As of Thursday, March 13, there are 170 days until Auburn takes the field against Washington State to kick off the 2013 season.
If you live your life by Saturdays, that is approximately 23 Saturdays remaining without college football.
Depressing, isn't it?
Coming off of a 3-9 season that saw the Tigers go winless in the SEC for the first time since 1980, it seems like an eternity that the Auburn faithful has to have a bad taste in their mouth.
New Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has appeared to stop the bleeding of the Auburn football program and injected optimism into the fanbase and football team. He accomplished this by hiring a top-notch coaching staff and landing a highly regarded recruiting class.
The 2013 schedule shakes out much differently than the 2012 schedule, especially on the front end.
Last season, Auburn uncharacteristically played its first home game in Week 3 of the season after opening with Clemson at the Georgia Dome and playing against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., in Week 2.
Auburn opens up with three straight home games in 2013.
On the back end, Auburn gets both Georgia and Alabama in Jordan-Hare Stadium to close out the season. That's good for 2013, but in 2014 that means Auburn will likely go on the road for both of those games.
Vanderbilt falls off of the Tigers' schedule this fall and is replaced by a road trip to Rocky Top where two of the SEC's newest coaches in Malzahn and Tennessee's Butch Jones will square off.
I've already given my pre-spring practice game-by-game predictions for Auburn. Now let's see which games will be the biggest challenge for the Tigers.
When: Oct. 12
Where: Auburn, Ala.
The least challenging game on the docket is obviously the homecoming game against the Western Carolina Catamounts.
Homecoming is being held in Week 7 in 2013.
By the way, what is a Catamount?
All kidding aside, Western Carolina was scheduled for Auburn's homecoming game for a reason. The Catamounts ended 2012 on a 10-game losing streak.
The Catamounts play in the Southern Conference of the Football Championship Series (FCS). Auburn typically schedules one FCS opponent each year to serve as its homecoming opponent and Western Carolina will receive a nice, fat check for coming and taking a beating on the Plains.
Auburn should not have much of a challenge against the pride of Cullowhee, N.C., in mid-October.
Reaction if Auburn loses: FIRE EVERYBODY!!!!
When: Oct. 26
Where: Auburn, Ala.
The Florida Atlantic Owls come to Jordan-Hare Stadium in Week 9 of the season. It's the Owls' second trip to the Plains in three years. They also paid a visit in 2011 and lost to Auburn, 30-14.
Florida Atlantic will be playing as members of Conference USA after moving from the Sun Belt. Coach Carl Pelini (brother of Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini) appears to have the Owls headed in the right direction, even though FAU finished 3-9 in his first year.
Florida Atlantic may keep it close for a half, but the Auburn starters will be resting by the fourth quarter.
If this game is a challenge for the Tigers, Auburn is in trouble.
Reaction if Auburn loses: "You're fired, you're fired, you're fired and you're fired."
When: Sept. 7
Where: Auburn, Ala.
Malzahn led the Arkansas State Red Wolves to a 10-3 record and a Sun Belt conference championship in 2012. He'll be trying to beat his former team in 2013 when the Red Wolves visit Auburn in Week 2.
The Red Wolves lose QB Ryan Aplin along with Malzahn.
Texas Offensive Coordinator Bryan Harsin took the Arkansas State job, which has become a launching pad for up-and-coming coaches. Before Malzahn, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze spent a year in Jonesboro.
Is Harsin next?
Arkansas State would love to knock off its former coach in this one, but the biggest challenge Auburn will have in this game is looking forward to its SEC opener in Week 3 against Mississippi State.
Reaction if Auburn loses: "Come on!"
When: Aug. 31
Where: Auburn, Ala.
The Auburn secondary will get an early test in 2013 when Mike Leach brings his Washington State Cougars to town.
Although both Malzahn and Leach run what people call a "spread offense," they could not be more different.
Malzahn's is a run-first physical style of offense that leans more on tempo and exposing the deficiencies of the defense.
Leach's offense is going to be an air raid from start to finish. We should know a lot about the Auburn pass defense after Week 1. Washington State finished ninth in the country in passing yards per game (330.4). The Cougars attempted 52 passes per game.
