AUBURN, Ala. - The Auburn Tigers still have hope, however slim.
All they have to do to ease the season's misery and wind up with a winning record and a much better mood is beat rival Nos. 2 and 1. More specifically, No. 13 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama.
There are some benefits to saving the biggest games for last, even if such a sweep seems a tall order for a team that just struggled to snap a four-game losing streak against Tennessee Martin.
'These are obviously the two biggest games of the year,' Auburn center Jason Bosley said Tuesday. 'I think every year, our season's really defined by these two games, whether we're undefeated or struggling like we have been this year. This is what you come to Auburn for. If you can't get ready and get focused for these two games, then you've got a problem.'
Problems? The Tigers (5-5, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) have had a few of those, ranging from a sputtering offense to an uncharacteristically vulnerable defense.
Now, they play the Bulldogs (8-2, 5-2) Saturday with hopes of becoming bowl eligible and upsetting their biggest traditional out-of-state rival. Then it's the Iron Bowl on Nov. 29. The two games can spoil or save a season for the Tigers.
'This one and the next one for us are huge,' coach Tommy Tuberville said. 'You can put all the rest of them together and they don't match the intensity of these two when it comes to the players getting into the game.'
The Bulldogs are in a somewhat similar boat with closing games against Auburn in the Deep South's oldest rivalry and a rival from down the road, Georgia Tech.
Georgia is two games removed from a 49-10 loss to No. 3 Florida and just squeaked by Kentucky 42-38. The Bulldogs know how seriously even a struggling Auburn team takes this game.
'It's very dangerous,' Georgia receiver Mohamed Massaquoi said. 'It's not going to be a game they're going to lay down by any means. I think that we're going to get nothing short of their best shot.'
This is a rivalry in which, after 111 meetings, Georgia's points lead is still just 45 points (1,730-1,685). Before winning the last two games, the Bulldogs faced a two-point deficit.
For some Auburn players, there's even more heat than usual to the rivalry this season. The Bulldogs took the field last season in black jerseys for the first time in the modern era. Virtually the entire Georgia sideline, many fans and even the TV announcers were doing the "Soulja Boy" dance in the fourth quarter while the song blared from the loudspeakers.
'That's been on my mind for the whole year,' said Auburn receiver Rod Smith, a Georgia native. 'They even had whoever was calling the game - those guys were up in press box doing that (dancing). That got to me. It's just another opportunity to try to get them back for what they did to us last year. I've definitely been looking forward to this game. This is the game that's been marked on my calendar since last year.
'I'm sure it didn't sit well with any of the players on the team. It was a hurtful feeling in my heart to be on the sideline and to see those guys dancing.'