The opponent’s ranking isn’t what it could have been, but there’s no denying that No. 8 Georgia has a landmark opportunity between the hedges Saturday afternoon.

Some Bulldogs fans think the home date with No. 13 Alabama is bigger than the 32-28 loss to the Tide in the 2012 SEC Championship game. Coach Mark Richt joked that he’s heard fans are excited.

“We are the favorites. We are playing in front of our home crowd,” Josh Hancher, a 1997 Georgia graduate, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “If UGA wants to be on the national stage, we must win. We must look like a champ.”

Fellow fan Roman Henry told the AJC that a win “means the new era of Georgia football.”

Georgia is 4-0 and largely untested. A victory Saturday not only would serve as payback for losses in 2008 and 2012, but also, and more important, legitimize the Bulldogs’ bid to become part of the Final Four, the first step in winning their first national title since Herschel Walker led the Dawgs past Notre Dame to clinch the 1980 championship.

“I think the way this works, the way the college-football system works, you’re only as good as the opponents you beat and however they’re perceived is how you will be perceived,” Georgia receiver Malcolm Mitchell told the AJC. “Alabama is perceived as being a powerhouse. So you beat a powerhouse, then who do you become?

“That’s the opportunity.”