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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP, WLTX) - Steve Spurrier's done with "talking season" and is ready to see No. 9 South Carolina live up to the high expectations it has dealt with since finishing a third straight year with 11 wins.

"Our guys are anxious to show the country that we can play ball," Spurrier said. "I know our fans will be fired up and ready to do their part."

The Gamecocks and Spurrier open things Thursday night against Texas A&M, the eighth time in the coach's 10 years at South Carolina he's gotten an early start to the regular season.

"The opportunity to open college football really gets our players a little juiced up through the preseason practices. They know it's going to be a national tv game, so they want to look good, want to play well."

And Spurrier is confident with "talking season" over, his players have prepared to take that next step forward. The Gamecocks were picked this summer as preseason favorites to win the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division. As Spurrier has continually said, if you do that, you have a chance to win the league title - a goal he's coveted since taking over the program.

"I think it's nice to be picked a little bit. Y'know, people think we've got a chance to be pretty good. Maybe that tells our players, hey, we got a chance to be pretty good, but we also know that we can get beat, just like almost anybody can get beat nowadays."

The Gamecocks go into the season without the school's all-time leader in wins at quarterback, Connor Shaw, who graduated after last season. But Spurrier says senior Dylan Thompson is ready.

"We believe Dylan's really got an opportunity to play well this year," Spurrier said. "He's prepared as well as he can possibly do it, and players have confidence that he can take us a long way."

Something else new fans will see this year: a larger than life photo of Spurrier looming on the outside of Williams-Brice Stadium along Bluff Road. The coach says it wasn't his idea to put up the sign, but now that it's there, he hopes he livse up to the big billing.

"Hopefully we can keep winning here at Williams-Brice I don't want people coming by there throwing eggs at it," he joked. "That could happen. If we go bad that could happen."

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