Jadeveon Clowney leads a top-notch USC defense. (Source: USC Athletics)
(RNN) - Since this is the first week of the college football season, ESPN has blessed us with a Thursday night SEC doubleheader that's good enough to mess up a season all by itself.
If North Carolina upsets 11-point favorite South Carolina, the sixth-ranked Gamecocks' shot at a national title will be diminished and will make the Sept. 7 game with Georgia a reckoning. A convincing win would mean the team is probably underrated - which is what we think, and that, along with nothing, will get you a free cup of coffee in the company break room.
We have really good coffee in our break room - Colombian and French roast, no kidding. We will probably need a lot of it Friday morning after sitting up to all hours watching Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, which kicks off at 9:15 p.m. ET, and Ole Miss throws it about a billion times. The winner will continue to be described as "resurgent," and the loser will be regarded with skepticism.
North Carolina at South Carolina, 6 p.m. ET
This renewed rivalry is only possible because the British colony Carolana broke into two separate states in the 17th century after a run of lousy governors, Indian wars and assorted power struggles amongst the landed gentry. Just think. If North and South Carolina had remained one giant state, Steve Spurrier would be the coach of an awe-inspiring college football team that could beat anybody.
But wait! He already is.
The 2013 Gamecocks are poised to defy history. Spurrier has turned the once-laughable program into a bona-fide SEC and national championship contender. A thriving colony on the surface of Mars would have seemed more likely nine years ago.
This is an exceptional and important game for a Thursday night season opener - and a loss would be the most depressing thing to happen to South Carolina since Gen. Sherman blew through.
The Tar Heels, 8-4 in coach Larry Fedora's first year, return 10 starters off an offense that gets to see what it can do against The Insane Clowney Posse. Lots of luck with that, fellas.
Spurrier beat North Carolina three times when he was at Duke.
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt, 9:15 p.m. ET
2012 marked the year that the University of Mississippi cured AIDS and Vanderbilt won nine football games. It goes to show you never can tell.
Last year in Oxford, Bo Wallace hummed about 50 passes against Vandy and ran that hurry-up thing they do to perfection. The Rebs looked like a blue-and-white blur zooming up and down the field, building a 23-6 third-quarter lead.
Then Vandy came back to win 27-26 in one of the most exciting SEC games of the year. This year's game could be just that crazy. It kicks at zero dark thirty, so go ahead and tell the boss you'll be late for work Friday.
In the ongoing debate about how fast football should legally be played, Vanderbilt coach James Franklin has asked that the referees make sure both teams are set before the snap of the ball. It's a reasonable request. Somebody could get hurt, and you don't want to see that.
On the other hand, touchdown passes are so-o-o-o cool when two corners and a free safety trip over the Sam linebacker and they all fall down.
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