GAMECOCKS 2007: at NORTH CAROLINA
When C&F first heard that Butch Davis had taken the head coaching job ath North Carolina, he wondered whether the former Miami leader had lost his mind. If you wanted to find a bad team -- just bad -- you'd be hard-pressed to find a better candidate than the Tar Heels.
North Carolina went 3-9 last year, with the wins coming against I-AA Furman, N.C. State and Duke. To add insult to injury, they beat Furman by a field goal and Duke by a point. Losses included a 52-7 torching at Clemson and a 23-0 defeat at Virginia.
Excuse me, coach, when was your last mental exam?
But then C&F realized that Butch Davis was doing on a much larger scale what Spurrier did in 2005 -- if he couldn't get his old job back (and Miami was at least going to wait to offer Davis, and might not have done so at all), then the competitive side of him wanted a challenge. For his part, Spurrier at least found a program with a pulse. Davis faces the football equivalent of Weekend at Bernie's.
Not that there isn't any promise at North Carolina. N.C. State and Duke haven't exactly been powerhouses in recent years, despite infrequent good seasons from N.C. State, so the state is wide-open in terms of recruiting if Davis can show tangible signs of progress. In 2007, he has to worry about minimizing the embarrassment.
O-line. The center and right side of the line return. The unit allowed 22 sacks last season, while the Tar Heels averaged about 113 yards a game on the ground. This isn't a lost cause, but it also isn't likely to wow anyone's front seven. Still, trust South Carolina's offensive line only when it shows it can perform. ADVANTAGE: PUSH
Quarterback. Your candidates here are redshirt freshman T.J. Yates, who went 10-15 for 163 yards and 3 TDs in the spring game, and CAm Sexton, who completed 42 percent of his passes last year (57-136) for 840 yards, 4 TDs and 8 INTs. Either one is likely to have a rocky year, even in the ACC. ADVANTAGE: SOUTH CAROLINA
Wide receivers. Hakeem Nicks is the most valuable of the group, catching 39 passes for 660 yards and four scores last year. (Which is an accomplishment when you consider the Tar Heels' success through the air.) Brandon Tate is favored by some to win the other starting position, despite catching just five passes for 72 yards in 2006. Brooks Foster caught 38 balls for 486 yards and 2 TDs. Joe Dailey? North Carolina fans might recognize him from last year. When he played quarterback. ADVANTAGE: SOUTH CAROLINA
Running backs. No one currently on team ran the ball 100 times last year. Justin Warren carried it seven times for 77 yards and a TD. Richie Rich, called a "co-starter" in his player bio (no one else is thusly identified) has carried the ball once for -1 yards. ADVANTAGE: SOUTH CAROLINA
He could also start at tailback.
Defensive line. The members of this season's line got 14 TFLs and 9 sacks last year. The totaled 90 tackles all year and return two starters from a unit that surrendered almost 173 rushing yards a game last year. ADVANTAGE: SOUTH CAROLINA
Linebackers. Durell Mapp, the sole returning starter, got 87 tackles last year, including four TFL. The other options are less attractive; only one other potential starter (Chase Rice) has more than 30 tackles. ADVANTAGE: SOUTH CAROLINA
Secondary. The linebackers who come back actually have more interceptions (2) than the returning members of the secondary, who have none. The only returning starter is Jermaine Strong, who was unimpressive. ADVANTAGE: SOUTH CAROLINA
Davis has never actually won a national championship, but laid the groundwork for the Hurricanes' 2001 crown. His experience at the NFL's Cleveland Brown was ... less than ideal, but that makes him no different than Spurrier on that count. ADVANTAGE: PUSH
North Carolina will be a difficult opponent for anyone who faces them down the road; Davis should have success turning the Heels into a tough team. But this year is part of the rebuilding effort. It's not impossible for North Carolina to win, but it's hard to see any scenario where it actually happens. WIN
THE REST OF THEIR SEASON
A long, long four months awaits Davis and his team. Games against Virginia, at South Florida, at Virginia Tech, against Miami, at Wake Forest, against Maryland, and at Georgia Tech are probably also lost causes. The opener against James Madison is winnable, as is the last game against Duke. The contests at East Carolina and N.C. State are tough. Another 3-9 season should be welcomed by Heels fans; 2-10 is likely and 1-11 is not out of the question.