NCAAF Odds, Picks for UNC vs. South Carolina
Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images. Pictured: Drake Maye (UNC)
North Carolina vs. South Carolina Odds
The Duke's Mayo Classic is a battle of the Carolinas as Mack Brown and North Carolina take on Shane Beamer and South Carolina.
North Carolina gets Drake Maye back for another season to lead a loaded offense that could help the Heels compete for an ACC title. The problem that existed with North Carolina last season was its defense was terrible. This first game will be a good test to see how for real the Tar Heels are and if they can compete with Clemson and Florida State.
After back-to-back bowl games, South Carolina begins year three under Beamer. Spencer Rattler is back at quarterback and is hoping to take another step forward this season, but the Gamecocks will have to replace some of their production on offense.
Maye is looking to take the next step towards being one of the best quarterbacks in college football. He was amazing last season, putting up a 90.8 PFF passing grade. Only two quarterbacks in college football had a better grade: Bryce Young and Clayton Tune.
Maye had an absurd 45 big-time throws, which was by far the most in college football. He's losing his top two receivers, but Maye shouldn't really have a big drop-off.
I have evaluated every snap North Carolina QB Drake Maye played in last season — it was astonishing the kinds of things he was doing out there as a redshirt freshman. pic.twitter.com/FdH5v2T7LA
— FIRST ROUND MOCK (@firstroundmock) August 28, 2023
Maye is also a fantastic runner as well. He carried the ball 183 times last season and gained over 900 yards with 26 missed tackles forced and 32 runs of 10+ yards. He's truly one of the best dual threats in the country.
The thing about Maye was his offensive line didn't do him any favors. On 36.8% of his dropbacks last season, he was under pressure, and as you can see, there's a very big difference in his production when he has a clean pocket versus when he's under pressure.
Image via PFF
North Carolina has all five starters and 137 starts back on its offensive line, so there should be a lot of improvement for the Tar Heels in keeping a clean pocket for Maye.
North Carolina will also get its top two running backs — Omarion Hampton and Elijah Green — back, with the two combining for close to 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. The run game will be crucial in this game because that's where South Carolina struggled last season.
The problems that existed for North Carolina were on the defensive side of the ball. Time and time again, it couldn't cause turnovers or tackles for loss and couldn't stop anybody once they crossed the 40-yard line. The Tar Heels were 130th in Havoc and 125th in Finishing Drives Allowed.
They do have eight starters returning on the defensive side of the ball, and the good news is they didn't lose much in their front seven, with their top five tacklers from last season returning.
The key to this game is going to be stopping Rattler and the South Carolina passing attack. North Carolina only returns one starter in the secondary, but Brown was busy in the transfer portal.
The Heels brought in FCS first-team All-American Alijah Huzzie from East Tennessee State at cornerback and Armani Chatman from Virginia Tech at cornerback, so the drop-off won't be that drastic.
Everything with the South Carolina offense revolves around Rattler. The Gamecocks are losing their top two running backs from last season and offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield is now in the same position at Nebraska.
Dowell Loggains, who's been a longtime assistant in the NFL and was the Jets' offensive coordinator for the 2019-20 season, will step in to fill Satterfield's shoes. That Jets team threw the ball close to 60% of the time, and we may see that with Rattler this season — since Loggains likes utilize a lot of short, quick passes.
Rattler has all of the talent in the world, but he was a below-average quarterback last season. A lot of that had to do with him constantly turning the ball over. He only had a 64.3 PFF passing grade and had a whopping 22 turnover-worthy plays.
He has to clean that up if South Carolina is going to be successful offensively. There's also the aspect that he really wasn't that great of a short-to-intermediate passer.
Image via PFF
He does get his top pass-catcher — Antwane Wells — back, but he loses his next two pass catchers from last season.
The South Carolina defense had one main flaw last year: it couldn't stop the run to save its lives. The Gamecocks allowed a whopping 4.9 yards per carry, were 126th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed and were 128th in Defensive Line Yards.
Only four starters are returning on defense, only one of their top four tacklers is coming back and three starters are gone in the secondary. It's really hard to see how they're going to stop Maye.
North Carolina vs. South Carolina
Betting Pick & Prediction
Maye versus Rattler is going to grab all of the headlines — as if these two quarterbacks are on par with each other. Based on what we saw last season, Maye was miles better than Rattler.
How is the South Carolina defense going to stop the Tar Heels? The Gamecocks return virtually nobody on the defensive side of the ball and were outside the top 100 in Finishing Drives Allowed and Success Rate Allowed last season.
The North Carolina defense does have some real problems, but getting almost all of its production back in the front seven and getting key transfers in the secondary should smooth things over.
I have North Carolina projected as a -4.8 favorite here on a neutral field, so I like the value on the Heels at -2.5 or better.