Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The NC State football coaches received their tapes of South Carolina in February and have been studying the game film ever since. Here are a few things the Wolfpack will be looking for in Thursday's season opener in Columbia, S.C.:
Wide receiver Kenny McKinley, South Carolina's playmaker, and 6-foot-5 tight end Jared Cook will cause some problems. Cook is listed as a tight end, but is used as a receiver and this will create some mismatches because when you try to double McKinley, that forces you to tangle one-on-one with Cook.
The Gamecocks are going to try to run the football because of NC State's inability to stop the run last season, and because South Carolina is a better team when they run the ball. It sets up their play action and their screens. They're just not going to run it with Mike Davis, who has been reportedly suspended from this game for disciplinary reasons. It will help that backup Taylor Rank will start (sorry, but there's a reason he's a career backup), but the Pack has plenty of its own problems with injured running backs.
Redshirt junior quarterback Tommy Beecher will make his first collegiate start against the Wolfpack, but he's not a rookie -- he's been in the system for three years. Beecher was named the starting quarterback following spring drills. He has completed 16-of-25 passes (64.0 percent) for 194 yards and two touchdowns in his career.
NC State defensive coordinator Mike Archer said the key to this game will be disguising coverages.
"That's the problem every time you play his teams," Archer said of Spurrier. "That's never changed."
Archer said his young defense has responded to his challenges this summer, but he's not sure how they'll respond in this game.
"They've been a lot of fun to coach," Archer said. "Now what are they going to do on TV in front of 80,000 people? I don't know.
"I've been in that stadium many times. I tried to tell them the game is played between the white lines. That's never changed. ... Don't let all that extra-curricular stuff detract from your focus and concentration. We hope they're listening to us."