The college football season opens with a battle of the Carolinas, as the Tar Heels and Gamecocks get set to do battle on a neutral field. Who are the NCAA football odds favoring?
Depending on the sportsbook you look over, you'll see the Gamecocks favored by either 2.5 or 3 points. The line opened at 3.5 at most places but seems to have settled in around the key number of three, but make sure you keep tracking SBRodds.com in order to get the possible number you can.
Wanting to make a play on this game's total instead? Fireworks are expected in this one, as evident by an O/U of 63.5. Points for everyone!
North Carolina Tar Heels
The Tar Heels didn't have a special season in 2014 or anything, as they finished the regular season 6-6 and then lost in their bowl game. Their best wins came over Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia and Pittsburgh, and they were able to hang around against both Notre Dame (50-43) and Clemson (50-35) in relatively hard-fought losses.
Marquise Williams essentially did it all for the North Carolina offense in 2014, compiling 3,068 passing yards, 21 touchdowns (against nine interceptions), 788 rushing yards and 13 rushing scores. He was a one-man show for the Tar Heels and kept them in games they otherwise had no business being competitive in. There was little help from T.J. Logan and the rest of the backfield, so Williams and wideouts Ryan Switzer and Mack Hollins had to do a lot of heavy lifting.
Williams, Logan, Switzer and Hollins will all be back, so we can expect the offense to at least match its production from last season (33.2 points per game, #38 in the nation). The big question mark for North Carolina will be the defense; this unit was awful in 2014, allowing a whopping 39.0 points per game (#119 in all of college football) and really needs to improve for the Tar Heels to truly compete in the conference and nationally.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Just like North Carolina, South Carolina ended with a 6-6 regular season record. Key wins came over Georgia (38-35) and Florida (23-20 in overtime), but the Gamecocks suffered bad defeats against Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee among others and was never really able to establish themselves in the loaded SEC. In the Independence Bowl, South Carolina was able to overcome Miami (FL) by three.
Individually, Dylan Thompson and Mike Davis were the two offensive leaders. Thompson, who's now graduated, posted a 26:11 TD:INT ratio, while Davis ran for just short of 1,000 yards (982) along with eight touchdowns. Pharoh Cooper led all receivers with 69 receptions for 1,136 yards and nine scores.
With Thompson and Davis no longer around, it might take some time for South Carolina to find its groove offensively. They've still yet to have settled on a starter, and that obviously doesn't bode well early on in the season. Defense was the big issue for the Gamecocks last season, but it's looking like the opposite will be true in 2015.
NCAA Football Pick
Heading into the season, we're actually a little higher on the Tar Heels than we are the Gamecocks, especially since this game will be on a neutral field, so we'll go ahead and back them as underdogs on the college football odds board.
We're a little hesitant to side with South Carolina after such an upheaval at the important skill positions, and we like that the Tar Heels will have more familiarity there with Williams at the helm of the offense. He should have a very productive season as a senior and will be the heart and soul of that offense each and every week.
It's a battle between the SEC and the ACC during opening week, and in the end we see more value in North Carolina. Back Williams and company to get it done inside Bank of America Stadium.
College Football Pick: North Carolina Tar Heels +3 at BetOnline