With just under two months to go until South Carolina's SEC and season-opening match-up against Texas A&M, media speculation has already begun about the Gamecocks' chances within the conference this year.
ESPN has started quickly with analysis about who the X-factor is for South Carolina this year. The choice is pretty simple for them and ESPN.com writer Jeff Barlis: senior quarterback Dylan Thompson.
Thompson, of course, takes over for outgoing quarterback Connor Shaw.
Thompson already has boatloads of big game experience under his belt from beating Clemson in 2012 to helping the team secure a win at the Outback Bowl just weeks later.
"He's one of these guys who's seemingly been around the program forever. When he enrolled, Stephen Garcia was actually the starting quarterback," said Barlis. "Now Thompson is a fifth-year senior who's got the confidence of his teammates and the coaching staff based on an impressive body of work as a backup."
With the limelight now firmly on the senior, Barlis says although it won't be easy on Thompson to replace the winningest quarterback in school history, Thompson has the benefit of being a better fit in coach Steve Spurrier's pro-style offense.
"Thompson will also have the benefit of a large, veteran offensive line in 2014," said Barlis.
However, Barlis says it's still yet to be fully seen how Thompson responds to being the number one guy in Spurrier's offense.
"We all know Spurrier has a habit of falling in love with the backup quarterback, so no one will be surprised if [backup QB] Connor Mitch's name starts factoring in at some point within the season," said Barlis.
In the end, Barlis says the program's success this season all rides on Thompson's shoulders.
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