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The Real Carolina

Sep 03, 2015 -- 5:23am

Depending on which state you live in will determine who the “Real Carolina” is, but in 2015 North Carolina and South Carolina will meet again for the rights to the Carolinas.

The Belk College Kickoff Game will serve as the start of the 2015 college football season Thursday, Sept. 3, in Charlotte, NC.

In the last meeting between the two programs in 2013 South Carolina came away victorious 27-10 inside of Willams-Brice Stadium.

What makes the 57th meeting special is that it takes place on a neutral field in a city that is home to many Tar Heel and Gamecock fans.

It was announced yesterday that the two schools will meet again in 2019 and 2023 with both of the matchups being season openers.

When the football is placed on the tee for kickoff, Bank of America Stadium with split down middle of the endzone among 74,000 fans between the colors of Carolina Blue and garnet.

North Carolina leads the all-time series 34-18-4, but South Carolina has won five of the last six meetings.

Outside of bragging rights, this season opener is important for both programs coming off the disappointment the two experienced in 2014.

The Tar Heels won six games and the Gamecocks won seven.

North Carolina was expected to take the next step, but struggled to keep opponents out the endzone. Expectations were extremely high for the ninth ranked South Carolina, but after losing the opener to Texas A&M the season was a roller coaster. The issue for these two programs wasn’t about putting up points, but allowing their opponents to score so many was the problem.

Fan bases are hoping for much improved defenses for the Tar Heels and Gamecocks.

After allowing 39 points per game on defense, North Carolina brought in Gene Chizik to upgrade the defense. Having won two national titles at Texas and Auburn, Chizik knows what it takes on defense to get the job done.

The Gamecocks couldn’t stop anyone from moving the ball, in 2014 South Carolina allowed 432 yards per game. After finishing next-to-last coach Steve Spurrier brought in Jon Hoke to become the co-defensive coordinator alongside Alonzo Ward. Hoke, spent time in the NFL along with time at Florida when Spurrier was there.

We’ll have to wait until the end of November to find out if any of the additions helped either progress, but we won’t have to wait long to know who’ll hold the title of the “Real Carolina” in 2015.

 

Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 College Football Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

Can The Tar Heels Win 8 or 9 Games?

Sep 01, 2015 -- 8:09pm

Since arriving in Chapel-Hill Larry Fedora’s record of 21-17 is a winning record, but after going 6-7 in 2014 that win total will be expected to increase.

Nobody is expecting UNC to compete for a national championship, but putting together consistent winning seasons and competing for ACC Championships are reachable goals.

In Fedora’s first season his Tar Heels went 8-4, but since then the win total has decreased by one game every year. There are some positives, UNC has made back-to-back bowl appearances winning the Belk Bowl in 2013 and losing in the Quick Lane Bowl last season.

There are hopes for the Heels to get the ball rolling in 2015.

All but one returns to an offense that averaged 33.2 points per game along with their All-ACC third team quarterback selection Marquise Williams. Last season the Tar Heels were able to score with the best of them, but the offense wasn’t the problem.

If the Tar Heels will look to increase their win total it’ll have to start on the defensive side of the ball.

Fedora is aware of his defensive units’ woes, that’s why he brought in Gene Chizik to coordinate his defense. The hire is a good one, whenever you can bring in a guy that has put together multiple national championship defenses there shouldn’t be a problem when it comes to getting players to buy in. For a defensive unit that gave up 507 points finishing 120th in FBS play, those numbers can only decrease in 2015.

That number can’t possibly increase can it?

One thing that bolds well for UNC is their schedule. Outside of Georgia Tech and Miami their other 10 games are winnable. Now, before you get too ahead of yourself the Tar Heels haven’t done the best job at taking care of winnable games on their schedule, dating back to years past. I won’t go as far as saying 10 wins are out of reach, but I will say eight or nine wins are a lot more obtainable goals for the Tar Heels.

Outside of Georgia Tech in the Coastal division, the division is wide open. 

