The 2021 Duke’s Mayo Bowl features the 6-6 North Carolina Tar Heels against the 6-6 South Carolina Gamecocks. Here is the 2021 Duke’s Mayo Bowl Preview.
North Carolina Tar Heels (6-6)
It’s safe to say it was a disappointing season for a team that was picked No.10 in the preseason. The Tar Heels were off to the wrong foot from the jump with a loss against Virginia Tech. They earned back to back wins just once this season but did have an impressive 58-55 win over No.9 Wake Forest.
NFL prospect Sam Howell saw a significant decline in his production this year after losing some weapons from last year’s team. Still, his favorite weapon Josh Downs is a player to keep an eye on. The sophomore was second in the ACC with 1,273 receiving yards to go along with eight touchdowns.
The defense ranked in the lower half of the ACC in most categories and a worrisome 11th in scoring defense allowing 31.6. They did have a couple standouts in the conference. Cam’Ron Kelly is tied for the conference lead with four interceptions on the year. And senior linebacker Tomon Fox is fifth in the ACC with his team-leading eight sacks.
South Carolina Gamecocks (6-6)
First year head coach Shane Beamer did a superb job getting the Gamecocks to a bowl game this year. Beamer managed it with a less than stellar roster and with some impressive upsets. The Gamecocks had big wins at home in the final month of the year against Florida and Auburn to get them to bowl eligibility.
Simply put South Carolina’s offense was bad. They can thank the defense for getting them where they are. More importantly, a couple key opt outs are going to affect them this game. Quarterback Jason Brown who started their final four games is transferring. This puts transfer Zeb Noland back in the driver’s seat coming back from injury.
Noland’s numbers look good but mostly they were against inferior competition. The Gamecocks will also likely be without star runningback Zaquandre White who led the team in rushing. Backup Kevin Harris, who had a monster 2020 season, will take over.
Defensively South Carolina will be without stud lineman Kingsley Enagbare who led the team in sacks. Fortunately that’s a position they should be well set at. Do it all senior Jaylan Foster has been a force for the Gamecocks this year. The former walk on leads the team in tackles, interceptions and forced fumbles.
The biggest question for South Carolina is going to be can they move the ball. North Carolina has a less than stellar defense but even with the opt outs in play this season the Gamecocks offense has looked stagnant for most of the season.
A certain advantage South Carolina holds is they have one of the best passing defenses in the SEC. They also force the most turnovers in the SEC. The path to victory for the Gamecocks will be limiting Howell through the air and forcing them to make mistakes to give their offense a chance.
North Carolina Tar Heels: 24, South Carolina Gamecocks: 17
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