Keys to victory against North Carolina
I. Come Out Firing
UNC will be flying high fresh off their upset of Miami just a week ago. With the No. 7 Gamecocks traveling to battle their northern neighbors, coach Butch Davis' team will be thinking upset again. It would be in South Carolina's best interest to come up with a big drive early and to score first as they have in each of their last two games. Three of UNC's four losses this season have been decided by a touchdown or less, so the Heels have experience with close ball games. The longer they can hang around, with last week's big win in mind (also a close game), the more they will believe they can pull off a win against the Top-10 ranked Gamecocks. A couple of early touchdowns could be demoralizing for them and allow South Carolina to coast to victory.
II. Protect the Ball
Miami's undoing last week was a series of mistakes by quarterback Kyle Wright, who threw four picks. USC quarterback Chris Smelley will be making his first career away game start and will have to avoid making the same mistakes Wright made. The UNC secondary's four-interception performance more than doubled their total interceptions prior to the Miami game.
The best defense UNC has seen this season was a Virginia Tech unit that surrendered only 10 points to the Tar Heel offense. They should have similar trouble scoring against the South Carolina defense, so it will be imperative Smelley and the offense do not give them easy scoring opportunities.
III. Slow down the run
It's no secret that without Jasper Brinkley plugging up the middle, Carolina's defense has struggled to stop the run. UNC's young secondary will likely be tested early and often, so Butch Davis will be looking to keep the ball away from Spurrier's offense by eating up clock. Freshman linebacker Melvin Ingram, one of the many Gamecock players who will be returning to their home state on Saturday, as well as Marvin Sapp will need to have big days to slow the North Carolina backfield. The good news for the Gamecocks is the UNC running game is 10th in the ACC (102nd in the country), and South Carolina's No.1-ranked secondary should match up well with the Heels passing game (No. 4 in the ACC).
IV. Throw the ball around
Redshirt freshman Chris Smelley has improved gradually every week since he took over as starting quarterback the week of the Mississippi State game. Smelley did, however, have a bad third quarter in the Kentucky game in which the offense was as inept as it has been at any point in the Spurrier era. He should have the chance to complete passes against a North Carolina secondary that will likely feature three freshman starters. Astonishingly, the unit ranks pretty well in the ACC at No. 5, but has not faced a good passing attack yet. South Carolina's offense has converted third downs amazingly well with Smelley under center, as he tends to complete passes when he needs to most. That trend should continue on Saturday as UNC gives up first downs on 40.6 percent of opponents' third down opportunites, good for 11th in the ACC.
V. Make a "Special" play
The South Carolina coaching staff has made a point to deliberately practice special teams more than other teams this season, and the Gamecocks have come very close to breaking out in recent games. Cliff Matthews and Eric Norwood have a punt block apiece, and speedsters Chris Culliver and Captain Munnerlyn have both been extremely close to busting their first return for touchdown. Culliver will likely be looking to make a big play against his home-state's crowd, and there will be no better time than against the ACC's No. 10 ranked kickoff coverage team.
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