Finally! The 2013 season is here. The UNC vs. South Carolina matchup kicks off the season on Thursday night and it should be a great game to get things going.
Here are five things that will be both entertaining and important for both teams and their fans as they kick off the season.
The QB Situation
The quarterbacks for UNC and South Carolina haven’t been the names that have been mentioned the most leading up to this game.
But one or both of them may be the ones talked about the most after the game is over. South Carolina’s Connor Shaw is confident that his team can take advantage of some things that UNC does and thinks that SC’s offense can find some holes in the Heels' defense.
The Tar Heels will try to capitalize on Shaw’s near 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio. Shaw may also be without two of his favorite targets in Bruce Ellington and Rory Anderson as they are fighting hamstring injuries.
There is a chance that Dylan Thompson may also see some time under center, but most people expect Shaw to take the majority of snaps. Last year Shaw threw for 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions while compiling a 67.5 passing percentage.
On the opposite sideline the Tar Heels will look to senior quarterback Bryn Renner to lead them down the field. This past summer Renner attended the Manning Passing Academy and apparently impressed a few people. NFL scout Mike Mayock commented that Renner was, “clearly the most fluid, polished thrower there.” That’s pretty big praise considering that other QBs who attended the academy included Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Alabama signal caller, A.J. McCarron, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, and Georgia’s Aaron Murray.
In each of the past two seasons Renner has thrown for over 3,000 passing yards and a combined 54 touchdowns. Of course none of the stats or compliments matter if Renner isn’t able to continue to progress and grow and this game could be one that proves that progression.
He says he’s been looking forward to playing an SEC team and now he gets his chance. Heels fans are excited to see the continued improvements he has made and are interested in seeing if he has fixed the problem of under throwing his receivers on the deep routes.
12 Touchdowns? No, Not 12, I Meant 15
It will come as no surprise to fans for either team if UNC tight end Eric Ebron makes it into the end zone in this game. The Smith High School graduate out of Greensboro, NC, posted 40 catches for 625 yards and four touchdowns last season. This year coach Larry Fedora has set the bar extremely high for Ebron, challenging him to go for 12 touchdowns.
“I’m wanting him to push himself beyond what he thinks he can do and understand we’re going to try to push him beyond where he thinks he can go," commented coach Fedora. Not to be outdone, Ebron has set the bar even higher for himself, setting a goal of 15 touchdowns.
“I have all the ability in the world to get it done. Not to be cocky, but I don’t think anybody has the ability to prevent me from getting to that goal," says Ebron.
This guy is a monster and NFL teams have been taking notice. And 15 touchdowns are impressive for anyone, but especially a tight end. Gamecock fans are hoping to minimize the damage that Ebron does on Thursday night while Heels fans are expecting him to make a lot of noise.
You Knew One Of These Points Was Going To Be About This Next Guy
If you haven’t heard of Jadeveon Clowney by now then you likely haven’t clicked over to ESPN in the last year. But don’t worry, I’m willing to bet that he will be the opening screen shot on your television at 6:00 on Thursday night.
This is the guy who runs straight through opposing offensive lines, knocks running backs heads off, picks up the ball with one hand and pops it as he crushes it between his fingers. (I may have exaggerated on a couple of those, but not by much.) This kid is pretty good. Like No. 1-pick-in-the-upcoming-draft good.
Last year’s SEC Defensive Player of the Year recorded 13 sacks, 23.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, and at least half of the opposing quarterbacks to wet themselves and have to change their pants at halftime. When asked who is the best defensive player he’s ever had to game plan against, it’s no surprise that coach Fedora echoes the same name that many coaches do: Clowney.
Not only is he physically tough to handle at 272 pounds, but he also runs a 4.4 40-yard dash. UNC has said that they will mix up the tempo and try to do some things to minimize Clowney’s effect. And while that is likely a smart thing to take in to account, the South Carolina line will still be a tough test for the Heels even if Clowney is somehow taken out of the equation.
Many fans believe that Clowney and the rest of the defensive line will have their way with James Hurst and the rest of the UNC O-line. But if the Heels can stick with their game plan it will be a great matchup to watch throughout the game.
The Old Ball Coach vs. Fedora
This game not only features a good bit of future NFL talent, but also two fiery head coaches. The national audience will be familiar with Steve Spurrier. The sometimes hot headed Spurrier is known for his tremendous coaching ability along with his occasional obnoxious commentary, among other things.
Fedora is not as well-known as Spurrier, but is making his presence known throughout the ACC and looks to be making a name for himself nationally as well. Fedora is a big fan of the RedBull energy drink. UNC football players need to look no farther than the weight room, where Fedora sometimes works out with his players, to see that he is an intense coach willing to get in the middle of what is going on.
While Spurrier seems to enjoy the spotlight at times, neither of these coaches is looking for a bunch of face time during the game. They’ll be there to win the thing whether they make it in front of the camera or not. But be sure to stay tuned in between plays and time outs. These guys are passionate about what they do and you’ll likely see that on display throughout the game.
Williams-Brice Stadium Will Get You In The Mood For College Football Season
It’s hard to get the same feel for a game sitting at home as when you’re sitting in the stadium. But you’ll come close to it on Thursday night as the game is broadcast from South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium. SC’s stadium is built to hold 80,250 fans and you can bet that every one of them will be filled and then some.
Gamecock fans are among some of the most passionate fans, not only in the SEC, but in the country. As with many schools, game day festivities start six to seven hours before game time as friends and family gather to eat, play games, visit, and get hyped up for the game.
Once the game starts it’s all business. A story from 1999 illustrates the passion that this fan base displays each week. During that year the Gamecocks were enduring a season in which they wouldn’t win a single game. To avoid going 0-11 they had to beat Clemson. There were rumors that Clemson fans had big plans once the game was out of hand and the outcome decided.
Tiger fans were supposedly going to throw “Zero” candy bars on the field, mocking the Gamecock’s no-win season. As the game wore down and it was evident that SC would be putting another tick mark in the loss column, Gamecock fans surrounded the Clemson fan seating area, practically daring the Tigers' faithful to throw anything on the field.
At the time, true freshman Langston Moore said he remembers the incident and that not one candy bar came on the field. That passion continues today at South Carolina football games, especially since the team is a long way away from an 0-11 season.
You can be sure that Gamecock fans will be strong in number and will do whatever they can to make the night tough on the Tar Heels. Now 80,000+ sounds like a great way to kick off the 2013 season.