Its game week! Only two more days until the Tar Heels take the field against one of the best teams in the country in South Carolina. This game will be a tough test for the Heels, and as a fan, I am kind of worried. The last thing we want is for our Tar Heels to get destroyed on national TV in the first game of the season. But I also believe the Heels have more of a shot than people think. While South Carolina fans and players may be looking ahead to the Gamecock’s week two match-up against SEC superpower Georgia, Coach Fedora has his team focused on this game, knowing well all the positives that would come from an upset. For either team, it is going to be a hard earned “W.” Here are some keys to UNC getting the win on the road in SEC country.
The only comparison to the UNC v. USC game in recent memory would be in 2010, when the Tar Heels traveled to Atlanta to face the LSU Tigers in the Georgia Dome. In that game, the Heels didn’t score until early in the second quarter, and found themselves down 30-10 at halftime. This year’s North Carolina team cannot afford a similar slow start against the Gamecocks. UNC has to jump out and score quickly, taking the crowd out of their game and putting a hint of fear into the hearts of the opposition. If the Tar Heels can jump out to an early lead, it could also calm the nerves of playing in the hostile road environment. Starting fast is the first key to victory for the Heels.
Establish the running game
It will be up to Romar Morris and AJ Blue to lead the Tar Heel running attack this season, and that running attack is very important in this game. Everyone is afraid of Jadeveon Clowney, but I think the Heels should run right at him. Force him and the rest of the Gamecock front seven to shut down our running game. If we aren’t able to establish the run, USC will be able to drop more and more people back in coverage, limiting the effectiveness of our passing attack. The more pressure we put on the South Carolina defense to have to stop our ground game, the better. Establishing a solid running game will be a big key to victory.
Win the turnover battle
Last season, the Gamecocks were only plus four in the turnover margin, while the Heels were slightly better with a plus seven. The outcome of this game could come down to how wins the turnover margin on Thursday night. USC QB Connor Shaw has been prone to throw interceptions, throwing about two touchdowns for every pick so far in his career. If the Tar Heel secondary can come up with a late pick, or if UNC gets lucky with a fumble recovery late in a close game, it could be the difference.