The Race for the SEC East Should Be Decided in Jacksonville
This could be it.
Two Top 10 SEC East teams are set to battle in Week 10 of the season. Even without further context, you'd probably assume that this game has direct implications on the SEC Championship.
That it does. The No. 7 Florida Gators (7-1, 4-1 SEC) and No. 10 Georgia Bulldogs (6-1, 3-1 SEC) are the clear frontrunners for the SEC East crown, and no other team in the division is ranked. Missouri (5-2, 2-1 SEC) was the only other team to receive votes, and it's currently unknown if the Tigers could play in the game given their postseason ban.
The winner of Florida vs. Georgia will most likely face one of the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0 SEC), No. 2 LSU Tigers (7-0, 3-0 SEC), or No. 9 Auburn Tigers (6-1, 3-1 SEC) in Atlanta, Georgia on December 7th.
Florida's path to Atlanta would be pretty clear with a win in Jacksonville against their biggest rival. The Gators follow the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party with a home contest against the Vanderbilt Commodores (2-5, 1-3 SEC), an away test at Missouri, and the regular-season finale at The Swamp against the Florida State Seminoles (3-4, 2-3 ACC). Not overly daunting.
Then you have Georgia's remaining schedule, which is another story: A home game against Missouri, a trip to Auburn, a home-finale vs. Texas A&M (4-3, 2-2 SEC), and an hour and 15-minute hike to Atlanta to finish their season at Georgia Tech.
And just over a week ago, Georgia lost at home to the same South Carolina Gamecocks (3-4, 2-3 SEC) that Florida beat in Columbia on Saturday. If you aren't concerned that Georgia could very well drop their game at Auburn after losing to South Carolina at home, then I don't know what to tell you.
Simply put, should Florida beat Georgia in their annual showdown, they will be on pace to win the SEC East and head to Atlanta in Dan Mullen's second year as the Gators' head coach.
Other than the Missouri game - a winnable contest, but a road test nonetheless - Florida's schedule is way more favorable at this point, as two of their three Top 10 matchup are now behind them - and Georgia presents a winnable last one.
And even if Florida does lose in Jacksonville, the schedule that hovers over Georgia could work in the Gators' favor by season's end. Dan Mullen has adopted the phrase that Florida "controls our destiny", but even if they lose a grip on that with a loss - Florida will still have a shot at contention.
However, a win would just about seal the deal.