There’s no reason why UNC can’t compete with the Yellow Jacks, the Tar Heels defeated Tech last season 48-43 in Chapel Hill. Miami and Virginia Tech have been expected to own the Coastal division, but that hasn’t been the case. This is a big If, but if Chizik’s defense can cut down on allowing 497.8 yards per game like they did last season UNC can make things interesting in the Coastal. 

There are two games a year that matter on the Tar Heels’ schedule despite their record and that’s NC State and Duke. Fedora is 2-1 against the Wolfpack and 1-2 against the Blue Devils. If Fedora can win eight or nine games including beating State and Duke, his support in Chapel-Hill will firmly hold steady.

 

Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte College Football Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

Steve Spurrier: More Wins, Less Talking

Sep 01, 2015 -- 7:59pm

South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier handled the success of three straight 11-win seasons, but after going 7-6 in 2014 the Head Ball Coach isn’t handling the lack of success so well.

Everyone loves Spurrier’s bravado when it comes to targeting arch rival Clemson, undermining the success of his other SEC counterparts, or more recenetly calling out Urban Meyer on Ohio State's non-conference schedule, but when those wins start to decrease that bravado turns to nails on a chalkboard.

During SEC Media Days the HBC took a shot at divisional foe Tennessee, who rallied from 14 down late in the fourth quarter to defeat the Gamecocks at home 45-42 in overtime.

"We were 7-6, same as Tennessee and same as Arkansas. I think they're sort of celebrating good seasons, so we're celebrating also,” said Spurrier. He went on to add that his Gamecocks’ were "doing cartwheels and high-fiving after that Independence Bowl game."

I’m not sure if Spurrier knows that both Tennessee, who’s favored by some to win the SEC East, and Arkansas are both projected to have better records at the end of the season.

During his middle of the week press conference that he called in late July, Spurrier did nothing but talk in circles and point the finger at members of the media ranging from his “enemies” to talks of his age.

Who hates on Spurrier and the Gamecocks?

"Enemies that write in the Atlanta paper that cover the Bulldogs,” said Spurrier. The HBC was upset with Columbia’s newspaper The State for running an article by Mark Bradley, who brought the hammer down on Spurrier in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The media isn’t the reason for his team going 7-6, as a head coach it’s his responsibility to have his team prepared on Saturdays.

Nobody worried about his age when he was in his winning, which is true, but when you start losing you can bank on the talks of retirement when you’re 70-years old. Spurrier referenced Coach K at Duke, who’s 69, just recently won the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. There’s a difference between Coach K and Spurrier and it’s not the different sports they coach, but the winning is what separates the two.

Apparently he knows something we don’t, saying that “the media” doesn’t want his Gamecocks to succeed.

It would be different if South Carolina had the history of success of a Texas or Alabama, but that isn’t the case. Since Spurrier has been in Columbia he’s had multiple 11-win seasons but zero SEC Championships and zero national championships. I haven’t found a program that has haters with zero championships. Programs create haters and enemies from winning championships not multiple 11-win seasons.

Outside of Clemson fans, nobody is hating on Spurrier and his football program.

If Spurrier can’t handle the heat from his lack of success in 2014, it doesn’t get any easier in 2015.

South Carolina starts the season with North Carolina, that’s not a penciled in victory despite UNC’s below average defense. If the HBC drops the season-opener like he did last season to Texas A&M the 70-year old football coach will start to hear it from his “enemies.”

Highlighting the conference schedule, the Gamecocks will go have to go on the road to Georgia, Missouri, Texas A&M and Tennessee. Their home schedule doesn’t do them any favors with Kentucky, LSU, Vanderbilt and Florida. Of the eight conference games, I see three victories in Kentucky, Vanderbilt and possibly Florida. South Carolina lost to Kentucky last season for those who don’t.

I know one thing that Spurrier can’t do is lose to Clemson.  He can lose every game on the schedule, but that game that’s played on the last weekend of November can’t result in a lost.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson had some choice words, saying he’d never lose to South Carolina.

When the HBC was asked about Watson comments, he replied, “They’ll be looking forward to it.”

