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Spurrier was nearly done in by his own expectations. He won six SEC crowns and the 1996 national championship at Florida, his “Fun-‘n’-Gun” offense setting a standard for the game from 1990-2001.

But Spurrier struggled early on to attract the same caliber players to South Carolina.

Each time the Gamecocks appeared ready to rise, they ended with a thud. They went 6-1 and were No. 6 in 2007 yet lost their final five game that season. There were similar crash-landings in 2008 and 2009 when bowl losses _ 31-10 to Iowa at the Outback Bowl two years ago and 20-7 to Connecticut at the Papajohns.com Bowl last January _ left Spurrier questioning if he could achieve league success at South Carolina.

“I think this is a business where you’re only as good as your last week,” said Gamecocks assistant Shane Beamer, the son of Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. “As good a run as we’ve had the last few weeks, we need to play well on Saturday.”

Auburn coach Gene Chizik says it’s an amazing achievement to coach two schools to the SEC’s ultimate game. “It certainly says a great deal about him as a football coach,” he said.

Win or lose Saturday, Spurrier could have the Gamecocks prepped for year-in and year-out success.

South Carolina returns 1,000-yard rusher Lattimore and single-season receiving yards record-setter Alshon Jeffery back next year. Quarterback Stephen Garcia, who Spurrier has regularly praised after several years of harsh comments, will be a polished senior.

The defense, under the steady hand longtime SEC coordinator Ellis Johnson, held Alabama’s running duo of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson to 64 yards and limited the Gators to 226 yards.

Doering, the ex-Florida receiver, says that success is what drives Spurrier, not other’s opinions. “I don’t think he cares about proving people wrong or any of that stuff,” he said.

Indeed, Spurrier talks about the Gamecocks instead of himself. He is also not ready for a victory lap just yet.

“We’re in about as good a shape as we can expect to be,” he said. “We’re thrilled with the opportunity to go compete for the SEC championship.”