COLUMBIA - A season ago, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier bristled a bit over the lofty offseason expectations for his team, saying his team was ranked higher than it should have been in preseason polls.

The Gamecocks will have similar pressure entering this fall.

College football analyst Phil Steele ranked South Carolina No. 10 in his top 40 countdown, which was unveiled Friday. It matches his projected preseason ranking for the Gamecocks in the Associated Press poll.

Here's part of what Steele had to say about South Carolina, with some of the spelling cleaned up:

"SC recorded its 3rd straight 11-win season and their 3rd bowl win in 3 years was a 1st in school history. They are 1 of 3 teams in the country to finish in the top 10 each of the last 3 years (Oregon, Alabama). This year they do lose the bulk of their D-line and QB (Connor) Shaw but have 14 returning starters. Despite being 6-2 in SEC play, SC was +101.9 yards per game (No. 2). This year SC draws both Auburn and (Texas) A&M out of the West. They have an excellent shot at getting to the SEC Title game."

That last sentence should resonate with Gamecocks fans. Steele isn't the only one who thinks South Carolina has a good chance of winning the SEC East this season.

The Gamecocks were picked as the SEC East favorites by the league's 14 football sports information directors earlier this month. They've also been part of the preseason top 10 for Athlon and Sporting News, and national sports broadcaster Tim Brandon picked them No. 5.

Steele also added this opinion on first-year starting quarterback Dylan Thompson.

"I thought Thompson did a great job filling in the last two years but I cannot see him matching Shaw's ratio, running ability or intangibles."

Pressure is on, for Thompson and South Carolina's football program as a whole.