For the Florida Gators, it’s the next thing.
For the Mississippi State Bulldogs, it’s seemingly the only thing.
Those are the stakes of this Saturday’s game (6 p.m. Eastern, ESPN or WatchESPN or ESPN+) between the teams, the first since 2010: The Gators would really like to move to 4-1 and keep faint SEC Championship Game hopes alive into what should be a brutal October, but the Bulldogs are hoping to make a statement about their status in the SEC by brutalizing Florida in Starkville.
Whether that transpires is up to the players on the field more than the man who will stalk another sideline in Davis Wade Stadium for the first time in a decade. But Dan Mullen, make no mistake, is at the center of this storm, having built the Bulldogs well enough to get the opportunity to rebuild the Gators. Florida fans’ potential savior was Mississippi State fans’ main man for most of what was arguably the best period in program history; his departure left a rising program at the precipice of establishing a new base camp and at risk of plateauing.
What the Bulldogs do today will be widely seen as evidence of one or the other. What Florida does will be just another result in the first year of a tenure that could stretch for another decade if everything goes well.
What’s at stake in this one is different for each team.
But what that should do is generate a great game. And I’m excited to see it in person.