When the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs take the field Saturday in the SEC Championship Game, much more is on the line than a conference championship.
The winner will move on to face top-ranked Notre Dame for the BCS title while the loser could find itself left out of the BCS altogether.
As is typically the story in college football, the pressure in this one will lie on opposing quarterbacks AJ McCarron of Alabama and Georgia's Aaron Murray.
Murray, the junior leader of the Dawg offense, has had his ups and downs at Georgia. Come Saturday, he is likely to struggle once again.
Even though he is as talented as any quarterback in the country, Murray has struggled to come through when his Bulldogs have most needed him throughout his college career. Here are three reasons why Saturday will be no different.
At 177.15, Murray has the highest quarterback rating in the nation. In his two games against ranked teams, however, that rating has only been 72.83. Some people have called this phenomenon " getting the yips."
In the Dawgs' loss to South Carolina, Murray completed just 11 of 31 passes for 109 yards and an interception. Against Florida, Murray was good on 12 of 24 attempts for just 150 yards and three interceptions.
These failures in the big games are nothing new. In the 2011 SEC title game against LSU, Murray completed only 40 percent of his 40 passes for 163 yards and a pair of picks.
All told, Murray has completed 60 percent of his passes in just three of 11 games against ranked opponents. He will find it no easier against an outstanding Alabama defense this weekend.
Murray has the talent to win the game for the Dawgs, but based solely on his prior performances in the games that count the most, the odds are clearly stacked against him.
To make matters worse, getting the "yips" against Alabama happens to opposing quarterbacks with regularity.
After a disappointing season in 2010, when Murray was a freshman, the Bulldogs have gone 21-5 over the last two seasons. How Murray and this Georgia squad will be remembered in the annals of history may largely depend on the result of this game.
Murray follows the likes of David Greene, D.J. Shockley and Matthew Stafford at Georgia, studly quarterbacks with strong arms and NFL talent. If he wins these next two games, he can surpass them in the Bulldog hierarchy.
Georgia has not won a national title since 1980. In that year, it was Herschel Walker who led the team, not quarterback Buck Belue who completed just one of 12 passes in the title winning Sugar Bowl over Notre Dame.
Murray knows that bringing the Bulldogs a national title now would forever cement him as a Georgia legend. For a kid who has struggled on the big stage, this has to be quite a weight on his shoulders.
But if Murray and the Dawgs come up short, well, he will be just another superstar recruit that failed to deliver on the hype that he came in with.
Again, for a player known for getting the "yips," the pressure that is on him is immense. It doesn't matter if he placed it on himself or if it came from the Bulldog nation, it is a tough thing to deal with, and there is no disputing that it's there.
Again, the two quality defenses that Georgia has faced have almost completely shut down Murray. Both South Carolina and Florida have outstanding defenses, but statistically, Alabama's is better.
First of all, Alabama allows just 77 yards per game on the ground, second best in the nation. This will slow down the running back combination of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, forcing Murray to pass out of 3rd-and-long situations often.
Against the pass, Alabama ranks third nationally, allowing just 156 yards per game and the average quarterback rating of opposing passers is just under 99, good for fifth nationally.
The Tide has allowed just six touchdown passes all season while it has intercepted 16 passes collectively. Opposing passers have completed just over 54 percent of their passes against the Tide, and Alabama has recorded 30 quarterback sacks in its 12 games.
Be assured that head coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart have paid close attention to how the Gamecocks and Gators stifled Murray.
They will try to keep him out of his rhythm with a combination of multiple looks and blitzes while blanketing his receivers. To make matters worse, the Dawgs are missing two of their top four receivers in Marlon Brown and Michael Bennett.
The Dawgs are certainly talented enough to hang with the Tide and may well come out on top Saturday afternoon. If they do, though, their all-conference quarterback will have to overcome the most extreme of odds and perform at a level that he has yet to achieve against a defense that adequately shuts down over-achievers.