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NY Post
New York Post
2 Sep 2023

NextImg:South Carolina vs. North Carolina prediction: College football picks

This year’s Battle of the Carolinas will take place in Week 1 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, otherwise known as the home of the Carolina Panthers.

It’s fitting that this game is being played on an NFL field, given all the NFL talent scattered across both rosters.

That starts at quarterback, as SC’s Spencer Rattler and NC’s Drake Maye will look to improve their draft stock in the early season. 

As a betting man, I often look to place my money with the best quarterback. 

I think Maye has a clear advantage here, and I think North Carolina’s roster is much better. 

Let’s discuss why I’m laying the points with the Tar Heels in Week 1. 

(7:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ABC)

I love Rattler, but the Gamecocks are overvalued and due for regression after a magical 2022. 

It’s wild to think about how South Carolina went 8-5 last season with upsets over No. 5 Tennessee and No. 7 Clemson.

But the Gamecocks were also -26 in net yards per game, including -80 in SEC play. 

South Carolina had benefitted from some lucky bounces, and the Gamecocks dominated special teams. 

It’ll be hard for the Gamecocks to duplicate that success. I project regression for this team in 2023. 

That regression becomes more pronounced when you examine the roster. 

The Gamecocks return just 10 starters, including only four on the defensive side of the ball.

Drake Maye

Drake Maye
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

They’ll have to replace seven of their top 11 tacklers from last season, including two NFL cornerbacks (Cam Smith and Darius Rush) and an NFL defensive lineman (Zacch Pickens). 

Meanwhile, Rattler won’t have much support on offense.

Only two offensive line starters return, and projected left tackle Jaylen Nichols may miss part of the season due to injury. 

There’s little experience at running back (only one RB has ever played an FBS game).

Although top receiver Antwane Wells returns, the other four top targets departed in the offseason, and I think the unit is a tad thin. 

While Rattler is a gamer who finished 10th among FBS quarterbacks in Expected Points Added (EPA) per play last season, I don’t think his supporting cast will mirror his performance. 

Meanwhile, I’m much higher on Maye’s supporting cast.

Antwane Wells

Antwane Wells
Getty Images

Seventeen starters return for North Carolina, including the top five tacklers from last season.

The Heels boast 157 career FBS starts on the offensive line. 

Per Phil Steele’s Experience chart, the Tar Heels are the sixth-most experienced team in college football. 

That doesn’t mean the Heels are bulletproof.

Weaknesses include running back, wide receiver, and a horrendous Gene Chizik-led defense.

Plus, the Heels are working with a new offensive coordinator, with former UCF coordinator Chip Lindsey replacing Phil Longo. 

Still, I’m much higher on the Tar Heels this season than on the Gamecocks.

I think South Carolina is wildly overvalued after last season’s surprising surge.

Not to mention that Maye is the better quarterback.

He had the highest Pro Football Focus passing grade of any quarterback in FBS last season, posting 39 Big Time Throws to only 10 Turnover Worthy Plays. 

Of every college quarterback this season, I think Maye will be the best NFL passer. 

Meanwhile, Rattler finished 84th in PFF’s grades, finishing 2022 with 20 Big Time Throws and 19 Turnover Worthy Plays. 

Neither program is perfect, and I don’t expect North Carolina to win the ACC or South Carolina to win the SEC.

Our Action Network Analytics team mirrors my analysis, projecting the Tar Heels as a seven-point neutral-field favorite over South Carolina. 

I’ll lay the points with North Carolina in the Battle.

North Carolina -2.5 (-110) at BetMGM | Play to -4.5 (-110)