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No. 21 Tar Heels meet the Gamecocks in an ACC-SEC matchup to open the season

No. 21 North Carolina vs. South Carolina in Charlotte, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET (ABC)

Line: UNC by 2 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: UNC leads 35-20-4.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

The Tar Heels open the season with a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback in Drake Maye and expectations to contend in the Atlantic Coast Conference race. They'll face the Gamecocks near the border between the Carolinas, taking on a Southeastern Conference opponent looking to increase their win total for the third time in as many seasons under Shane Beamer.

KEY MATCHUP

Maye versus the Gamecocks' defense. Maye threw for 38 touchdowns and was the nation's only 5,000-yard player in total offense last season in his first full year as the starter. He'll face a South Carolina defense that is retooling after losing seven starters from a unit that ranked in the bottom third nationally in total defense (404.7 yards) and scoring defense (28.8).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

South Carolina: RB Dakereon Joyner. The last time Joyner faced the Tar Heels in Charlotte, he was dazzling at quarterback and threw a touchdown in a 38-21 Duke's Mayo Bowl win after the 2021 season. This time, the sixth-year player enters as a running back to bolster a position that lost three of its top four runners from last season.

UNC: LB Cedric Gray. Gray finished with 145 tackles at the heart of last year's defense and joined Maye as preseason Associated Press All-America second-team picks.

FACTS & FIGURES

The Gamecocks have won seven of nine meetings over the past four decades, including a 38-21 win two seasons ago in Charlotte at the Duke's Mayo Bowl. UNC's wins came in 1991 during Mack Brown's first coaching tenure, then in the 2019 opener to start Brown's second tenure with the Tar Heels. ... UNC is coming off a curious season, which included a six-game winning streak to reach the ACC title game and then four straight losses to end the season. ... The Tar Heels struggled defensively last season by surrendering 30.8 points and 436.5 yards per game, though they got that scoring figure down to 25.8 in ACC play. ... This is the third time in nine seasons the teams have met in Charlotte to open the season, with South Carolina taking the first of those in 2015. ... This will mark the fourth straight ranked opponent for the Gamecocks going back to last season, a program first.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll