Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray (11) celebrates with tight end Arthur Lynch (88) after throwing a 66-yard pass for a touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 37-10. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn remembers being where No. 5 Georgia stands: a win away from the SEC championship game with a national title still within grasp.
It was only two years ago, after all. Before the Bulldogs' impressive rise and the Tigers' dramatic fall.
Georgia (8-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) can clinch its second straight trip to the league championship game with a victory over Auburn (2-7, 0-6) tonight.
The Tigers snapped a five-game losing streak last weekend against New Mexico State but are still a longshot to win an SEC game since that requires a win over the Bulldogs or No. 1 Alabama.
"Us playing big in a game like this is huge," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "Our guys catching a little bit of momentum from last week. This is just a huge rivalry game.
"We've been on the flip side of this where we've got to win to win our side of the league. As a matter of fact, it was against Georgia when we were in the exact same position here at home. Hey, we're excited about the challenge."
The stakes are pretty clear for the Bulldogs. Win, they're in the SEC title game. Lose, and Florida goes to Atlanta instead.
Georgia comes into this game a 15- -point favorite in what's billed as the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry. The border battle has been traditionally competitive with Auburn holding a slender 54-53-8 edge.
But the gap has widened in Georgia's favor since Cam Newton rallied Auburn to a 49-31 win two years ago to clinch the SEC Western Division crown against a Georgia team on its way to a 6-7 season. The Bulldogs produced the biggest margin in the rivalry dating back to 1892 last season with a 45-7 win.
Now, the Tigers are in a tailspin and Chizik's job might be in serious jeopardy.
Richt blames the ultra-competitive SEC, even if that's not how frustrated Auburn fans view it.
"I think the big thing is just our league itself," Richt said. "There is truly a very, very fine line between winning and losing. There are a lot of good teams in our league in my opinion that still might have a losing record in league play. You lose some close games and sometimes you win the close games.
"Sometimes you get a break here or there and you grab momentum, and it serves you well for the rest of the year, and sometimes you don't ever find it."
Time's running out on Auburn's search.
Quarterback Aaron Murray and the Georgia offense face a defense that surrendered 63 points to No. 15 Texas A&M two weeks ago but also a team with nothing to lose.
"That makes them extremely dangerous," Bulldogs wide receiver Tavarres King said. "We know they want to ruin our season. What more could they possibly want than to ruin our dreams for the SEC or the national title? You know that's what they want to do. I told the guys you don't want that to happen. You don't want to feel like you did after South Carolina. That's all the motivation you need right there."
Georgia has rebounded from a 35-7 loss at No. 12 South Carolina to win three straight, including a victory over No. 7 Florida. Now, the Bulldogs are moving on without receiver Marlon Brown, who's out with a torn ACL.
The defense has allowed just 19 points total in those games and now faces the league's 13th-rated offense and freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace. Wallace will make his second straight start and first in an SEC game.