N.C. vs S.C Thursday Season Kickoff Preview

TAR HEELS AND GAMECOCKS KICK OFF 2015 COLLEGE SEASON THURSDAY ON ESPN

We've been waiting MONTHS for college football to return to the Las Vegas betting schedule. Major college action finally gets underway Thursday with North Carolina facing South Carolina at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN on a relatively neutral field in Charlotte (at NFL stadium that hosts the Carolina Panthers). Other interesting Thursday matchups include Michigan at Utah and #2 TCU at Minnesota as sports fans and bettors gear up for a big weekend schedule.

We'll talk more about that schedule in the coming days here in the NOTEBOOK...with TV previews for #3 Alabama vs. #20 Wisconsin Saturday and #1 Ohio State at Virginia Tech Monday. For now...let's jump into the battle of the Carolinas!

2014 Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
North Carolina: 6-7 (#31 schedule in USA Today)
South Carolina: 7-6 (#13 schedule in USA Today)

A composite .500 mark last year if you add the teams together. Both considered those to be disappointments. Remember, South Carolina was ranked and a double digit favorite in their season opener last year vs. Texas A&M. They were supposed to be a lot better than 7-6. Respectable schedules for both, particularly the SEC entrant.

2014 Yards-Per-Play
North Carolina: 5.6 on offense, 6.5 on defense
South Carolina: 6.1 on offense, 6.2 on defense

Big defensive troubles for both. That wasn't a surprise for North Carolina...who spends all day throwing the ball in a way that exhausts its own defense. South Carolina was well below its standards, and not even close to what's needed to thrive in the powerful SEC. The differentials should jump out. The Tar Heels were almost down a yard-per-play, which means they were lucky to reach a bowl (that they lost).

2014 Turnover Differential
North Carolina: even
South Carolina: -2

Not good enough. Though, even is about the best a high-risk/high-reward team like North Carolina can hope for in a typical season. South Carolina was much sloppier than expected given their experience. Are we seeing the demise of Steve Spurrier as a major college coach? His team sure was awful at fundamentals last season. Sometimes old coaches have trouble evolving with the game.

2014 Market Performance
North Carolina: 5-8 ATS
South Carolina: 5-8 ATS

Both were overrated by the betting markets to an equal degree. Alumni spent most of the year angry! You should enter 2015 assuming its best to fade until you see evidence otherwise. That doesn't give you much help in this opener when they play each other. If either struggles badly, they become an obvious fade through the rest of the month.

Returning Starters
North Carolina: 10 on offense, 6 on defense
South Carolina: 4 on offense, 6 on defense

The Heels sure get the best of it here, with a monstrous edge in offensive experience. The defenses cancel out, and were about equally disappointing last year. So, this is where handicappers looking for an edge may be able to find one. South Carolina was better last year if you emphasize yards-per-play and schedule strength. North Carolina has a chance to surge past them in 2015. Note that these numbers come from our summer previews by way of the respected Athlon publication. Actual numbers at kickoff may vary slightly.

Quarterback
North Carolina: Marquise Williams (21 passing TDs, 9 Interceptions last season)
South Carolina: Connor Mitch (sophomore, new starter, only threw 6 passes last season)

Well, Williams is clearly the more experienced. But, 21 touchdown passes in a high energy attack really isn't that great. The system is pulling him along to acceptable stats. But, a really good quarterback would have huge numbers...and would have led his team to a better record than 6-7! So, only a slight edge to Williams as we fly blind into the Connor Mitch era. If Mitch can move the ball and avoid turnovers...this position will wash out.

Current Line: South Carolina by 2.5, total of 64.5

The market is treating this as a neutral field...which means South Carolina should be about 2-3 points better in your overall Power Ratings. Interesting that the line hasn't moved to the full three. That likely means big Tar Heels money would come in on the key number.

JIM HURLEY has been working with both his market and team sources to make sure NETWORK clients kick off the season on a winning note. You can purchase the final word for all Thursday football right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 during normal business hours.

September will see almost exclusive big TV game stat previews here in the NOTEBOOK, based on readership demand from past seasons. Here's what you can look forward to on the gridiron over the next two weeks...

*College Football TV Preview...#3 Alabama vs. #20 Wisconsin
*College Football TV Preview...#1 Ohio State at Virginia Tech
*NFL Thursday Night TV Preview...Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots
*College Football TV Preview...#7 Oregon at #5 Michigan State
*NFL Sunday Night TV Preview...NY Giants at Dallas Cowboys
*NFL Monday Night TV Preview...Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers

Last season ended with a big NETWORK winner on Ohio State over Oregon outright for the National Championship. We kick off the new season with the best plays on the board Thursday! Don't take wild guesses on your own when BIG, JUICY WINNERS form NETWORK'S EXCLUSIVE TEAM HANDICAPPING approach are right here at the website. LET'S GO GET THE MONEY!

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Sep

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