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Alshon vs. Alabama

South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery pulls in a one-handed, bicep catch in front of Alabama on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010 in Columbia. The Gamecocks upset the No. 1-ranked Tide 35-21.

COLUMBIA – Players can say they take each game the same and treat every opponent the same, but there are always a few times a year where the juice gets flowing a little more.

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Rivalries are always those kinds of games, but the Gamecocks have one of those marquee games early in the season with No. 2 Alabama coming to Williams-Brice Saturday in what’s expected to be an electric atmosphere with the reigning SEC champs in Columbia.

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“I’m excited. I’m excited. I can’t wait. It gives me chills thinking about it right now,” Ernest Jones said. “It’s going to be a really good game.”

Led by Nick Saban, Alabama’s been the class of the SEC for over a decade with six conference championships — including four of the last five — and five national titles since Saban took over in 2007.

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The Tide appear to be one of the two favorites to win the SEC again this year and prove a really good test for the Gamecocks early in Will Muschamp’s fourth year.

South Carolina’s already had a disappointing game to start the season against North Carolina before the Gamecocks drubbed Charleston Southern last week.

Now, the Gamecocks are ready to see how they stack up against one of the nation’s best teams over the last decade.

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“Definitely, this is the measuring stick. We’re excited. We can tell the energy’s there. We’re ready to play,” Jones said. “I’m excited. They’re going to come to play so we’re going to come to play.”

Throughout the preseason, Muschamp and the rest of the Gamecocks talked about how deep this version of South Carolina’s team is, and they’ll know how true that statement is after Saturday.

“We’ll really know after this game. This is our hardest matchup of the season,” Jaycee Horn said. “It gets me real excited. As a competitor you want to face the best. If you don’t, then something’s wrong with you. You don’t need to be out there.”

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This is shaping up to be a big game for the Gamecocks with over 20 recruits scheduled to visit this weekend, including a few key targets in the 2020 class, and a good showing against a premier team could go a long way.

"I think it's great,” Muschamp said of Saturday’s energy. “Our fans will be there loud and proud, I know that and we need to go play well."

The Gamecocks kick off against The Tide at 3:30 p.m. on CBS as the conference’s headlining game of the week.

They’ll face a Heisman contender in Tua Tagovailoa, the Biletnikoff Award winner in Jerry Jeudy and a host of other potential NFL players on both sides of the ball.

But it doesn’t seem like South Carolina’s too fazed by the talent on the other side of the ball; they welcome playing that caliber of a team at home.

“Obviously you come here to play against the best competition,” Bryan Edwards said. “Alabama is probably the best competition we’ll probably face. It’s exciting.”

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Collyn Taylor reports for www.GamecockCentral.com, the www.Rivals.com affiliate devoted to USC athletics.

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