USC Gamecocks Football

North Carolina scouting report: Storylines, key players, prediction

UNC quarterback Marquise Williams is one of the top returning players for the Tar Heels this season.
UNC quarterback Marquise Williams is one of the top returning players for the Tar Heels this season. File photo

When: Thursday, 6 p.m.

Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.

TV: ESPN

Tar Heels’ 2014 record: 6-7 (4-4 ACC)

Top three storylines

1. South Carolina has gotten the best of this border battle of late, winning five of the last six. This year will be extra special for Gamecocks wide receiver Pharoh Cooper, who was upset by an undisclosed incident during his recruitment by his home state Tar Heels. Quarterback Connor Mitch also is a North Carolina native.

2. First one to 100 wins. As bad as South Carolina’s defense was last year (94th in the nation), it wasn’t nearly as bad as North Carolina’s. The Tar Heels were No. 120 in the nation in total defense. Both schools hired new defensive coordinators, and a lot of focus will be on the Gamecocks’ Jon Hoke and Tar Heels’ Gene Chizik.

3. Both of these teams need a confidence boost. The Gamecocks, 7-6 last season, are out to prove to everyone, including themselves, that last season wasn’t the end of their run. The Heels, 6-7 last year, are wondering if their run ever will start under fourth-year coach Larry Fedora.

Three players to watch

1. Quarterback Marquise Williams, who led the Tar Heels in passing (3,068 yards) and rushing (788 yards) last year.

2. Wide receiver Ryan Switzer, who caught 61 passes for 757 yards and had 37 returns for 172 yards. .

3. Cornerback Brian Walker, who led UNC with three interceptions.

Prediction

USC 38, UNC 31

Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina offenses averaged 19 points in the three games they played against Chizik at Auburn, but Spurrier knows he’ll have to score a lot of points in the opening week to give Hoke some time to settle in with a rebuilding defense.

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