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Perfection isn't good enough to give Auburn shot at title

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  • Perfection isn't good enough to give Auburn shot at title

    Jan. 01, 2005 wire reports

    NEW ORLEANS -- Poor Auburn.


    A 12-0 record and SEC title would be enough to make the Tigers a front-runner for the national title most years -- or at least cause a spirited debate about who's No. 1.

    But this isn't most years.

    While Southern California and Oklahoma prepare for their Orange Bowl matchup that probably will decide an undisputed national title, Auburn can only watch like the envious kid with his nose pressed up against the glass. No matter what the Tigers do in Monday night's Sugar Bowl, they have little, if any chance, of being No. 1.

    "To be honest with you, it gives us more motivation," running back Carnell Williams said. "Everybody's mad, disappointed, hurt. But why should we stop here and let that be a setback? Why not go out on Jan. 3 and try to show people that the system is whacked? They messed up. We are the best team."

    If this scenario sounds familiar, well, it is. Only No. 3 Auburn's plight is even more pitiful than top-ranked Southern California's being left out of the Bowl Championship Series title game last year.

    The Trojans at least had the hope of splitting the national title because they were No. 1 in both polls, and that's exactly what happened. Southern California kept its No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, while LSU won the BCS crown.

    "If it happens we're fortunate enough to win, perhaps some other poll might decide we deserve to be No. 1," said Ed Richardson, the interim president at Auburn.

    But Auburn is behind No. 1 Southern California and No. 2 Oklahoma, who have identical 12-0 records. Even if Auburn beats No. 9 Virginia Tech (10-2) in one of those laughers normally reserved for nonconference foes, the Tigers are unlikely to leapfrog the Orange Bowl winner or be anything other than the answer to a trivia question.

    No team from a major conference has gone unbeaten without getting at least a share of the national title since Penn State in 1994. The Nittany Lions were 12-0 then and won the Rose Bowl, but Nebraska was 13-0 and a consensus champ.

    "This is all mythical," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. "When you don't have a playoff of four, eight or 16 teams, it's picked by other people. We think we're the best team in the country, and we've played like it so far most of the time this year. But again, that's for other people to decide."

    The BCS tweaked its formula this year in hopes of avoiding messes just like this, emphasizing the human polls over computers. But as Auburn and Utah and California found out, the polls aren't foolproof, either.

    While Southern California and Oklahoma have been the national title favorites all year, Auburn was way down at No. 17 in the preseason poll. That's a lot of ground to make up, and the Tigers had little hope of doing it when USC and Oklahoma kept winning.

    "This is a perfect example of how we need to wait until Oct. 1 or Oct. 15 before we do those polls, because it's just a fact that things change," said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, who votes in the coaches poll. "We started off with Southern Cal one, Oklahoma two and Auburn three. About five or six weeks from the end, I just thought Auburn was playing the best football. That's no slight to Oklahoma, but I had Southern Cal one, Auburn two and Oklahoma three."


    Auburn climbed as high as a tie for second with Oklahoma in the Nov. 14 AP poll, but dropped back to third the following week. Even a victory over then-No. 15 Tennessee -- the Tigers' second of the year -- in the SEC championship game couldn't give them the boost they needed.

    "Our preseason ranking hurt us because we had to climb so high to get ourselves in that situation," quarterback Jason Campbell said. "If we had started in the top five or top 10, I feel like we probably would be playing in the national championship game.

    "It hurt, because that's something we've fought for all year," Campbell added. "I felt like people had questions, and we went out there and answered all the questions."

    And then some.

    No offense to USC and Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart or to Oklahoma, playing for its second national title in five years, but Auburn might be the best story in college football this year. Certainly no one's overcome more than the Tigers to get where they are.

    A soap opera writer couldn't have scripted Auburn's 2003 season. The Tigers didn't come close to meeting their lofty expectations, and a small cabal of university leaders embarrassed themselves and the school and humiliated Tuberville with their bungled attempt to push the coach out.

    In a rare display of decorum in athletics, Tuberville refused to fire back at his detractors. That class struck a chord with his players, and they credit the turmoil for bringing them even closer. Williams, fellow running back Ronnie Brown and cornerback Carlos Rogers decided to put the NFL on hold and return for their senior seasons.

    "I was always taught you have to go through the storm to get to the other side," receiver Courtney Taylor said. "We done weathered the storm."

    That this could be a special season became clear in the third game, when the Tigers rallied to beat then-No. 5 LSU 10-9 on a touchdown with 1:14 left. They rolled from there, winning all but one of their games by double digits. Their 12-0 record is the best in Auburn history, and their SEC title was the school's first since 1989.

    "We really have done something special this year by going 12-0 so far," offensive tackle Marcus McNeill said. "We want to end up this perfect season and go down as one of Auburn's greatest teams."

