The first weekend of any season can be loaded with surprises – players who decide to leave the program at the last moment, for instance, or a sloppy game against a lowly opponent which reduces fingernails to stubs. But you don’t often hear what’s being reported by NC State and South Carolina boosters before their tilt on Saturday.
There’s almost no trash talk.
Instead of sniping at each other, each fan base is nervous and anticipating another potentially average season. One Gamecock blogger points out that the 2 most recent NCSU vs SC scrums were infamous for sloppy play and lack of passion – a 34-0 snoozer went SC’s way in 2008, and only 10 points were scored in the rematch in ’09.
Who: South Carolina Gamecocks vs NC State Wolfpack
When: Saturday September 2nd, 3 PM EST
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte NC (Neutral Site)
Lines: South Carolina (+4.5) vs NC State (-4.5) / O/U Total: (53)
These teams are very similar, which is why the Vegas line making the Wolfpack almost a 5-point underdog is interesting. Most likely, it reflects the notion that the ACC is now the dominant conference in college football. 1-3 years ago, before Clemson’s rise to the top of the sport, this line likely would have been a pick ’em.
But conference affiliation and national championships mean less than bookies may think. So what if Clemson beat Alabama? It has no bearing on this contest.
It is likely to be, at the very least, a more entertaining struggle than the previous 2 battles. Gamecock HC Will Muschamp will rely on an experienced offense led by signal-caller Jake Bentley. Offensive production was a big issue in ’16 but should improve at least slightly as the unit returns 10 starters.
Bradley Chubb will star on the NCSU side as the anchor of an excellent front-7. But pundits predicting that the Wolfpack will live in the SC backfield are overlooking a few factors. Cornerback Mike Stevens is hurt and will not play, meaning that Bentley will have the option of tossing a few more quick passes to open WRs in the flat. That will help relieve the pressure somewhat over 4 quarters.
Wolfpack TE Jaylen Samuels should grab some nice catches on Saturday, and that will make CFB Fantasy players happy. But whether or not the Raleigh fan base will be happy depends on whether the defense will be as good as advertised in 2017.
Defensive teams face a disadvantage early in the season, while playbooks are still fresh and offensive skill-players and linemen are healthy. If this match-up was happening later in the season with the same odds, BetFirm would recommend skipping a bet on this one – or even taking the Wolfpack.
But in a season-opening scrum, Bentley and his fine WR corps will find enough room in a depleted secondary to score points. That makes the Gamecocks a value bet against a slightly-skewed spread.
Take South Carolina (+4.5) to prevail at Bank of America Stadium.