Each week this season you’ll get an early yet detailed peek at South Carolina’s upcoming opponent right here on the Spur of the Moment blog.
Who: North Carolina (8-4, 5-3 ACC in 2012) at No. 6 South Carolina (11-2, 6-2 SEC in 2012)
When: Thursday, 6 p.m.
Where: Williams Brice Stadium (80,250), Columbia
Radio: South Carolina Radio Network (WWIK-FM 98.9 in Charleston)
Line: South Carolina by 11
What to know about North Carolina: The North Carolina football program was in utter turmoil less than two years ago. The Tar Heels were slapped with NCAA sanctions, which included loss of scholarships and post-season ban in 2012 after a multitude of violations were discovered under former head coach Butch Davis, who left the program before the 2011 season. UNC head coach Larry Fedora took over the program a year ago and kept the Tar Heels focused on their way to an 8-4 mark in 2012. They lost three games by a total of nine points, but could have gone 10-2 or 11-1. They could have also been 6-6 had a few bounces not gone their way. The Tar Heels return 13 starters (6 offensive and 7 defensive) for the 2013 season. QB Bryn Renner is considered one of the top-five QBs in next April’s NFL Draft. Renner has thrown for more than 6,400 yards and 54 TDs during his career. One of his top receivers is former Gaffney HS star Quinshad Davis, who had 61 receptions for 776 yards and 5 TDs as a true freshman. Defensively, the Tar Heels were not very good a year ago, giving up nearly 26 points a game and lost one of their top players in DT Sylvester Williams, who was taken with the 28th overall pick by Denver.
When last they met: USC QB Chris Smelley threw for a three touchdown passes, a career high, as No. 7 or No. 12 (depending on what poll you follow) beat UNC, 21-15. Smelley, who would be 4-0 as a starter after that game, completed 17 of 26 passes for 172 yards, including TD strikes to Kenny McKinley (30 yards), Jared Cook (12 yards) and Dion LeCorn (3 yards). Cory Boyd rushed for 95 yards on 20 attempts. The Gamecocks led 21-3 going into the fourth quarter, but two TD passes for UNC QB T.J. Yates made things interesting. Yates finished the game completing 22 of 42 passes for 285 yards against the nation’s top passing defense at the time.
All-Time Series: North Carolina leads, 34-17-4. Despite being considered a basketball school, the Tar Heels have dominated the series overall against the Gamecocks. The schools, however, have played just once since the Gamecocks joined the SEC in 1992. The Gamecocks have won four of the last five games and five of the last seven meetings dating back to 1981. Probably the most memorable win for the Gamecocks during the series came in 1981 when USC upset then No. 3 North Carolina, 31-13, in Chapel Hill. (The Tar Heels were 6-0 at that point in the season and in the hunt for a national title. As a side note, that was the first South Carolina game I saw in person.).
Which South Carolina Gamecock is licking his chops: Jadeveon Clowney of course is licking his chops against every opponent this season, but No. 7 will have his work cut out for him Thursday night. UNC LT James Hurst is considered one of the top offensive tackles in college football and a possible first-round pick in April’s NFL Draft. However, the Tar Heels essentially lost three starters on the offensive line, so the entire Gamecocks defensive front should be looking forward to getting to know UNC QB Bryn Renner a little bit better on Thursday night.
Who’s keeping the South Carolina coaches up at night: QB Bryn Renner is legit. He should finish his career as the Tar Heels all-time leading passer. He’s not just a “system” QB like some critics claim. In the Tar Heels up-tempo, no huddle, fastbreak offense, Renner doesn’t hang onto the ball for very long, which might not give the Gamecocks DL enough time to get to him. He also makes good decision as he holds the highest passing efficiency rating (154.59) of any QB in ACC history. He ranks fourth in career completion percentage at 66.7%.
Extra point: USC Head Coach Steve Spurrier is 22-1 in season opener’s during his collegiate career. Ironically, his only loss was a 27-21 defeat against South Carolina in 1989, while he was the head coach at Duke. Spurrier is 4-0 against UNC during his career.