UNC playing South Carolina in the opening game of the season has become a common occurrence in recent years. Like they will this year, in 2015, the two teams met at a neutral site in Charlotte. There is already another one on the schedule for 2023 as well. Beyond that, there was a game in Columbia on a Thursday night to start the 2013 season.
It’s also not a new thing either. As written last week, Mack Brown’s first ever game at UNC was against the Gamecocks. In total, UNC and South Carolina have met six times to open seasons. Here’s a look back through them.
The first time they ever met in a season opener was all the way back in 1937.
The two teams had already played 17 games in the series, and nine as league opponents in the Southern Conference. The Tar Heels were coming in off an 8-2 season in coach Raymond Wolf’s debut at Chapel Hill. They were lead by Andy Bershak, who would be a consensus All-American that season. Meanwhile, South Carolina had gone 5-7 in 1936, including getting shutout by UNC.
This technically was only the season opener for North Carolina, as the Gamecocks had beaten Emory & Henry the week before. They managed to carry that over to the next week and battle UNC to a 13-13 tie. That would be a third of all the points the Tar Heels allowed that season. They went on to finish with a 7-1-1 record, allowing just 39 points all year. South Carolina would go just 5-6-1 in what would be their final season under coach Don McCallister.
It would be a while before the teams met in their next season opening clash. The two teams had met nearly every year from 1922-70 as opponents in the Southern and the ACC. It was still played when the Gamecocks left the ACC, but the meeting had become more sparse. One of the years it was played was 1979.
Dick Crum had taken over as Carolina coach in 1978, and the 1979 season was the beginning of his high period in Chapel Hill, which would see the Heels reach the top five in the polls on a couple different occasions. The Gamecocks would have a solid season themselves that year, but UNC smoked them 28-0.
One of the aforementioned times the Heels got into the top five under Crum was in 1983. The winning streak that got them as high as #3 all started with a September 3rd game in Chapel Hill against the Gamecocks. UNC again won comfortably 24-8. They would go on to win their first seven games, but ended up slumping to an 8-4 record.
The next was the loss in Mack Brown’s first game, which you can read about in the linked post above. You probably remember the last two fairly well, as they are both quite recent. The 2015 game has to rank among the all-time top five “what if” losses in program history.
Especially now that they’re non-conference opponents, it’s kind of a cool thing that these two teams meet on neutral ground to open up the season. The neutral site thing is new, but the meeting in season openers thing has been around for quite a long time.
All historical game data courtesy of Sports-Reference.com