On Saturday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., the South Carolina football team opens Year 2 under Will Muschamp against North Carolina State.
Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. Below are the predictions from SEC Country contributors Mike Chapman and Hale McGranahan.
Mike Chapman: South Carolina 27, N.C. State 24
It will be the first time the Gamecocks will step foot on a field since their December 2016 loss in overtime to South Florida in the Birmingham Bowl. That loss along with the fact the Gamecocks are opening the season with a quality opponent have – I believe – motivated them to make every rep count this summer in workouts and during practice. When you have the motivation to get better and the time to prepare, it makes for success for a lot of football teams in the opening week of the season, and I think South Carolina is one of those teams.
The key for me in this game is that the best player on the field plays for South Carolina at quarterback. Jake Bentley is the type of leader that people want to follow, and I believe he’s been that leader all summer for his teammates. That leadership, along with the talented skill players around him, makes me think the Wolfpack are going to have a hard time stopping this offense from scoring Saturday. This is not to say the Wolfpack won’t score. Bentley will lead the Gamecocks to a late score and the defense holds on at the end for the win.
Hale McGranahan: N.C. State 24, South Carolina 21
Right now, I see a program headed in the right direction under a head coach who’s passionate about every detail, which wasn’t the case the last time South Carolina played at Bank of America Stadium. Credit goes to Muschamp for making a lot of it happen. From facilities to support staff and recruiting, the things are in place for the Gamecocks to get back to contending for the SEC East title. None of that changes, even with a loss Saturday.
Fortunately for Muschamp, whose goal every year is to win the division, starting 0-1 this season won’t do anything to disrupt that vision. My concern for the Gamecocks starts with what they’ll see from a Wolfpack defensive line that’s among the best in the country. Malik Young and Zack Bailey, the starting left and right tackles, are going to have to grow up in a hurry at their new positions, because the ends they’ll match up with are good. The tackles are strong, as well.
South Carolina won’t play against a better defensive line until the Clemson game.