Posted: 9:37 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013
Prior to the season, the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party looked like it would be an elimination game in the SEC East race. It still is to a degree, but back then, the idea was that the winner would be in great shape to go to Atlanta. Instead, both teams are looking up at Missouri and (more or less) need the Tigers to lose two more games to have a shot.
Of course, winning doesn't guarantee anything either even if the conference newcomers stumble. Florida still has South Carolina to go, and it's not hard to imagine Auburn rushing all over the UGA defense. Both teams in this game are unranked, the first time since a forgettable 2010 season for each side, and each is dealing with a plague of injuries (though Georgia will be getting some guys back).
Despite all of this downward pressure on the excitement for the game, there still is plenty of meaning in it.
For Georgia, it should be obvious what is at stake here. If Mizzou does crumble down the stretch, it's still the team in the best shape to win the East should it win out. It comes down to the same thing it did two weeks ago: UGA owns the tiebreaker over South Carolina.
To be clear, Georgia still needs the Tigers to drop two more to feel really good. Due to how the tiebreaker works, the Bulldogs can only have a chance to win a three-way logjam at two losses with South Carolina and Missouri is if MU somehow falls to either Tennessee or Kentucky but then beats both Ole Miss and Texas A&M. The third part of the tiebreaker goes on divisional record, and with both UGA and South Carolina having two division losses, Mizzou would have to match them with two in order to continue on to the as of yet undetermined parts of the tiebreaker. That probably won't happen, but with how strange this season has been, you never know.
For Florida, Will Muschamp could really use a win in this game. I am in the camp that says he's fine unless he loses out (I-AA Georgia Southern included), but nothing helps a coach's cause more than beating rivals. Defeating Florida State is a pipe dream at this point, so taking out Georgia for the first time in three tries would be big for fan support.
Furthermore, a good showing on offense is probably required to keep Brent Pease in good standing. Georgia's defense couldn't hold a double-digit fourth quarter lead against Vandy's backup QB (who looked decidedly mediocre against Texas A&M's tissue paper defense), so Tyler Murphy had better show something on Saturday. There has been talk that Kelvin Taylor, the main engineer of Florida's sole successful drive against Missouri, will get the start at running back, so maybe that will spark something.
So yes, this is the least sizzle the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party has had since 2010 with the teams almost literally limping in with 4-3 records. That 2010 game turned out, don't forget, to be a 34-31 overtime thriller. Don't give up on this one so soon.