South Carolina players Dylan Thompson, A.J. Cann and J.T. Surratt spoke on Tuesday about playing up to expectations. After three straight 11-2 seasons, the pressure to equal or surpass that mark is coming from everybody, including themselves.
A little more was added on Thursday.
The Gamecocks were picked to win the SEC East with 1,895 votes, edging Georgia by 118 votes, in preseason balloting at SEC Media Days. USC received 32 votes to win the SEC championship, with Alabama the overwhelming favorite to take the crown with 154 votes.
USC has only been picked to win the SEC East one other time, in 2011. The Gamecocks posted the first of three 11-2 seasons, but lost the East title to Georgia, despite beating Georgia during the season. USC has beaten the eventual SEC East champion the past three years but has not won the East.
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“Most guys say it’s us or Georgia, but who knows?,” coach Steve Spurrier said on Tuesday. “Nobody picked Missouri last year and nobody picked Auburn, that’s for sure.”
The Gamecocks return 16 starters but lost quarterback Connor Shaw, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, wide receiver Bruce Ellington and cornerbacks Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree. The Bulldogs also return 16 starters but lost quarterback Aaron Murray and three offensive linemen.
USC and Georgia were followed by Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Alabama was picked to win the SEC West by 1,915 votes, with Auburn (1,735) placing second.
“Sometimes the team with the best players doesn’t win and the team that plays the best does win,” Spurrier said. “That’s how we’ve been fortunate to win a lot of games, really the last few years. I’m not sure overall we were a lot better, but we played well.”
The Gamecocks had four players selected to the preseason All-SEC teams as well, none to a first team. Left guard Cann, tailback Mike Davis and left tackle Corey Robinson were voted to second-team offense, while safety Brison Williams made third-team defense.
PRESEASON SEC VOTING (votes in parenthesis)
South Carolina (1,895)
Ole Miss (1,069)
Mississippi State (890)
Texas A&M (791)
SEC champion: Alabama (154), Auburn (75), South Carolina (32), Georgia (19), LSU (9), Ole Miss (2), Arkansas (1), Mississippi State (1)