GoGamecocks' David Cloninger breaks down five key storylines for South Carolina as the Gamecocks take on North Carolina at 6 p.m. Thursday in the 2013 season opener.
1. OPENING NIGHT JITTERS
USC has won all eight of its previous season-openers under Steve Spurrier, but only one (41-13 vs. Southern Miss, 2010) went as comfortably as expected. The others featured late comebacks, four interceptions by the starting QB or injuries to key personnel. The Gamecocks are an 11-point favorite over North Carolina, but Vegas odds don’t win ballgames, as has been proven several times.
2. BEAST MODE
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It’s your season, Jadeveon Clowney. Will the most dominant defensive player in college football be able to produce right away? It’s a good bet North Carolina will try to chip him, roll him, cut him, take a 2-by-4 to him, anything to keep him off Bryn Renner. It’s the constant challenge. You’re good, JD. Prove it.
3. TAKE YOUR PICK
Spurrier has said that Connor Shaw will start and that he prefers to tell a quarterback, “It’s your game” beforehand. Dylan Thompson could play, or could not play. Spurrier will most likely not want to pull a QB that’s doing well or switch for the sake of switching. But if Shaw does badly, or gets hurt, it’s Thompson’s turn to save the day.
4. BABY BACKERS
They were recruited to play and play early. Now it’s even more of a crash course. With Cedrick Cooper ailing, true freshmen Jonathan Walton, Larenz Bryant and Skai Moore will have to step in at linebacker and not only play, but produce. They have practice experience, not game experience. They’ll get their chances.
5. TO KICK OR NOT TO KICK?
True freshman walk-on Elliott Fry continues to lead the place-kicking battle, and Spurrier said there’s no “magic number” in terms of yardage when he wants to send Fry out there for his first field goal attempt. But would he really want to put the pressure of a 40-yarder or more on Fry right away?