Gamecocks keeping perspective as SEC East favorites

South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier speaks at the Southeastern Conference media days on Tuesday in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

HOOVER, Ala. - When the preseason SEC favorites are announced later this week, South Carolina will likely be the presumptive pick in the East.

There was a time that distinction alone would've meant something for this program. That time has passed. The Gamecocks have seen promising seasons fall short of the ultimate goal. They've been the favorite, only to fall short of Atlanta and the SEC Championship Game.

This program has been there. It's done that. Senior quarterback Dylan Thompson said merely being the preseason favorite no longer matters.

"I think hype is just a word," Thompson said Tuesday when South Carolina met with the media at SEC Media Days. "You can't get into that, buy into it. I do think, though, this team has bought into the aspect of work."

South Carolina isn't looking too far ahead, or thinking too big picture. It's been burned in the past, beating the SEC East winner three straight years only to fall short of the division title.

Once again, the SEC East race is expected to come down between South Carolina and Georgia. The Bulldogs visit Williams-Brice Stadium on Sept. 13, giving the Gamecocks an advantage. The winner will have an early edge in the race.

But Steve Spurrier stopped short Tuesday of proclaiming his team the outright favorite.

"We got a pretty good team, we think," Spurrier said. "Most of the magazines got us about No. 9, No. 10, No. 11 in the country, something like that. Hopefully we can live up to that prediction.

"I don't know that we're favorites. Most guys say it's us or Georgia, but who knows. Who knows. Nobody picked Missouri last year, and nobody picked Auburn. That's for sure."