Wondering what the Tar Heels will face versus South Carolina on Thursday night? Don't worry, SB Nation's Garnet and Black Attack has the answers. Be sure to check out our answers here.
THB: So much attention is on Jadeveon Clowney and that will likely be the case in how UNC deals with him. Which Gamecock defensive players will benefit most from the focus on stopping Clowney?
G&B: Probably DT Kelcy Quarles or DE Chaz Sutton. Backup DE Darius English will likely also have opportunities on obvious passing downs, when South Carolina may move Clowney inside and put three or four ends on the field to pressure Renner. I really like Quarles to have a big game. If UNC tries to work Clowney by pulling guards over to Clowney's side of the field, Quarles is quick and athletic enough to get inside and run down the quarterback/ball carrier before another blocker gets to him. I also like English or Sutton to do damage from the edge if UNC doubles Clowney when he's on the inside.
Sutton is an interesting player to watch in this game, though. He had a very promising season rushing the QB last year as a backup to Clowney and Devin Taylor. He was in the role English is playing this year, spelling the two starters and playing in the three-end pass rush package. Sutton has looked great in pass-rushing situations; he's a powerful, quick player who can either overpower or finesse blockers. However, he's unproven in an every-down role, and I wonder how he'll do if the Tar Heels run the ball to his side to avoid giving Clowney as many chances to make plays. Sutton needs to prove that he can stop the run, that he won't bite on fakes, etc.
THB: What can we expect from the South Carolina offense? Will there be more passing seeing UNC has struggled in the secondary?
G&B: I expect South Carolina to have a very balanced offense this year. The offensive line was the weak link last season, and it should be much improved both in run-blocking and pass-blocking. The running game may be the team's strength, but South Carolina certainly may want to test a struggling UNC secondary that is a bit banged up coming into the game. The problem for South Carolina is that our two most productive returning receivers, WR Bruce Ellington and TE Rory "Busta" Anderson, have missed practice with injury and are questionable for Thursday's game. We have some other receivers who we're excited about, but they're less proven than Ellington and Anderson. South Carolina needs to hope that players like WR Nick Jones and TE Jerrell Adams step up to test UNC in the shorter-field passing game, and that blazer Damiere Byrd is able to test the UNC safeties down field. If these players step up, South Carolina could certainly work UNC's secondary. I expect Connor Shaw to play well at QB now that he's fully healthy for the first game in a long time.
THB: Name a player (besides Clowney) who you think will have a huge impact on this game?
G&B: I like Shaw and tailback Mike Davis to have good games. South Carolina should want to dominate time of possession against UNC, using a ball-control offense to put stress on a UNC defense that's already asked to do a lot by not getting a lot of rest because the UNC offense gets on and off the field quickly. A healthy Shaw is very dangerous in the running game, and Davis is ready to become South Carolina's featured back. If they can move the ball consistently on the ground, South Carolina should be able to wear UNC's defense out and dominate late in the game.
THB: Who will win and how?
G&B: Unless we turn the ball over, I think South Carolina has the better team and should win. That said, my impression from the South Carolina side is that many Gamecocks fans are overrating how our defense will fare against a very good UNC offense. I expect UNC to keep this game close in the early going, and I wouldn't be surprised if the game is tied or the Tar Heels are winning at the half. With a balanced offense that should be significantly better than UNC's defense, though, I expect South Carolina will keep up early, control time of possession, and eventually break the game open in the second half, when South Carolina's defense will begin to make some plays and slow down UNC's scoring. I project UNC to score between 17-24, South Carolina between 27-38 or so. Likely a good 10+-point win for the Gamecocks against a solid UNC squad.