South Carolina Gamecocks at North Carolina State Wolfpack Preview

Ryan RozyckiContributor IAugust 31, 2009

COLUMBIA - NOVEMBER 1:  Quarterback Stephen Garcia #5 of the South Carolina Gamecocks looks to pass the ball during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 1, 2008 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

NCAA Football Preview written by Jay Horne of your football betting forum and free picks site.
South Carolina Gamecocks at North Carolina State Wolfpack
Thursday, September 3rd 7:00PM Eastern betting line – North Carolina State -4, 46 O/U

The North Carolina State Wolfpack and the South Carolina Gamecocks will be the featured battle to kick off the new college football season for the 2nd straight year in a row. The Wolfpack will host the Gamecocks in a primetime battle live from Carter-Finley Stadium in a battle between SEC and ACC schools. These two teams met on opening night one year ago down in Columbia when the Gamecocks derailed the Wolfpack by pitching a 34-0 shutout. However, things could be much different this year thanks to an emerging North Carolina State offense and they will enter the game as 4 point favorites over South Carolina. However, the Wolfpack will still have to overcome the mighty Gamecocks defense as they were unable to do last year to score the big victory.

North Carolina State late season success from 2008 rode on the arm of quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson exceeded expectations in his freshman season throwing for just less than 2,000 yards. The most impressive statistic was Wilson threw just one interception on the season compared to the 17 touchdowns tallied on the year. The talented quarterback is a big reason there is such high potential heading into the new season. Last year, the Wolfpack had absolutely no success against the might South Carolina defense that ranked 2nd in the nation against the pass. However, the Gamecocks lost the majority of their quality secondary and you can bet that Wilson and company will put their young South Carolina secondary to the test. Look for Owen Spencer, to be the main target at the wide receiver position. Spencer caught 31 passes for 691 yards last season and like Wilson could be on the verge of a bigger year if the passing expectations deliver.

South Carolina was a team that had multiple problems on offense last year. The Gamecocks quarterback failed miserably at holding onto the football providing 27 interceptions more than any other team in the country. Three different quarterbacks contributed to the madness sharing playing time, but this year it will be all on the arm of sophomore Stephen Garcia. Garcia provided the only hope, but he too was anything but impressive. However, all will rest on Garcia this season as the Gamecocks highly regarded recruit hopes to show vast improvement. Garcia has a very strong an arm, but struggles with accuracy. The young quarterback also has some running ability and is able to avoid trouble at times. Last year, the Gamecocks had the luxury of throwing to ball to the school’s all-time record receiving holder Kenny McKinley. However, those luxuries will not subside with the team and they will look for some unproven talent to step up. Moe Brown is the best likely receiver to fill that void along with a ground of younger guys who will be fighting for playing time. The biggest disappointment outside the quarterback play last year was the running backs inability to move the ball. However, the running game too should be on the upswing with the addition of true freshman Jarvis Giles getting into the mixture. Any improvement in the running game should at least provide some type of improvement.

The North Carolina State defense was fairly mediocre last season allowing 390 yards per contests from opposing offenses. The big guys up front have most of their players returning and the rush defense should be solid. However, a big problem last year was their inability to apply pressure on the quarterback. Linebackers Nate Irving and Ray Michael are returning which should improve the defenses overall numbers. The defense totaled just 23 sacks on the season and allowed 142 yards on the ground up the middle. Those numbers must improve and the Wolfpack must apply pressure to Garcia this Thursday night. If they can get to Garcia, then they can cause more of those dreaded turnovers. If not, it could be a similar story from last year. Despite the Gamecocks first half 4 interceptions, the Steve Spurrier designed offense routed 34 points by the time the clock had expired. Applying pressure on the South Carolina quarterbacks will be an absolute must.

The South Carolina defense had the capabilities to be the best unit in America in 2008 loaded with talent in every position on the field. South Carolina ranked 13th overall allowing just 292 yards of total offense. Well, the defense lost some big playmakers especially in the secondary and there is a lot of concern of how well the young guys will hold up. Although, judging by the way the Gamecocks consistently produce solid cornerbacks I would say that may not be a big of worry as many think. However, those young guys in the secondary must be ready right off the bat when they face quarterback Russell Wilson. Players like Stephon Gilmore and Akeem Auguste are above average youngsters who should be just fine. Add to the fact, the Gamecocks have some very dangerous guys on the defensive front to add pressure and you would assume the defense still has a lot to look forward to. LB Eric Norwood holds the school record for tackles for loss and the Gamecocks also have some of the best defensive lineman in the conference. However, two of the interior defensive lineman will miss playing time due to suspensions from off-season issues which should make things easier for North Carolina State. Still, keep your eye on DE Cliff Matthews as he will likely be in the backfield harassing Wilson on multiple occasions.

Pick – South Carolina always plays well early in the year and trust me anything but a win would be a huge disappointment. Take South Carolina +4