It’s odd for an opening week game to have so much on the line, but for South Carolina and NC State their simultaneous debut in Charlotte than some very minor bragging rights (according to Wikipedia, this is a rivalry game?).
The game is going to be broadcast nationally on ESPN at 3 p.m. ET and can be streamed on espn.com/watch along with the Watch ESPN app.
If NC State wins this game, they’ll even the all-time series to 27-27-4. Before South Carolina joined the SEC in 1992, this actually was a rivalry game oddly enough. Between 1956 and 1991 the two sides played each other 36 times in a row — NC State winning 18 and South Carolina winning 16 with two ties thrown in for good fun.
Much like their rivalry of old, the 2017 iterations of these teams look to be pretty evenly matched. In Bill Connelly’s preseason S&P rankings, NC State is ranked 27th while South Carolina came in at 36th. According to Bill’s numbers, the only thing that separates the two are the offenses — NC State’s offense is projected to be 51st while South Carolina’s projects 63rd.
In fairness to the Gamecocks, that 63rd is weighed down by a miserable first six games on offense in 2016. That all flipped when Will Muschamp’s staff tore the redshirt off QB Jake Bentley and revived the offense from being awful to passable at the SEC level.
Bentley has drawn a lot of offseason hype and has been paired with one of the better receiving corps in the county. Deebo Samuel, Bryan Edwards and Hayden Hurst are three reliable targets while Rico Dowdle, AJ Turner and Ty’son Williams should make a deep backfield to compliment the passing game.
The key will be whether or not the South Carolina offensive line back block the North Carolina State defensive line, a group that’s gathered a lot of hype of their own over the offseason. Led by perennial All-American Bradley Chubb, the Wolfpack’s front four look to be good enough to keep them in pretty much every game.
NC State’s offense will revolve around QB Ryan Finley and do-it-all athelte Jaylen Samuels. Finley’s coming off a solid 2016 and looks to become a more dynamic passer in his junior season while Samuels is one of the best kept secrets in the country.
Samuels averaged 8.7 yards every time he touched the ball on the ground or in the air and scored total 13 touchdowns. He and Finely will have the benefit of four returning starters on the offensive line and two more top returning seniors. In short, NC State has all the tools they need to be successful in spite of a killer schedule down the road.
Which brings us back around to why this game is so important to both sides. According to Connelly’s projections, NC State is set to win 6.6 games this season while South Carolina sits at 5.9. If six games is what you shoot for to get to the postseason, then this game between two seemingly even sides could make all the difference in going bowling ans sitting home.
How to watch South Carolina vs. NC State Saturday afternoon
Time: 3 p.m. ET
Place: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Announcers: Dave Pasch, Greg McElroy
Backing the Pack (SBN NC State Blog)