HOOVER, ALA. -- Apparently, the media covering SEC football agrees with Steve Spurrier when he says his USC team is capable of competing for the league title.
But only to a point.
For the sixth consecutive year, the Gamecocks were picked to finish fourth in the Eastern Division in media voting announced Friday. But USC earned 11 first-place votes, by far the most it has received since division play began in 1992. USC received four first-place votes last year.
Three voters picked South Carolina to be the SEC champion, also the most to ever do that. Previously, USC had received four such votes total.
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The most first-place votes USC ever received was four. Through the years it received a combined four votes to be SEC champion.
"Going into our third year at South Carolina, we believe our talent level has improved enough that we can realistically tell our players, 'We got a chance, fellas,' " Spurrier said Wednesday during his appearance at SEC Media Days. "We're going to set a goal to do it.
"I know we're not going to be picked, and we shouldn't be picked, but we need to come to the ballpark of these other teams and believe we're just as good."
Junior Ryan Succup got a lot of respect from the voters. He was picked twice to the preseason all-SEC first team as a place-kicker and to the second team as a punter.
Senior linebacker Jasper Brinkley was also a first-team pick, and was the only other Gamecock on the preseason list.
Since 1992, South Carolina has never been picked higher than third, which happened in 2001 and 1997.
The Gamecocks have done better when play started, finishing tied for second in the East in 2005, and in 2000 under Lou Holtz.