CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The last time North Carolina faced the Gamecocks, it left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
It was a dreary day in the Queen City when then-first-year head coach Shane Beamer and his squad took the crown as kings of the Carolinas.
“It was one of the worst games I’ve ever seen,” said UNC head coach Mack Brown. “We played poorly. I felt awful about that game. I felt like we let everybody down and it was one of the more disappointing games I’ve ever coached.”
The Hall of Fame coach also admitted to having thrown away all of the merch he received from that Duke Mayo Bowl after the Gamecocks put a beatdown on the Tar Heels and stole the game with a 38-21 victory in 2021.
But that was two years ago and the new-look Tar Heels are ready to put that loss in the rearview. They have a chip on their shoulder and are ready to show everybody who the real Carolina is.
Whether it’s the Carolina blue-hued Tar Heels or garnet dripped Gamecocks, only one team will walk away victorious tomorrow night. One thing is for sure, the result will paint an informative picture of North Carolina’s strength, as well as, their shortcomings.
A more confident defense:
UNC’s defensive unit is in year two of coordinator Gene Chizik’s scheme and is potentially better adjusted to how he runs things. With a group filled with freshmen, transfers and vets, it will be interesting to see how their skill sets complement each other on the field. The defense had their share of poor performances last year – riding the bottom of the FBS rankings for nearly the entire season, but they are determined to change that. And from what I’ve seen, they can show you better than they can tell you.
Coach Chiz mirrors this telling the media, “I just think overall, defensively, we’ll be a much better unit than we were. This is a great opening game, because this is such a talented offensive group that we’re gonna see. When you play a quarterback like Spencer Rattler. They check your oil quickly.”
“I think it’s a great opener for us to see where we stand and I feel good about us being a more consistent defense than we were last year. For the most part, there’s a much better feel going through the second year in terms of comfort level. I think that’ll show up on game day.”
Who will win the quarterback battle?
Hesiman favorite Drake Maye has etched his name as one of the best, leading the Tar Heels to a 9-5 (6-2 ACC) record in 2022 and a coastal championship. As a redshirt freshman, Maye racked up over 4,000 passing yards, 35 passing touchdowns and seven rushing touchdowns, making him one of the most productive quarterbacks in the country.
But let’s not forget about Spencer Rattler. Despite 2022 being his first season with the Gamecocks, he started all 13 games – logging an 8-5 record, including back-to-back top-10 upset wins against Tennessee and Clemson. However, Rattler also threw 12 interceptions last season compared to Maye’s seven.
Improved Run Game
If there’s anything I know about Drake Maye it’s that he is a package deal, dual-threat quarterback who ran for 698 yards last season and is sure to match and even surpass that record as he enters this season.
Despite his talents, the efficiency of UNC’s run game will be crucial if they want to take the pressure off Maye and the wide receivers. They have a diverse, and arguably one of the more loaded, rooms in a few years with veteran British Brooks leading the charge, joined by sophomores Omarion Hamptosn and George Pettaway. They also have junior Elijiah Green, who led the team with eight rushing touchdowns and ranked second on the team with 558 yards rushing. His best game was against Georgia Tech where he ran for a career-high 92 yards, an 80-yard career-high game-opening rush and two touchdowns.
Under a new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach with Chip Lindsey, they have the tools and the depth. Now, all they gotta do is execute.
It’s going to be a show of offensive prowess from both sides, as South Carolina also boasts a new offensive coordinator. With Dowell Loggains and Lindsey both in their first-years with these programs, I look forward to witnessing how their schematics play out on the field.
Who: North Carolina (0-0) vs. South Carolina (0-0)
When: Saturday, September 2nd, 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Last Meeting: USC, 38-21
All-Time: UNC leads the series 35-20-4