ATHENS - The Georgia football team has played games that were big for the program, important for SEC purposes, or just seemed generally big at the time.
But this next game is more than that.
Georgia is about to play Alabama not just for an SEC championship, but a spot in the national championship game. In order to fully appreciate the magnitude of that, consider this:
Since the BCS era began, the Bulldogs have never played a game knowing that if they won, they were in the national championship game. The other years Georgia has been close (when it finished No. 3 in 2002 and 2007) it entered the final weekend needing help. And didn't get it.
In fact, you have to go back to the Herschel Walker era to the most recent time Georgia has been in position for a national title this late in the season.
Georgia won it all in 1980 ... by beating Notre Dame.
A year later, the Bulldogs entered the Sugar Bowl ranked No. 2, needing to beat Pittsburgh and get a loss from No. 1 Clemson. Georgia lost, and Clemson later won anyway.
And in 1982, Walker's final year in college, Georgia was ranked No. 1 entering the Sugar Bowl, but lost to Penn State.
A few other tidbits and notes as we await Mark Richt and Nick Saban's Sunday teleconferences:
- Georgia was No. 3 in the coaches poll, which is one-third of the BCS formula. The Bulldogs were also No. 3 in the AP poll, which although not part of the formula is usually a good indicator of the Harris Poll, which comes out this afternoon. There is a chance that Florida could jump Georgia for the No. 3 spot in the BCS standings, which are released tonight, but BCS analysts agree that Georgia would move into the No. 2 spot (perhaps even No. 1) by beating Alabama. Florida, of course, is done playing until the bowls.
- Alabama opened as a 7.5-point favorite, per several gambling web sites.
- Georgia would also be a 2.5-point underdog to Notre Dame, according to Covers.com. Of course that line could move if Georgia makes a good impression next week.
- The SEC championship will match the nation's two top-ranked passers, according to the NCAA's pass efficiency rating: Aaron Murray is first, A.J. McCarron is second.