Auburn settles into Spoiler Role

ATHENS - The disappointment really will sink in this week in Auburn. Losses in the first two games of the season ended the Tigers national title hopes but did nothing to dampen their chances in the Southeastern Conference.

A whipping at the hands of LSU was tough to take, but Auburn exited that game still having a shot at the conference championship.

Then came Saturday, and a dropped touchdown by wide receiver Ben Obumanu on the way to a bitter 24-20 home loss to Ole Miss. Now it's all gone.

The Tigers entered the season ranked No. 1 in a pair of polls. The best Auburn (6-4, 4-2 SEC) can hope for now is to be crowned champions of the Capital One Bowl or maybe the Cotton Bowl.

"They understand that the only thing that we can shoot for now is to work our way up the bowl ladder," Tuberville said. "I want these seniors to go out on a good note and have an opportunity to play and have a good time in one of the better bowl games. We'll go to one, just depending on the what we do in the next two games will decide where we go."

The first of those games is Saturday when the Tigers visit No. 7 Georgia (7-2, 4-2) at 3:30 p.m. in Sanford Stadium. Auburn has won five straight games in Athens.

"The seniors deserve to win these next two, and we want to win them for them," said junior running back Carnell Williams, who is third in the SEC in rushing (99 ypg) and fourth in all-purpose yards (122.8). "We should be able to win our next two and go to a pretty good bowl."

The Tigers are on one of the most unusual streaks in college football. Auburn has beaten five straight top 10 opponents when it has entered the game unranked, as it will Saturday.

There are other good signs for the Tigers, mainly the play of quarterback Jason Campbell, who was a liability the first half of the season but has improved. He still doesn't make the conference's top 10 in yards per game, but he's fifth in pass efficiency and is completing a higher percentage of throws than any quarterback in the league other than LSU's Matt Mauck.

Against Ole Miss, Campbell was 14-of-26 for 231 yards and no interceptions. It looked like he'd engineered a game-winning drive in the final 2:39 until Obomanu dropped what would have been a 3-yard touchdown with 37 seconds left.

"Our confidence in Jason rose tremendously," wide receiver Jeris McIntyre said. "I think his leadership rose, too. He was very vocal in the huddle and did everything he could to give us a chance to win."

The last three games in this series have been decided in the final two minutes.

In 2000, Auburn quarterback Ben Leard scored on a 1-yard dive in overtime to give the Tigers a 29-26 win. The next season, Georgia's Jasper Sanks was stopped on the goal line as time ran out on a 24-17 Auburn win.

Last season, Georgia clinched the SEC East championship when David Greene threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Michael Johnson on fourth-and-15 with less than two minutes remaining.

"It seems like one team takes over and plays the best for the first three quarters and then the other team wins," Tuberville said. "Last year, we basically dominated for three quarters but in the fourth quarter, they made the plays. It's like the last man standing - everybody's going to throw their best punch. You're going to swing as hard as you can swing, and then hope to have something left in the fourth quarter."

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