric QB Williams, who will operate behind a veteran OL and the majority of his skill position players.
In a battle of two teams, who each fielded 200 Club defensive units last year, we will side with the SEC pedigree of South Carolina and the coaching of Spurrier for the outright victory in a game where the line is a full TD less than where it would have closed last season.