Leach will be in his second year as the Cougars head coach. In 2012, the Cougars finished strong with a win over in-state rival Washington, but finished with an identical record as Auburn, going 3-9.
Auburn will be looking to get 2013 off on the right foot and will get the Malzahn era of Auburn football started in a big way. There's no overlooking Leach and Washington State.
The Cougars' offense will be a test, especially if Auburn's defense is on the field a lot. It will be a high scoring game, but there won't be much of a challenge for Auburn overall.
Reaction if Auburn loses: Find the nearest bottle of bourbon; it's going to be another long season.
When: Nov. 2
Where: Fayetteville, Ark.
I have really low expectations for Bret Bielema's first year as the HPIC (Head Pig in Charge). It's a different style of football that Bielema brings to Fayetteville than what has been recruited for. Bielema will likely bring a run-heavy offensive attack into Fayetteville and that is not what the Razorbacks were built for.
We saw how well fitting a square peg into a round hole on offense worked for Auburn in 2012.
The Razorbacks lose QB Tyler Wilson, WR Cobi Hamilton, RBs Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson on offense. On the defensive side, the Razorbacks have a lot of catching up to do because former head coach Bobby Petrino did not focus on defense when building the Razorbacks in his time as head coach.
Auburn will be well-rested after playing Florida Atlantic the week before and should end its recent troubles against Arkansas in 2013. The Tigers have only won one game against the Razorbacks since winning 9-7 in 2007.
Bielema is a great long-term hire for Arkansas, but the Razorbacks will be adjusting in a big way in 2013. Auburn shouldn't worry too much about this game.
Reaction if Auburn loses: This reaction is appropriate. "Say what?"
When: Sept. 14
Where: Auburn, Ala.
Has any coach in the SEC been called a success while achieving absolutely nothing more than Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen?
I doubt it.
Next fall is likely to have a hot seat for Mullen, who reached his ceiling with the Bulldogs when they won nine games in 2010.
It has been an interesting matchup between Auburn and Mississippi State since Mullen took over, but Auburn will be fighting to end its SEC losing streak when State comes to town in Week 3.
Malzahn's offense has never lost to Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have QB Tyler Russell returning for his senior season and a veteran offensive line, but they lose the explosive Chad Bumphis. Dan Mullen will also have to replace virtually his entire defensive secondary.
Auburn should be the better and more motivated team in Week 3.
Reaction if Auburn loses: "What does an SEC win feel like? I've forgotten."
When: Oct. 5
Where: Auburn, Ala.
Ole Miss went 7-6 last fall, but it certainly turned some heads in the conference under first-year head coach Hugh Freeze.
The Rebels were competitive in every game and the program is moving in a positive direction.
As poor as Auburn was last year, the Tigers had their chances to win against Ole Miss in Oxford last year. Look for it to be a close one again in 2013 and defense will be optional in this one.
There are a few things that play in Auburn's favor here. Auburn catches Ole Miss at home and after a bye week. Also, Freeze runs virtually the same offense that Malzahn does and it is what Auburn will see every day in practice.
It will be hard for Ole Miss to show Auburn something it hasn't seen before.
Reaction if Auburn loses: "You're killing me, Smalls!"
When: Nov. 9
Where: Knoxville, Tenn.
The last time Auburn went to Knoxville, Tenn., it was a battle of brand new faces on each sideline. It will be the same situation this fall when first-year coaches Malzahn and Butch Jones get together for the first time as SEC head coaches.
The coaching carousel at Tennessee has made the situation at Auburn look like a calm rolling stream over the past few years.
Tennessee made a fantastic hire in Butch Jones, in my humble opinion. He will be the man to get things finally turned around on Rocky Top.
Like Auburn, Tennessee recruited at a respectable level under former head coach Derek Dooley. However, QB Tyler Bray and stud WR Cordarelle Patterson are gone and that defense last year was nearly as bad as Auburn's.
Neyland Stadium is a tough place to play when the Vols are playing well and it's a full house, and it's the second leg of a two-game road trip. Auburn should be clicking on all cylinders by mid-November, though.
