The Dukes Mayo Bowl will play host to a multi-layered rivalry game on Thursday afternoon. Not only is it a game pitting an ACC team versus an SEC team, but it will be a border clash between North Carolina and South Carolina. The Tar Heels lead the all-time series 35-19 with four ties. However, the Gamecocks have won seven of the last ten meetings dating back to 1981. This will be the team’s third straight meeting in Charlotte.
Dukes Mayo Bowl Preview
Each of these programs enter this match-up at 6-6. They got here in very different ways, each throwing preseason perceptions out the window along the way. Mack Brown’s Tar Heels were ranked in the top 15 before the 2021 season began, but they stumbled early and often. The Gamecocks are in year one under Shane Beamer and have defied expectations by finding a way to reach six wins and bowl eligibility. These two coaches have known each other for a long time due to Brown’s friendship with Frank Beamer. Now they meet in a bowl game with both programs trying to end the season on a winning note.
Things have not gone as expected in 2021 for the team from Chapel Hill. The offense stumbled out the gate with a poor performance in a season opening loss to Virginia Tech. Aside from week one they have not had much trouble putting up points. Sam Howell did not have the star turn season many pundits thought he might, but he has still been very good. His ability to attack the defense with his legs has become a big weapon for North Carolina. Transfer tailback Ty Chandler has also had a productive 2021 campaign, with over 1000 yards on the ground. Josh Downs stepped up as Howell’s as the go to pass catcher, with almost 100 grabs and over 1200 yards. This trio has combined for 33 touchdowns on the season.
The defense has been the main issue for the Tar Heels, allowing over 400 yards and 31 points a contest. They have given up 35 or more points in six games. Their facing an offense that has struggled to score all year, so maybe they can end on a high note. Considering their own high-powered attack, they just need to show some resistance to give themselves a good chance at victory.
Garnet and Black
The Gamecocks are looking to put a cherry on top of Beamer’s first season in charge of the program. Things have not been pretty or easy, but they have managed to grind out six wins in year one. The offense has underperformed all year, so they will hope that the extra bowl practices will have corrected some faults. Zeb Noland will start under center. He will have his top targets Josh Vann, Jaheim Bell, and Nick Muse all available. A big game from the two tight ends would be a welcome sight for the Gamecocks. Kevin Harris will lead the rushing attack but expect freshmen Juju McDowell and Marshawn Lloyd to be involved as well. This offense will need to start fast against an explosive North Carolina team. They cannot afford to fall behind and try to play catch-up in this contest.
The defense has been solid most of the season. They will need one of their better performances to come away victorious in the Dukes Mayo Bowl. This unit has thrived on turnovers all year long. They will need to force a few in this one to help their offense. All-American Jaylan Foster leads the way with five interceptions. Cam Smith has three picks in his last four games. Containing the rushing attack will also be of top priority for the South Carolina defense.
The Dukes Mayo bowl will be a interesting battle of opposing styles. The Tar Heels are much more comfortable in a shootout than they are in a defensive struggle. They will look to score early and often and put pressure on a Gamecock offense that spend the season searching for consistency. On the other hand, South Carolina will want to make this game ugly. Forcing turnovers and finding a way to grind out a victory is how they have found success in 2021. Each program is looking to push its record over .500 to end the year. Whomever can force their style onto this game will have a good chance to emerge victorious. Then everyone gets to see the glory that is a grown man being doused with a bucket of mayonnaise.