Watson has the talent to backup a statement of that magnitude.  The last person to make a statement of that magnitude was Jadevon Clowney, he never lost to Clemson in his three years at South Carolina. It takes a special player to make bold predictions and Watson is good enough to back up his statement.

Junior receiver Pharoh Cooper, will be able to make some plays for the Gamecocks in 2015, but he’ll need Brandon Wilds at running back to contribute more than before also due to the departure of Mike Davis. Kansas transfer and former Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year in 2013 Isaiah Johnson will be a benefit to the secondary at free-safety, along with Marquavius Lewis and Dante Sawyer two other transfer that'll be looking to add a pass rush that was abscent in 2014.

That defensive unit that allowed 30.4 points a game, according to sportsreference.com, didn’t have one defensive selection on any of the three Preseason All-SEC defensive teams.

Nobody knows what South Carolina’s record is at the end of the season, but one thing we do is that Spurrier will have something say whether its 11-2 or 7-6.

 

Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte College Football Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes 

IF Surrounds Clemson Football in 2015

Aug 31, 2015 -- 8:22pm

In Deshaun Watson’s freshman season at Clemson despite having to split time and fight injury, he still managed to account for 19 touchdowns, nearly defeated number one ranked Florida State and beat down arch rival South Carolina.

Can you imagine what Clemson’s season could have been if Watson was the starter at the beginning of the season and if he could have stayed healthy?

You could argue the Tigers would have beat Georgia, shocked a FSU team without Jameis Winston and taken care of business against Georgia Tech.

Though injuries come with the game of football, if can take you down a road of endless possibilities.

Clemson lost the previous five matchups to South Carolina, but that wasn’t the case last season. In Watson’s first meeting against the Gamecocks, he threw for 269 yards going 14-of-19 and two touchdowns through the air and on the ground. He did all of that while playing on a torn ACL.

The injury bug became all too familiar with Watson during his freshmen year, starting with the broken hard he suffered against Louisville to tearing his ACL against Georgia Tech.

With the 2015 college football season around the corner, Watson will enter training camp 100 percent and expectations couldn’t be regarding the Tigers.

During ACC Media Days the media voted Clemson the favorite to win the ACC all because of Watson. The Tigers received more votes than Florida State, the Seminoles won the previous three ACC Championships.

Could Watson be to Clemson as Winston was to Florida State?

Former Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden sees a similarity between the two quarterbacks when he spoke with Tigernet.com.

“I was shocked at how composed he (Watson) was and his mannerisms on the sidelines,” said Bowden. “His mannerisms reflected a calmness. You have his accuracy when he throws, and he has good running skills. I saw a little bit of Jameis Winston and what he did his freshmen year, even though Jameis was a redshirt freshman.”

In college football if you hope to compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff you’ll need a quarterback that can answer the bell, and Clemson has that in Watson.

His head coach Dabo Swinney has all the confidence in the world regarding Watson’s abilities.

“My confidence level comes from, first of all, the young man’s ability aptitude, work ethic and commitment to being great,” said Swinney. “He’s above and beyond in all those areas. On a scale of 1 to 10, he’s a 12 in everything. Good Lord keeps him healthy, it’s a violent game and things like that. If he plays in all 12 games, he’ll be a tough out for anybody. He’s a special player.”

Though Swinney knows how good Watson is, he’ll have to remain healthy for the season to satisfy expectations. The keyword surrounding Clemson’s season is; if. If Watson was to go down you can pencil in Florida State to make their fourth-straight appearance to Charlotte for the ACC Championship Game.

We’ll see if Clemson can avoid dropping the ball as they’ve done in years past whether it was losing to Florida State or losing to South Carolina. With the history of dropping the ball, it looks as if the coaches know Clemson’s history also. The Preseason USA Today Coaches poll has the Seminoles ranked eighth ahead of Clemson sitting 12th.

For those who are avid college football followers you know that preseason polls don’t hold as much weight as the hype it recieves.

If will be the word that’s referenced the most regarding Clemson’s season. If Watson can stay healthy. If Clemson can avoid dropping the big game. If not now when will it come together for the Clemson Tigers?

