Chris Low sets up the stakes, historically speaking:
… Only three times since league expansion in 1992 has a team lost its first conference game to a divisional opponent and gone on to play in the SEC championship game.
The most recent team to do it was Tennessee in 2007 after the Vols opened their conference schedule with a loss to Florida. Arkansas also did it in 2002 after losing to Alabama to begin the SEC slate, and Tennessee pulled it off in 1997 after losing to Florida in the league opener. The Vols, quarterbacked by Peyton Manning that season, remain the only team in the league to have won the SEC championship after losing their league opener to a divisional foe.
That being said, it looks like South Carolina has a tougher road ahead with a loss than does Georgia, because of which teams from the West each plays.
… Something to keep in mind is that Florida has to go to Alabama this season with South Carolina getting the Crimson Tide at home. Georgia doesn’t play Alabama this season.
Of the three, South Carolina is the only team that has to face Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn this season – making Saturday’s game all the more critical for the Gamecocks.
If you figure that Georgia and South Carolina play out Arkansas and Auburn similarly, that means with a loss Saturday, the Gamecocks would likely have to beat both Alabama and Florida to have a shot at a trip to Atlanta. If they pull that off, they’ll certainly deserve to go.
A Georgia loss means that the game in Jax becomes a must win. But it probably shapes up that way for Georgia win or lose Saturday.