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Gameday forecast: Will USC walk to victory?

At Ole Miss, the players’ pre-game walk takes them through a beautiful stretch of campus called the Grove, famous for its pretty oak trees and prettier coeds in sundresses.

The “Vol Walk” leads Tennessee players past thousands of fans, as well as the UT cheerleaders and pep band lining Peyton Manning Pass from Gibbs Hall to Neyland Stadium.

At the inaugural Gamecock Walk this evening, USC players will cover 30 yards of asphalt hard by the Bluff Road Bojangles.

A tradition is born.

OK, enough negativity. It’s gameday. At last.

After four months of buildup, we’ll finally get a look at Tommy Beecher under center in a meaningful game. (Yeah, I know, Beecher played against Louisiana-Lafayette in last year’s opener, but there was no ACC team or Erin Andrews in the house that night).

Beecher struggled at times during the August scrimmages, and he’s probably going to make his share of first-game mistakes. But I think he’ll hang in there and play pretty well against an N.C. State defense that ranked ahead of only Duke last year in the ACC.

The Wolfpack’s run defense was particularly bad in Tom O’Brien’s first year. So I expect Spurrier & Spurrier to try to establish the run to grab an early lead and calm Beecher’s nerves.

And while Taylor Rank will start at tailback, it would not surprise me if Mike Davis ended up with 15 to 18 carries and 100-plus yards.

N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson could give the Gamecocks some problems the first couple of series until USC defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson sees how the Wolfies are using their new QB.

But ultimately, the Gamecocks should be able to pressure Wilson into some bad decisions and hurried throws. I’m also sensing a big play from Ray Rychleski’s special teams.

Prediction: State keeps it close early before USC sends the ‘Pack packing. 27-17.