I think Auburn will have the better team on this fall Saturday, but it won't be easy to escape Neyland Stadium with a win.
Because it's on the road and it will be the second road game in a row for the Tigers, the game against Tennessee will be more challenging than the game against Ole Miss, even though the Rebels may be a better team.
Reaction if Auburn loses: Jumping off Neyland Stadium because of hearing too much Rocky Top.
When: Nov. 16
Where: Auburn, Ala.
Due to a quirk in the schedule, Georgia will be returning to Jordan-Hare Stadium for the second straight year.
Georgia has won the SEC East in back-to-back years and expectations will be just as high for head coach Mark Richt and the Bulldogs in 2013.
The Georgia offense will be loaded, but the defense had a mass exodus. According to Chip Towers of The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has to replace 12 players who started a game on the defensive side of the ball for him in 2012.
The 2012 defense was talented but failed to meet expectations. It was 12th in the SEC in stopping the run and sixth in scoring defense. With a lot of the talent departing, there is no reason to think that it will get any better in 2013.
Georgia always recruits at a high level and will have talented players filling those spots, but I see Georgia being the bust of the SEC East next season, despite a top-notch offense.
It won't be easy, but the Georgia game won't be as challenging as other games on the schedule.
Reaction if Auburn wins: "Woohoo!"
When: Oct. 19
Where: College Station, Texas
Texas A&M was arguably playing the best football in the nation at season's end last fall. Chances are, 2013 will be equally as successful.
It was a toss-up between a road trip to College Station and a road trip to LSU in this spot. Either way, it won't be easy to come away with a win.
Since the game in College Station falls between games against Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic, this game finds itself as the third hardest game on Auburn's schedule in 2013.
Last fall, Texas A&M put a record amount of offense on the scoreboard at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Aggies scored 63 points and tallied 671 yards of offense. The most ever against an Auburn team at home, according to ESPN.com.
Kyle Field in College Station is an extremely tough place to play and it will be a tremendous challenge for Auburn to come away victorious next fall.
Reaction if Auburn wins: This says it all.
When: Sept. 21
Where: Baton Rouge, La.
Auburn's first road trip comes at the end of September and the Tigers are wasting no time with going into a hostile environment.
After a battle against Mississippi State in Week 2 that will likely be a nail-biter, Auburn has to go to Baton Rouge. It hasn't won there since 1999, in Tommy Tuberville's first year as Auburn's head coach.
Like Georgia, LSU had a mass exodus on the defensive side of the ball. Six of LSU's defensive starters declared for the draft, according to Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated.
LSU head coach Les Miles and defensive coordinator John Chavis always seems to get the most out of their players. Don't expect a big step back on defense for LSU in 2013.
As always, going into Death Valley will be a difficult task for Auburn. Add in a likely night game that gives the Cajuns in Louisiana some time to get amped up to watch LSU play, the forecast doesn't look too bright for the Tigers that hail from Auburn.
Reaction if Auburn wins: Auburn fans will probably want to do a James Franklin impression.
When: Nov. 30
Where: Auburn, Ala.
No. 1 on this list? You guessed it. Getting a win over Alabama is never easy, even when the Crimson Tide is going through a down period in their football program.
Alabama visits Jordan-Hare Stadium the Saturday after Thanksgiving, as usual.
Auburn will be much more competitive in the Iron Bowl in 2013 than it was in the previous two years. In those two years, the Tigers were outscored 92-14.
Auburn has not recorded an offensive touchdown against Alabama since Phillip Lutzenkirchen caught a pass from Cameron Newton in the Bryant-Denny end zone in 2010.
Auburn does get a bye week before playing Alabama next fall, which should give Malzahn a little extra time to plan the attack against Alabama's defense.
It's well noted that Alabama has its hardest time defending against up-tempo offenses like Auburn will deploy against the Tide in 2013. Auburn's offensive scoreless streak will end, but will it have enough gas in the "Gus Bus" to upset the Tide?
I expect this game to be very similar to 2009, when Alabama outlasted Auburn and came from behind to win 26-21 before going on to win the national championship.
Auburn must play perfect to pull a stunning upset against Alabama next November.
Reaction if Auburn wins: We're going streaking!