NC State vs South Carolina
Thursday, Sept. 3 - Raleigh, N.C.
Line: NCST -4
The college football season kicks off with an ACC vs. SEC matchup at Carter-Finley Stadium as the Wolfpack of NC State look for redemption against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Last season, South Carolina thumped the Wolfpack 34-0 in Columbia aided by 171 yards on the ground, their highest total against an FBS opponent all year.
NC State Offense vs. South Carolina Defense
NC State returns ACC Freshman of the year Russell Wilson at QB.
Wilson was knocked out of the game last year when the Wolfpack were still in contention. His pinpoint accuracy is very unusual for a young player, and he has wheels to make plays with his feet.
But expect the sophomore to stay in the pocket more this year because those hits he took on the run contributed to his numerous injuries last year. Redshirt freshman Mike Glennon is backing up Wilson this year and drew rave reviews in the spring.
The Wolfpack return the core of their offensive line that improved as the year went on. With continued improvement, this unit could be one of the best in the ACC.
Last year, NC State was breaking in several lineman that had been switched over from the defensive side of the ball. In their last six regular season games, State ran the ball for 149 yards or more in each game.
Wilson's top targets look to be receivers Owen Spencer and Jarvis Williams who combined for over 1,000 yards last season.
But I'm guessing State's main mode of transportation in this game will be on the ground with Toney Baker and Jamelle Eugene. Baker is coming off a two-year absence, but has shown explosiveness in his 12 career starts.
Looking to stop the Wolfpack is a South Carolina defense that smothered NC State in the opener last year allowing just 138 total yards. Coming off the edge will be two really good pass rushers in Eric Norwood and Cliff Matthews.
The Gamecocks allowed 133 yards per game on the ground last season which was about middle of the pack for the SEC, but they allowed an average of 237 over their final three.
South Carolina's secondary is replacing 100 career starts. The back four will need the front four to put some pressure on NC State's QBs.
South Carolina Offense vs. NC State Defense
Stephen Garcia is the starting QB for South Carolina, but you never know how short Steve Spurrier's hook is.
The highly touted prospect has yet to deliver on a consistent basis, but Gamecocks fans are hopeful a quiet off-season means the sophomore is focused and ready to go.
South Carolina has a new offensive line coach this year and needs to improve on their rush offense which gained under 100 yards per game last season. It is a bit of a misnomer that Steve Spurrier does not like to run the ball, he just hasn't had the horses to do it recently.
Expect Brian Maddox, Kenny Miles, Jarvis Miles, and Bryce Sherman to see action at running back replacing Mike Davis. The Gamecocks are replacing their top two receivers from last year.
Defensively, the Wolfpack return the core of their front seven, but did lose star LB Nate Irving for the season. Last year, State went from over 180 yards per game allowed on the ground to 140.
The Gamecocks are more apt to throw than run, so it will be important for State to get pressure on the QB. State finished last in the ACC in pass defense allowing nearly 250 yards per game through the air.
If South Carolina gets their running game going, it would really help their passing game.
I think Tom O'Brien is one of the underrated coaches in the ACC.
He has consistently been able to deliver results above where his recruiting classes are ranked. His trademark is solid play on the offensive and defensive lines, and sound decision making leading to minimal turnovers. In other words, his teams are not going to beat themselves. Also, O'Brien has kept his staff intact since arriving in Raleigh.
Spurrier is known to be a very strong tactician when he has time to prepare.
South Carolina has won all four openers under Spurrier by at least nine points. If the Gamecocks execute his game plan, then they have a very good chance to pull off the upset. Six new assistant coaches are in their first year so it will be interesting to see how the alignments and substitution patters work on both sides of the ball.
I expect State to try and establish the run early with Toney Baker and Jamelle Eugene. O'Brien has said Glennon will play in this game so it will be interesting to see how he manages his playing time.
I see South Carolina blitzing a lot to get Wilson out of the pocket and to pressure the less athletic Glennon. Also, with new starters in the secondary, the Gamecocks will want their defensive backs in coverage as short as possible.
When South Carolina has the ball, I expect them to try and establish the run game early. But if it does not work, then Spurrier will go to the air vertically.
The one thing that could get Garcia pulled is turnovers. If the Gamecocks get the running game going, then they could really put the NC State defense on their heels.
I think South Carolina has some match up advantages and will make this one very close on the road. But I don't think its enough to overcome a much improved NC State team from a year ago.
NC State 21 South Carolina 20
South Carolina Covers +4