 

Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte College Football Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

ACC Championship Contenders

Aug 31, 2015 -- 6:22am

There are four-teams in the running to win the ACC: Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.

ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) gives Clemson with highest percent chance to win at 26 percent, followed by FSU at 20 percent, Virginia Tech at 14 percent and GT at 12 percent. According to ESPN Stats & Information Clemson’s defense and FSU’s turnover in personnel affected their FPI chances.

I agree with ESPN’s FPI, Clemson gets all of their toughest scheduled conference games at home, Notre Dame, GT and FSU have to travel to Death Valley. It doesn’t come often that a team can get their toughest games schedules for home games, that’s a big advantage. Whenever scheduling works in your favor you have to take advantage of it, we’ll see how Dabo Swinney’s ball club handles being the favorite.

When you have a Heisman hopeful under center at the quarterback position there’s a reason Swinney is confident in his team’s ability to win the ACC.

Jimbo Fisher and his Seminoles get the worst end of the draw, they have to travel to Clemson and GT. Nobody would be shocked if the Noles made their way to ACC Championship Game, but with a new quarterback and offensive line the odds aren’t in favor for FSU. Fisher has an abundance of talent, they’re just young and unproven. When the Noles won the national title in 2013 they were overlooked, we’ll see what FSU has to say on the field about the ACC Media not picking them.

Despite the Noles not being the favorite in the ACC, they’re the highest rated ACC team in the preseason polls ranking eighth and 10th, respectively.

The Rambling Wreck and Paul Johnson should have received a higher percentage than the Seminoles. Johnson’s spread-option attack might be the hardest offense to prepare for outside of Oregon. Clemson has to replace almost their entire front seven and FSU is thin at linebacker. Don’t be shocked if GT makes headlines and defeat both Clemson and the Seminoles.

GT’s Justin Thomas is a serious threat to opposing defenses running that option, just ask Clemson, Georgia and Mississippi State about him.

If anyone made out like champs when it comes to scheduling outside of Clemson, it goes to Frank Beamer’s Hokies. Tech has the easiest schedule of the four teams that can win the conference, their only concern will be when they travel to Atlanta for a Thursday night matchup against GT. As I say that they won’t need to worry about much this is the same team that lost to Wake Forest in double-overtime 6-3.

If there was ever a year Beamer Ball was to get back on track that would be this year, but then again we’ve been saying that for the past three seasons.

It’s too early to tell if the ACC will have a representative in the CFB Playoff, but there will be a playoff within the conference to determine who’ll play in Charlotte in the 2015 ACC Championship Game. It’ll be Clemson versus Florida State to determine the Atlantic representative, and Georgia Tech versus Virginia Tech to represent the Coastal division.

The college football season begins Thursday with North Carolina/South Carolina in the Belk College Kickoff Game.

 

Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 College Football Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes 

Hornets Sign Michael-Kidd Gilchrist to Extension

Aug 25, 2015 -- 6:52am

Charlotte locked up their most important player on the defensive end of the floor.

The Hornets signed Michael-Kidd Gilchrist to a four-year $52 million dollar contract extension. The second overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft out of Kentucky had his best season in 2014, averaging 10.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.

The stat sheet doesn’t show the importance of his presence when he’s on the floor.

Last season, when Kidd-Gilchrist played Charlotte was 27-28 when he was out of the lineup their record fell to 6-21. Opponents averaged 96 when Kidd-Gilchrist was on the floor, when he wasn’t that averaged increased to 101. His presence is felt when he’s not in the lineup, just look at the numbers.

News of this signing won’t be a staple on this morning’s edition of SportsCenter or First Take, but this is a signing that had to get done.

So far, the Hornets have taken care of two important pieces going forward, signing Kemba Walker to an extension last season and Kidd-Gilchrist. In the NBA you’ll need quality player at point guard and a defensive stopper, Charlotte has both.

Kidd-Gilchrist has yet to play a full 82-game schedule, let’s see if this is the year he can stay healthy and continue to show improvement on the offensive end.

 

Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

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