I wanted to do a more detailed preview of our first game of the 2015 season against the North Carolina Tar Heels, but I work for a living and wasn't able to find the time before the Friday morning kick-off.
It's actually pretty crazy how similar to this team South Carolina is: both coming off of 6-6 regular seasons, both were really strong on offense (Bill Connelly's S&P+ rankings have UNC offense at 25, USC at 21), and really bad on defense (UNC at 99, USC at 71). Another similarity is that we were both really bad on defense while running a 4-2-5 base (nickel). What can I say about the UNC 2014 defense that has not already been said about the French army? As bad as all Gamecock fans feel our defense was last year, UNC's was so much worse. They gave up 300+ rushing yards to their final four opponents. Both teams have hired new defensive coordinators (Gene Chizik for UNC, with UNC adding other staff as well, including John Papuchis (former DC at Nebraska), and both teams are moving to a more traditional 4-3 base, but North Carolina does not appear to have upgraded the talent on the defensive side of the ball as South Carolina did with Lewis, Sawyer, and Johnson. South Carolina should have the advantage on defense.
On offense I have to give the advantage to UNC. They return 10 starters and one of the best dual-threat QBs in the country. Marquise Williams doesn't have a great arm, but is big (6'2", 225lbs), good with his legs (788 yards rushing on 193 carries in 2014), and accurate enough for North Carolina's quick-pass offense (63.1% completion rate for 3,068 yards in 2014). South Carolina native Quinshad Davis headlines a skill position group that includes the NCAA record holder for single-season punt return TDs (Ryan Switzer) and former 5-star RB Elijah Hood. Their O-line also is experienced and highly regarded, including All-American Landon Turner at RG and former Gamecock high-priority recruit Bently Spain at LT. UNC is going to score points.
I think this will be a close game against two evenly matched teams, but I think the Gamecocks win the battle on the line of scrimmage, mainly our O-line having their way with the UNC D-line, and leave Charlotte with the win. South Carolina will have more than double the UNC rushing total. Prediction: USC 35 - UNC 27
Bonus prediction: USC's first play from scrimmage will be Wilds with an off-tackle run. Second play will be a deep post to Cooper from the slot.