On Thursday afternoon, North Carolina and South Carolina we will fire up an old ACC-SEC border war when the two teams clash in Charlotte, North Carolina. for the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. The Tar Heels and Gamecocks have squared off three times since 2013, and the last two meetings, in 2015 and 2017, were in Bank of America Stadium as part of the Duke’s Mayo Classic kickoff event. Previously, the two programs did not play in football from 1992 to 2007
North Carolina arrives at this game after a season that fell short of the preseason top-10 expectations, alternating wins and losses through much of a 6-6 effort that included a sub-.500 conference record. The Tar Heels were competitive in every game against a ranked opponent, but went 1-3 in those contests and picked up losses to unranked Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Florida State during a rocky start.
South Carolina, on the other hand, has exceeded its preseason expectations in Year 1 under Shane Beamer. Oddsmakers set the preseason win total for the Gamecocks around 3.5 or 4, so beating that number by two games — and the path it took to get there with wins against Florida and Auburn — have given South Carolina fans plenty to be excited about with the future of its program. So while both teams enter the familiar setting with similar records, the way the season has played out sets a very different tone.
With both campuses a car ride away from Charlotte and plenty of alumni for both schools throughout the metro area, this is a true neutral site showdown for these border war foes. With regional supremacy and bragging rights among the stakes, it’s time to get into the keys to the matchup.
North Carolina vs. South Carolina: Need to know
Tar Heels ground attack paced the offense: While North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell entered the year with the spotlight as hopes for high for another prolific passing year, the Tar Heels have needed Howell and the entire team to power the ACC’s top rushing attack. The Tar Heels’ 2,640 yards rushing and 5.5 yards per rush both ranked first in the ACC, thanks in part to a 1,000-yard season from graduate transfer Ty Chandler and 826 yards from Howell, who stands as one of only three FBS quarterbacks with more than 800 rushing yards on the season. Howell deciding to play in this game provides a potential storybook finish should it be the final game of his college career considering his first college start was a win against South Carolina in Charlotte.
South Carolina’s defense has been opportunistic: The Gamecocks’ offense has been pieced together with multiple quarterbacks and mixed results, but the scoring needed to win has been limited thanks to a defense that has been strong for much of the year, particularly at forcing turnovers. South Carolina’s 24 turnovers gained — 15 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries — ranks No. 1 in the SEC and No. 12 nationally. And not only did the defense create possessions for the offense with turnovers, but in some cases they took care of the scoring too, returning three interceptions and one fumble for touchdowns.
Mack Brown vs. South Carolina: North Carolina coach Mack Brown has faced South Carolina five times and holds a 2-3 record agains the Gamecocks. All five of the meetings have been as the Tar Heels’ head coach, with four of them being in his first stint (1-3) and the most recent being a 24-20 win in his first game back on the sideline in 2019. This will be the first time Shane Beamer has ever faced North Carolina, but there could be more opportunities to foster this rivalry moving forward as the two programs have another Charlotte-based game on the schedule for 2023 and a home-and-home for 2028 and 2029.
How to watch Duke’s Mayo Bowl live
Game: Duke’s Mayo Bowl
Date: Thursday, Dec. 30 | Time: 11:30 a.m. ET
Location: Bank of America Stadium — Charlotte, N.C.
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Duke’s Mayo Bowl prediction, picks
Featured Game | South Carolina Gamecocks vs. North Carolina Tar Heels
I think North Carolina will win, but there is no way it’s going to be easy if that’s the case. Each of the last two North Carolina-South Carolina games in Charlotte have been one-score affairs and the setting seems ripe to provide another similar result. North Carolina has been the better team when playing its best football, but the lack of consistency seeing the Tar Heels at that level leaves me thinking South Carolina can hang around in this game just long enough to cover the spread. Prediction: South Carolina (+9)
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