Thursday, September 03, 2009

LOHD - NC State Preview

USC at N.C. State

WHEN: 7:01 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, N.C.
LINE: N.C. State by 4½
TV: ESPN (Time Warner Cable channel 26)
RADIO: WISW-AM 1320, WNKT-FM 107.5

USC carries a 527-530-44 all-time record into Thursday’s game. N.C. State’s record is 529-520-44. Series record is 26-26-4.

Steve Spurrier has a 3-1-1 record against N.C. State. He was 1-1-1 while working as head coach at Duke and 1-0 while at Florida. He is 1-0 at USC. The Gamecocks beat the Wolfpack 34-0 last season.

LAST MEETING: USC won 34-0 in Columbia, in the first meeting between the two teams since 1999.

This is not the same NCSU that South Carolina made look silly last year on national TV. This is a much improved team lead by a flat-out all-star at quarterback. He is the focal point of NCSU’s offense and to be honest is directly tied to the potential success of the 2009 NCSU Wolfpack. If Wilson lives up to the hype then NCSU could be in line for ACC glory but if he folds or gets hurt then the offense becomes one dimensional and is in trouble.

The Gamecocks are coming off yet another late-season collapse, while NC State is headed in the opposite direction, after stringing together four consecutive wins to end the 2008 regular season. Led by quarterback Russell Wilson, the NC State Wolfpack will be looking to avenge a 34-0 loss to the Gamecocks in their season opener a year ago. The offense developed into one of the better units in the ACC last year, and will look to give the South Carolina defense a tough early challenge.South Carolina, on the other hand, will be breaking in a number of new offensive starters and will be looking for some new playmakers to step up offensively. Enough of that as let’s look at the Gamecocks chances of making it two years in a row by defeating the Wolfpack on ESPN at Carter-Finlay stadium in front of a “white out” crowd.

Wolfpack Offense: No secret here. A healthy and productive Wilson will be the most important piece of the offensive puzzle if third-year coach Tom O’Brien wants to challenge for an Atlantic division championship in 2009.
After being knocked out of last year’s opener against South Carolina, Wilson went on to prove why he could be the next great dual-threat college quarterback. The Richmond, Va. native threw for 17 touchdowns and only one interception while racking up nearly 2,000 yards through the air. On the ground, Wilson compiled 388 rushing yards and four touchdowns. However, perhaps most impressive is Wilson’s ability to limit his turnovers. Coming into this season, Wilson carries a streak of 249 pass attempts without an interception. Bottom line is this kid is good either running or passing and plays smart. On top of that threat at QB the NC State Wolfpack have a strong running game led by Toney Baker and Jamelle Eugene. Then they have decent receiving corps made up of WR - Jarvis Williams and Darrell Davis on one side and WR - Owen Spencer and T.J. Graham on the other. Not to mention tight ends George Bryan & Matt Kushner. The greatest strength outside of QB Wilson in my view is the NCSU Offensive Line. These boys are big and nasty. The gamecocks defensive front will have their hands full on Thursday trying to bust through.

Gamecocks Defense: SC has a young secondary that is tall on talent yet short on experience. It will be crucial to gamecock success on how this unit fares in keeping NCSU QB Wilson honest by playing tight coverage, not given too much of a cushion yet recognizing the run and limiting that threat. The second point that is crucial is again the defensive surge upfront for Carolina. They have to disrupt Wilson. They have to get to him a few times and knock him around or put hands up. If the NCSU Offensive Line keeps Wilson’s jersey clean then it may be a long game for Carolina.

Wolfpack Defense: The N.C. State defense was dealt a huge blow in the offseason when linebacker Nate Irving suffered a broken leg and a collapsed lung in a car accident. Arguably the Wolfpack’s best defensive player in 2008, Irving racked up 84 tackles, four interceptions and one fumble recovery last season. In Irving’s absence, look for first-team All-ACC defensive end Willie Young to take the reins and become the leader of the defense. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound senior from Riviera Beach, Fla., recorded 6.5 sacks in 2008, along with an interception and two fumble recoveries. If Young can put pressure on USC QB Garcia, he can relieve some of the pressure in the secondary caused by Irving’s absence and make the whole defense better as a result. Young will anchor the defensive end position alongside onetime Gamecock Shea McKeen and use his tremendous pass rushing ability to add to his 12.5 career sack total. The weak spot is in the NCSU secondary and this is an area USC must exploit to win.

Gamecocks Offense: USC QB Stephen Garcia, well it’s on you. No more turnovers! I swear if there was a national championship for “shooting yourself in the foot” in college football then USC would be defending champs. If Garcia steps up and leads this team then Carolina has a big chance to make this a Carolina victory. Garcia must be able to keep the ball moving down the field and keep the NCSU offense off the field. Along with that comes the renewed ground attack that has to find success vs. NCSU. The USC receiving corp is young yet again talented. The gamecocks will have an aggressive offensive line with wider splits to allow for running lanes but will they hold up against the NCSU front? Biggest question on offense is – who will step up for Carolina as USC lost many stars on offense?

Summary:There’s no question that the NC State offense has the edge over the South Carolina offense on paper going into this game, and it will be up to the Gamecock defense to keep their team in the game long enough to let the offense settle down. Biggest issue with the gamecocks due to this young team is who is ready to make an impact. I feel this young team is hungry and wants to prove to the world that USC football is tired of being ‘so-so.’ The biggest issue in this game is limiting the threat of Wilson at QB. This is on the USC defense and it will not be easy but they must fight for every inch. USC must be aggressive and hit hard. South Carolina’s defensive leaders like Eric Norwood and Cliff Matthews can set the tone early with some pressure in the backfield and some good hits.

I feel this game will be close due to the play of the USC defense; with that the game rests on the arm of USC qb Garcia, who must have a good game. If Garcia sucks then so does USC’s season. I feel the gamecocks special teams will play a factor in the outcome.

I think this is going to be a close 23-20 win for USC.

What do you think it will be? Please comment below!

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