So, it’s almost here.

The SEC Championship Game. Georgia vs. LSU.

It’s become a familiar sight to see the Bulldogs in this game: They’re one of just 3 programs to play in 3 or more consecutive SEC title games since it began in 1992. The other 2? Florida, with 5 in a row, and Alabama, with 3 consecutive appearances on 2 occasions.

LSU, meanwhile is playing in its first one since 2011, when it dominated Georgia in the old Georgia Dome. It was favored to win that one as it will be on Saturday. But when it looked as if the No. 16 Bulldogs would spring the upset against the No. 1 Tigers — leading 10-7 at halftime — Les Miles’ team pitched a shutout while scoring 35 unanswered points.

Some would say that this is a shot at revenge for the Dawgs for that December day. Maybe, but the kids on the roster now were in middle or high school when it happened, so “revenge” is far from their minds. For the alumni who played in that game, though, it might be a slightly different story.

But there’s a much bigger narrative at play for Georgia on Saturday. This is far beyond winning the SEC championship.

The Bulldogs have already been there. They’ve already conquered the SEC East, as evidenced by their collection of division titles over the past several years. They brought the program its first SEC title in over a decade in 2017. But by winning it against one of the country’s best offenses and the potential Heisman Trophy winner, they’ll send a message to the rest of the country that what it’s done defensively hasn’t been a fluke and that they’re capable of beating a “stronger” team. If they could stop LSU, then surely they could stop Clemson, Ohio State or whoever the other team is in the Playoff field, right? (Which could still be LSU, but that’s a completely different article.)

The talk has been all about Georgia’s offense not matching up to LSU’s offense, but its defense hasn’t let it down yet. And the same will need to hold true Saturday.

Let’s talk about Georgia’s offense, though, while we’re at it. Lawrence Cager, who could have been a potential X-factor, is hurt. George Pickens, a freshman that appears to be set up for big things during his college career, let a moment of stupidity against Georgia Tech get him suspended for the first half. D’Andre Swift is working through a shoulder injury.

But the Dawgs have been through adversity before. This is the same team that lost to South Carolina and had every reason to let it affect their season. All they’ve done is run the table and set themselves up for where they are now.

Georgia is, quite literally, 1 win from returning to the Playoff. A slip-up at Mercedes-Benz Stadium means that it will be left on the outside looking in, haunted by questions about “what if” it had one more play go in its favor, “what if” it had made one more stop, “what if” it had have won just 1 more game. The Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl look good on a resume, but if you’re expected to compete for a national championship, well, those are simply consolation prizes.

At the end of the day, the road to the Playoff for Georgia will, once again, run through Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It hasn’t been an easy road, to say the least. But if Saturday ends with the Bulldogs ending up hoisting the trophy, they’ll know one mission has been completed.

Winning 2 more games after that to hoist a much more significant trophy in New Orleans on Jan. 13 and end a 4-decade national championship drought? That will be the biggest mission of them all.