This is the biggest Florida-Georgia game ever. Really. And so it's more than a "one-game season"; it could be Will Muschamp's tipping point.
First, qualifying this as the biggest World's Largest Outdoor Sobriety Festival: Florida can clinch the SEC East with a win on Saturday. That win would give every other East team two losses, making a loss to Missouri next week not even enough to leave the Gators in need of a tiebreaker — one they would hold against both the Dawgs and South Carolina anyway.
That wouldn't just be Florida clinching the SEC East; it'd be the Gators clinching a trip to Atlanta in December before the end of October, the earliest clinch in the history of the SEC Championship Game. And they would be doing it after being dismissed as the distant third team in the division by most at the season's outset.
That would be by far the best accomplishment of Muschamp's coaching career, a sign that he could eventually rise from the towering shadows of Florida coaches past to cast his own. And it'd be his first win in the Florida-Georgia series after losing three times as a player and last year as a coach.
But Georgia's got all that before it, too.
The Bulldogs can't clinch the East with a win on Saturday, but they can essentially take pole position by doing so: Georgia would have a tiebreaker advantage on the Gators if they both finished with one loss, and would need only to take care of business against Ole Miss at home and Auburn on the road to take advantage of it.
And heading to Atlanta is a big thing for the Bulldogs: They haven't won the SEC since 2005, have just two SEC titles since Herschel Walker ran them to one (and won the Heisman Trophy) in 1982, and haven't played in back-to-back SEC Championship Games since 2002 and 2003.
Florida's been one of the primary reasons that Georgia hasn't been a national power in the SEC's divisional era, thanks to the near-annual conference/division loss serving as an anchor; beating the Gators in 2007 helped get them a tie for the SEC East title that didn't translate to a trip to Atlanta, thanks to a Tennessee tiebreaker. Georgia's hadn't beaten Florida and played in the SEC Championship Game in the same year until 2011, so this is the Dawgs' chance to make recent history a streak.
But it's also Mark Richt's chance to show that his Bulldogs haven't missed their window. This looked like their year more than any since 2008: No Alabama or LSU on the schedule, an experienced quarterback returning, and oodles of defensive talent made Georgia's path to national prominence seemed clear. Georgia's road to Atlanta got far more cluttered after its loss to South Carolina, though: Not only was their destiny in the East out of its hands, Georgia suddenly looked like the third-best team in the division.
Now, 2012 resembles 2008 in another aspect: Georgia's long-awaited path to the pinnacle of the SEC and the national title game is blocked by a game in which they face the closest thing to Nick Saban other than the genuine article with a burgeoning power in that coach's second year.
And just like in 2008, when Alabama was looking to make up for a 26-23 overtime loss to Georgia in 2007, that team has revenge on its mind: Florida came within a couple of fourth-down stops of stopping Georgia and improbably reinserting itself in the SEC East race in 2011.
So, yeah, the Florida-Georgia rivalry's about to turn up on Saturday. Get ready for the World's Largest Outdoor Teetotallers' Ball to be the Battle For It All in Duval.