As always, the best and the worst things that could happen this week.
1. The first quarter. The secret to North Carolina's success -- when it's had success this year -- is winning the first quarter. The Heels scored 13 in the first quarter against Miami and 27 against James Madison. The Gamecocks have outscored their opponents 62-27 in the initial 15 minutes. Advantage goes to South Carolina, who's done it against much better competition.
2. The letdown. Last week's game, regardless of what the Tar Heels might want to say, was an emotional affair. Players know when a team used to be coached by their current leader, and they tend to respond. (See: South Carolina v. Florida 2005) Sure, North Carolina would like to get the better of a would-be regional rival. But this is a team that's not familiar enough with success to get up for a big game two weeks in a row.
3. Chris Smelley. Granted, it's against Mississippi State and Kentucky, but Smelley is 36-of-67 for 535 yards and four TDs against one INT over his last two games. North Carolina is surrendering 211.8 ypg through the air. Not terrible, but enough for Smelley to exploit the secondary.
Better than Blake. Not saying much, but he is.
4. Davis and Boyd. The Gamecocks' backs combined for 117 yards against Mississippi State and 119 yards against Kentucky. The Heels are allowing 146.5 ypg on the ground. That should give the duo enough room to take the pressure of Smelley, if it comes.
5. Steve Spurrier. Record against North Carolina: 3-0. Record in Chapel Hill: 2-0. This is a team that Spurrier loves to beat, a bitterness dating back to his days as Head Ball Coach at Duke.
1. Revenge. North Carolina fans are still bitter about the way Spurrier's Duke team celebrated their offense -- and 41-0 beatdown of UNC -- at the end of their last matchup in 1989. Particularly a picture in front of the scoreboard. In other words, the feeling is mutual, and these players have probably been hearing about it for weeks.
The most UNC has ever cared about a football-related slight.
2. Running. After a weak start, Anthony Elzy and the North Carolina ground game have started to find their footing. We all know what happens when running backs who know what they're doing go up against the Gamecocks' defensive lines: First downs.
3. Butch Davis. He hasn't yet been around long enough to change the culture at UNC. But last week's defeat of Miami shows that this is still a dangerous team that can pick up an upset here or there.
4. Deunta Williams. Has three INT returns for 84 yards. Also has 36 tackles. A threat for a pass-happy team like South Carolina.
5. Hubris. South Carolina cannot be careful enough going into Chapel Hill. There's no reason the Tar Heels won't be able to hang with the Gamecocks for much of the game. If South Carolina stays focused, it should come out with the win.
PREDICTION: South Carolina 34, North Carolina 24
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