Summer, with its breathless hype of Jadeveon Clowney and always-elevating expectations for South Carolina’s football team, is finished.
Steve Spurrier started talking football in earnest Sunday with his first game week news conference of the 2013 season. The Gamecocks, ranked a program-high No. 6 in the preseason, take on North Carolina on Thursday night in Williams-Brice Stadium.
“I think (Clowney) is ready to go, and our team’s ready to go,” said Spurrier, who begins his ninth year at the helm on Thursday. “Our fans, I think, are a little extra pumped up, for whatever reason, so they’ll be ready to scream and yell, and we’ll need them to do that. We’re 25-3 the last four years here, and they’ve done their part.”
The Gamecocks have won 13 straight season-openers, and Spurrier is looking to extend his personal record to 23-1 in season-openers. This is the Gamecocks’ fifth season-opener of the Spurrier Era in which they have played a team from a BCS conference.
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“That’s just the way it is around here,” Spurrier said. “Some of these teams play virtually nobody in their four games out of conference. It’s right if you are able to win the games. It’s wrong if you lose them, simple as that.”
Spurrier is 4-0 all-time against North Carolina, and he carries a grudge against the Tar Heels from his days as coach at Duke, where he was 3-0 against North Carolina.
“Certainly, I’m a Dukey also. I’m a Gator, a Dukey, and now I’m a Gamecock,” Spurrier said. “Us Dukeys back then, that was our big game. I doubt if it was for North Carolina, because we did not beat them that much, but when I was there we were fortunate enough to actually beat them more than they beat us. It was always a fun game when that occurred. But, yeah, it is a little special when you are coaching against a team like that. Any time you coach against a team that was a little special wherever you coached at, it remains a special game.”
The Gamecocks are an 11-point favorite, but Spurrier can easily find pitfalls in playing an underdog that has had a full offseason to prepare to play his team and is feeling confident under a brash second-year coach in Larry Fedora.
“They can beat us, yeah, we know they can beat us,” Spurrier said. “They play very well, we don’t take care of the ball. Somehow or another, they don’t have to throw too much, a lot of stuff can happen in football. We know we have to be ready.”
The Gamecocks are coming off their second straight 11-2 season, while North Carolina was 8-4 in Fedora’s first season in Chapel Hill. Their matchup is one of two BCS-level vs. BCS-level games on Thursday night, joining Ole Miss at Vanderbilt, which doesn’t kick off until 9:15 p.m. That will leave almost all the national spotlight on the Gamecocks and Tar Heels on Thursday evening.
“I told my wife this morning, I was looking at the paper, all the NFL guys are playing this Thursday night,” Spurrier said Sunday. “Those dadgum guys are crowding in on our Thursday night TV games. Those games, NFL Network runs them all over the country. So it will hurt our ratings a little bit. But we can’t worry about that. It always was neat opening up on Thursday night, if you play well, then if you win. If you don’t, then it’s not very good.”