North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell (7) rolls out while being chased by North Carolina State defensive tackle Davin Vann (45) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in Raleigh, N.C. The junior quarterback started his career at North Carolina in 2019 by leading the Tar Heels to a win over South Carolina at Bank of America Stadium in the season opener. Now the projected first round NFL draft pick will look to close out his career with a victory over Gamecocks at the same stadium in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. (AP Photo/Chris Seward, File)
South Carolina and North Carolina meet in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl
Each team is looking to finish the year with a winning record
Read below for odds, a pick and breakdown of the game
South Carolina (6-6) and North Carolina (6-6) meet in the Dukes Mayo Bowl on Thursday at 11:30am EST. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN.
It’s a story of opposite seasons for these two. North Carolina came into the year with exceedingly high expectations and was a major disappointment. The Tar Heels lost two of their last three inviting questions about Mack Brown’s future with the team.
South Carolina managed to get to a bowl game in its first season with Shane Beamer after winning two games a season before.
South Carolina vs North Carolina Odds
O 58 (-110)
U 58 (-110)
Odds via FanDuel on December 29th
History between these two is long. South Carolina and North Carolina have met 58 times since 1903. The Tar Heels hold a commanding advantage of 35-19. Who will come out on top in this bowl version of the rivalry?
Can South Carolina Slow Down Sam Howell?
Despite his struggles this season, North Carolina QB Sam Howell is likely the best QB the Gamecocks have seen all year. If you follow the sport, you know his accolades. His ability to run and throw an impressive deep-ball have placed him near the top of many draft boards. Are the Gamecocks up for the challenge?
Home away from home 🤙 pic.twitter.com/9wf4eMr9OH
— Gamecock Football (@GamecockFB) December 26, 2021
Believe or not, South Carolina has the second best passing defense in the SEC. They are among an elite unit of teams allowing 180 yards or less through the air per game. Before getting torched by Clemson to end the season, South Carolina allowed just 188 passing yards to Auburn in a win that got them bowl eligible. Besides this, the Gamecocks rank in the Top 50 in pass success defense.
Anytime you face North Carolina and Howell, slowing down the pass is the main aim. South Carolina should be well equipped to do that which could make for an interesting finish.
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North Carolina Defense Holds Huge Advantage
The single biggest advantage that either team has in this match-up is clear. It’s North Carolina’s offense vs South Carolina’s defense. It’s the unit that has troubled the Gamecocks most throughout the season and it’s the unit that’s improved the most for UNC.
Tomon Fox just moved past Lawrence Taylor with his 22nd career sack, fifth most in program history. pic.twitter.com/lAmFHHl2YM
— Carolina Football (@UNCFootball) September 3, 2021
North Carolina holds an edge in virtually every defensive category you can imagine. It’s not exactly that they are an elite unit, it’s more about South Carolina being so poor on that side of the ball. The most striking advantage comes in the trenches. The Gamecocks are the second to worst pass blocking team in the SEC. North Carolina is average in the sack department with a few a game. But they’ve done a good job pressuring QBs this season. They are fourth in the ACC in QB hurries and the eye test tells me it’s a group that continues to improve.
Ball security will assuredly be the highest priority for South Carolina on Thursday. UNC should be able to get a decent amount of pressure on the QB. If he panics and makes a poor decision it could decide the game.
Best Bet for North Carolina vs South Carolina
Picking a side here is difficult. I do think North Carolina is the better team but I question their motivation to even be playing in this bowl game. It does help that their opponent is a rival but even still, I don’t think they’ll match the edge the Gamecocks will play with.
On the flip side, the Gamecocks offensive struggles and ability to defend the run against Howell make them a hard to back. Because of that, I’ll look at the total.
This is the greatest graphic in ESPN history 😂 pic.twitter.com/kIBKjpNHQs
— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) December 28, 2021
The advantage of playing under here is you’re getting an inflated total with a team that has rarely delivered this year in UNC. This number is set at 58 and I would play it to 56.5.