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North Carolina vs. South Carolina Preview: The Battle for a Name is Closer Than You Think

Don't count out the Tar Heels' offense against the new-look South Carolina defense -- Jadeveon Clowney or not


North Carolina Tar Heels vs. South Carolina Gamecocks, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN

There are two games this weekend that should happen more often than they do. One is Georgia playing Clemson and the other is this game, a border battle between two teams that used to be conference-mates and fight over who is the "real" Carolina.

Instead, South Carolina tends to rotate its North Carolina foes -- the Gamecocks need to play teams from the state as often as possible for recruiting purposes -- among UNC, N.C. State and East Carolina. They tend to not be games of great beauty, especially for South Carolina, but there's usually something memorable about them.

That hasn't kept the gambling public from setting out a pretty sizable line. At most books, the Gamecocks are favored by about 12 points, which strikes me as remarkably high. Yes, with Jadeveon Clowney in tow on one of Steve Spurrier's best teams since he came to Columbia, there's no reason not to think that South Carolina will prevail. But UNC is not a mid-major set piece to kick of the Gamecocks' latest attempt to get to Atlanta.

There are some solid players in Chapel Hill. Bryn Renner had some gaudy passing statistics last year, completing 65.4 percent of his passes (276 of 422) for 3,356 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions. And he's got a nice target in Quinshad Davis, who had 61 catches for 776 yards and five touchdowns. As a freshman. Giovani Bernard might not be back at running back this year, but there's some firepower here.

And, of course, there's that new look defense at South Carolina. The linebacking corps is gone, meaning that it's not hard to think of a game plan for UNC: quick, intermediate throws to the middle of the field to try to offset CLOWNEY COMIN' off the edge. Which is probably pretty close to what North Carolina will try to do anyway. Expect South Carolina to win, but in a relatively high-scoring game that is closer than you might think.

South Carolina 34, North (Faux) Carolina 27