CFN Preview: South Carolina vs. NC State
NC State at South Carolina, 8:00 EST, ESPN
Why to watch: After three seasons of mediocrity, South Carolina has its best team yet since Steve Spurrier arrived. At least that's the hope for antsy Gamecock fans, and while the big goal is to come up with a huge year in the SEC East, a loss to NC State would hardly sit well. Although the talent has been upgraded, the school is just 21-16 under the ball coach, collapsing down the stretch last year after raising expectations with a 6-1 start. Ironically, considering who the head man is, it's been the play of the quarterback that's hamstrung the program's ability to get over the hump. Facing a crossroads season, the Gamecocks are giving the ball to untested junior Tommy Beecher, at least for the time being, who's thrown all of two dozen career passes.
NC State is entering its second season with Tom O'Brien at the helm as it looks to take another step closer to stability. The Pack has a long way to go before narrowing the talent gap to be a major national player, so the staff will continue preaching fundamentals and limiting unforced errors to try to make some noise in a down year for the ACC. State is a year or two away from contention, or at least until it producse more plays from the quarterback spot, but a win in Columbia might kick start the expectations for a big season.
Why NC State might win: The Pack will keep things cozy by controlling the line of scrimmage when South Carolina has the ball. State enjoys an edge in the trenches, turning loose DE Willie Young and DT Alan Michael Cash on a flimsy Gamecock front that underachieved in pass protection all throughout last year. South Carolina's attempt to supercharge the offense will fail if Beecher has no time to throw and the running game doesn't get rolling.
Why South Carolina might win: The Gamecock defense is going to be nasty, especially now that LB Jasper Brinkley and DT Nathan Pepper are back from season-ending injuries. With the uncertainty NC State is facing at quarterback, South Carolina can use most of its resources to stack the line and stop Jamelle Eugene, Andre Brown, and Toney Baker. Facing constant pressure, newly anointed starting QB Russell Wilson will have no chance of navigating an aggressive ‘Cock secondary that's anchored by CB Captain Munnerlyn and SS Emanuel Cook.
Who to watch: Brinkley instantly makes the South Carolina defense far better than it was when he was sidelined last fall. He's an impact defender with tremendous instincts and the ferocity to create turnovers. With the Wolfpack determined to stay conservative and work the area between the tackles, he'll make a statement return with at least 10 tackles and a couple of bone-jarring sticks if he's able to fight through ankle and foot problems that kept him at less than 100% this off-season.
What will happen: The Gamecocks might be vulnerable if they were opening against a team with a pulse on offense. The Wolfpack, however, are one-dimensional, which will make it tough to score into the double-digits. South Carolina will pick up its first victory, but the lingering questions about the offense and the quarterback play will remain unanswered.
CFN Prediction: South Carolina 23 ... NC State 10 ... Line: South Carolina -11.5
Must See Rating: (5: 90210 - 1: 90210, at least what you'll say among your friends) … 3
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