Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville continues to make a passionate plea for his 12-0 team. He insists that his third-ranked Tigers should be playing for the national title, and as long as he is asked about it, Tuberville will not surrender his cause.
He even went so far as to call the Bowl Championship Series' designated title game, the Orange Bowl between No. 1 Southern California and No. 2 Oklahoma on Tuesday night, a mythical national championship game.
"We feel that this is the championship game being played tomorrow night," Tuberville said Sunday of the Sugar Bowl between Auburn and No. 9 Virginia Tech (10-2) on Monday night at the Superdome.
The coaches who vote in the ESPN/USA Today poll are contractually obligated to vote the winner of the BCS' championship game No. 1. But voters in the Associated Press poll can select whomever they want as No. 1; their final poll will be announced Wednesday.
If Auburn beats Virginia Tech to finish unbeaten, it would be the Tigers' second bittersweet season in recent years. The team finished 11-0 in 1993 but was ineligible for a bowl game because of NCAA violations.
The Auburn players relish the chance to play in prime time on Monday night with no other college football game on the schedule. They have tried to show the appropriate respect for Virginia Tech, which won the Atlantic Coast Conference championship, but the Tigers are clearly focused on not giving up their quest to be considered the No. 1 team in the country.
"We're going to show them Auburn is the real deal," defensive end Stanley McGlover said.
Yet the Tigers seem to understand that they have little chance of managing even a split of the national championship vote in the AP poll.
in the pitts
"I was watching that ESPN show `Cold Pizza' and they had a mock playoff on and Pittsburgh beat us in the first round, at home," center Jeremy Ingle said. "How ridiculous is that?
"It shows you what kind of respect we're getting."
Pittsburgh (8-4) lost to unbeaten Utah, 35-7, in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday night.
Asked if he might watch the Southern California-Oklahoma game on Tuesday night, Ingle said: "There's probably something in it for us. Maybe it will be a 0-0 tie, but if USC gets up by a lot, I'll probably just turn it off."
The Tigers are mindful of the ridicule they will receive if they lose to Virginia Tech.
Ingle said he had noticed how much criticism California took for losing to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl after the Bears said they should have been in a more prominent bowl game. Fourth-ranked Cal was 10-1 but did not earn a BCS bowl bid, then lost to Texas Tech, 45-31.
"If we lose this game, it's going to be, `Oh, they weren't very good,'" Ingle said. "This is our big opportunity."
Virginia Tech is a worthy opponent. After starting the season 2-2, which included a 24-13 loss to USC and a 17-16 loss to North Carolina State, the Hokies have won eight straight games for Frank Beamer, the ACC coach of the year.
Quarterback Bryan Randall, a senior who was the ACC player of the year, has been sensational in the second half of the season as a threat running and passing. The Hokies' other strength is a pass rush from their four defensive linemen. Darryl Tapp, a junior end, leads the team with eight and a half sacks.