The 2013 season will start off with a prime time battle in South Carolina as the Tar Heels battle the Gamecocks. This game will be one that does more than wet our appetite for more college football in week one. The Tar Heels and Gamecocks are two teams with entirely different expectations this season. The outcome of this game will go a ways in determining just how successful these two teams are in 2013.
The Gamecocks of South Carolina start the season ranked number seven in the preseason coach's poll. South Carolina has aspirations of contending for not only an SEC title this year, but also contending for a national championship. This game against the Tar Heels begins a tough two game stretch to start the season for South Carolina. The Gamecocks will have to travel to Georgia to face the Bulldogs in week two in a game with huge SEC East implications. A loss to North Carolina and the mood entering the Georgia game could be entirely different for the Gamecocks.
The Tar Heels are entering their second season under head coach Larry Fedora. Fedora, the former coach at Southern Mississippi, has brought a new wide open offensive attack to Chapel Hill. Year one under Fedora the Tar Heels went 8-4, but weren't bowl eligible because of a bowl ban. This year North Carolina will have to deal with the departure of stand out running back Giovani Bernard. Bernard led the Tar Heels with 1,270 yards rushing in 2012. The Tar Heels return senior quarterback Bryn Renner as their starter this season. Renner had a 65.4 completion percentage in 2012 and will look to improve upon that this year.
As you break down the strengths of each team in this contest the defense for South Carolina stands out above all. The Gamecocks have star defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney returning with preseason Heisman hype. I feel all the attention and focus on Clowney will open up gaps and space for defensive plays to be made by other Gamecocks.
The offense for South Carolina is over looked in part because of the attention their defense gets, but quarterback Connor Shaw has weapons to spread the ball around to this season. Wide receivers Bruce Ellington and Damiere Bryd return which will give Shaw plenty of speed on the outside to beat press or man coverage this season. The departure of star running back for South Carolina Marcus Lattimore will be a tough loss to adjust to. I believe this will allow head coach Steve Spurrier to go back to his "air it out style" of offense because of the departure of Lattimore.
This more wide open offense should benefit quarterback Shaw and his speedy wide receivers this season. I believe the offense and the speed on the perimeter that South Carolina possess will be the difference in this game against North Carolina. The Tar Heels return seven starter on defense in 2013 and will need that experience to off set the speed on the edges for the Gamecocks.
My final assessment for this contest between the two Carolina schools is that the Gamecocks will find a way to pull away late. I feel the Gamecocks and Tar Heels will both start off slow because of early season nerves and rust. The game should be one in the 20s or maybe low 30s for the winner. Both teams lose their star running backs from last year and will be more of a passing orientated team in 2013. I believe because of that reason this game favors South Carolina with the speed at the wide receiver position. My final outcome is South Carolina will defeat North Carolina 31-21 in a great game to open the 2013 college football season.