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FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2018, file photo, South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp answers a question during a news conference for the Belk Bowl NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C. The Gamecocks host both of the participants in last year’s College Football Playoff championship game: Clemson and Alabama. They also travel to Georgia, the runner-up in the national championship game two years ago. South Carolina’s schedule shapes up as arguably the nation’s toughest. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

Belk College Kickoff Features Carolina Battle

It’s the student against the master when Carolina schools take the field at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte for the Belk College Kickoff. Will Muschamp’s South Carolina Gamecocks square off with Mack Brown’s North Carolina Tar Heels at 3:30 on Saturday.

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The Gamecocks and Tar Heels used to be conference rivals for years. They last met in 2015 for the Belk College Kickoff where South Carolina escaped with a four-point win.

New-Look North Carolina

The Tar Heels have a new coach who’s an old dog in the world of college football. Mack Brown is back at the school he left for Texas back in 1998. He posted a 69-46-1 record from 1988 to 1997.

UNC finished 2-9 (1-7) in 2018 and the media projected them to finish sixth in the ACC’s Coastal Division.

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Early enrollee and 2018 North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year Sam Howell mans the Tar Heel offense. He is the first freshman in school history to start a season opener.

He’ll play behind an offensive line starting one freshman, two sophomores and two seniors. UNC allowed the fourth-least sacks in the nation in 2018.

Although, the Tar Heels return a running back stable that combined for 1,649 total yards and 13 touchdowns in 2018. Michael Carter landed a spot on a preseason Doak Walker watch list.

Additionally, the Tar Heels return multiple upperclassmen to a defense that averaged nearly three sacks a game:

  • Tomon Fox (Jr.) – 2.5 sacks, 8.5 TFL and two fumble recoveries at LB
  • Jason Strowbridge (Sr.) – 5.5 sacks, 7.5 TFL and a blocked kick in 2018 at DT
  • Myles Dorn (Sr.) – 2 INTs and 34 solo tackles at DB

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Carolina Poised for Good Start

Will Muschamp was once the head coach in waiting under Mack Brown. Now he’ll face the man he coached defense for at Texas. It’ll be his first time against Brown as well as North Carolina.

Quarterback Jake Bentley is back for his final year as the Gamecocks’ starter. The 32-time starter faces a UNC defense that finished ninth against the pass in the ACC last season. Muschamp said Bentley is expected to have a big year.

Bentley is one of seven offensive starters returning for 2019.

Will Muschamp on Bentley:

Bentley will have a new weapon in Clemson transfer Tavien Feaster. Feaster will fill out a crowded backfield after AJ Turner spent his time at defensive back this spring. He gained 440 yards and six touchdowns on 78 carries along with 11 catches for 71 yards in 231 snaps in 13 games for the Tigers in 2018.

South Carolina also returns seven starters on a defense that Muschamp said is much improved. Three of them were coaches all-conference selections.

Muschamp on his defense:

Although, that defense allowed 27 points per game in 2018. The defense was also near the bottom in sacks with 26 but forced 16 takeaways in 13 games.

This game is about impressions. It will be Mack Brown’s first impression as a head coach since leaving Texas in 2013. South Carolina will look to make a good impression before getting into the teeth of a grueling schedule.

 

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