    And the Tigers will have to be content with that. Because this year, perfect isn't quite good enough.

Related Topics


  • DJRamFan
    Rose's dream is Big Ten vs. Pac-10 AND title game
    by DJRamFan
    Aug. 5, 2005
    By Dennis Dodd
    CBS Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!

    CHICAGO -- There's a unique opportunity for the Pac-10 and Big Ten in 2005. For the second time in BCS history, the Rose Bowl is the site of the national championship game after this season. Assuming that USC is the prohibitive No. 1 favorite going in, that puts the pressure on the Big Ten to make it a 1-2 natural matchup for the national championship.

    Heisman winner Matt Leinart is expected to lead USC to a Rose Bowl berth. (Getty Images)
    That's something that hasn't happened in 37 years.

    It seems amazing the last time the Rose Bowl's anchor teams met while ranked 1-2 in the Associated Poll was Jan. 1, 1969. Ohio State beat USC 27-16. A "rematch" of sorts could be looming, although considering the strength of the Big Ten, Ohio State is in for a battle to win the league. Michigan was named the favorite this week at the Big Ten preseason media days.

    "Anyone going in against USC would be the underdog," Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "That would be a little bit of motivation, I think."

    Only twice in history have the 1-2 teams in the AP poll from those conferences met in Pasadena (the other year was 1963). That shows how much fans of both leagues care about such an occurrence. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr has said in the past he valued a Rose Bowl berth over a national championship shot.

    But this year, the stars are aligning for a Big Ten vs. Pac-10 championship game in the shadow of the San Gabriels on Jan. 4. No. 4 Michigan, No. 9 Ohio State and No. 10 Iowa all start the season ranked in the top 10 in the coaches poll. USC, which brings a 22-game winning streak into the season, is led by Heisman winner Matt Leinart.

    "We definitely want to get there no matter who we're playing, but we'd definitely like to get a shot at USC," Michigan running back Michael Hart said. "Whoever wins the Big Ten this year and goes undefeated, they have no choice but to put you in the national championship game because the Big Ten is so strong this year."

    There is some recent history. Michigan was the victim 20 months ago when the USC started its championship run with a 28-14 victory over the Wolverines in the Rose Bowl.

    To say Carr is obsessing over that game might be too strong, but he does remember it. Michigan was trailing only 7-0 in the second quarter when John Navarre's pass hit Braylon Edwards' heel. USC's Lofa Tatupu intercepted and ran it back to the Michigan 3. USC scored easily to make it 14-0.

    "They got a hell of a break when the ball hit Braylon in the heel," Carr said. "We never got back in it. If you look at the teams (they beat), they get them down, they kill...
    -08-08-2005, 06:18 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Weekend in Review: 'New' BCS still could produce a mess
    by DJRamFan
    Oct. 10, 2004
    By Dennis Dodd Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!

    Halfway through the season, the national championship race has some feel, some texture.

    Dodd's Power Poll

    1. Oklahoma
    2. USC
    3. Miami
    4. Florida State
    5. Auburn
    6. Virginia
    7. Purdue
    8. Louisville
    9. Georgia
    10. Texas
    11. Utah
    12. Boise State
    13. Wisconsin
    14. Arizona State
    15. Cal
    16. LSU
    17. Michigan
    18. Tennessee
    19. Florida
    20. West Virginia
    21. Oklahoma State
    22 Minnesota
    23. Navy
    24. Southern Miss
    25. Missouri
    25. UCLA
    Non-BCS Top 10
    1. Louisville
    2. Utah
    3. Boise State
    4. Navy
    5. Southern Miss
    6. Florida Atlantic
    7. UAB
    8. Memphis
    9. Wyoming
    10. Northern Illinois
    And some chaos just in case you forgot the BCS is a week away from weighing in. USC remains No. 1 but lost style (and poll) points in beating Cal. No. 2. Oklahoma handled Texas to creep closer. It's hard to believe Miami is now a heartbeat away at No. 3 considering some of its problems.

    What's it all mean? Refer back to last season when the BCS couldn't make up its mind between LSU, USC and Oklahoma. A similar nightmare scenario is developing.

    Three words: Split national champions. The new BCS that was supposed to lessen that likelihood looks like it is leading down the same path. Remember, there is nothing in the new BCS formula that can pick the "right" teams if there are three or more worthy teams for the two Orange Bowl slots at the end of the season. By leaning more on the human polls this year, the BCS commissioners are hoping the credibility of those rankings will sort things out.

    One of many problems: The computers still count for one-third of the formula, which could just as likely create split champions as prevent it. Last season, LSU, Oklahoma and USC all lost one game before the bowls. The BCS math picked Oklahoma and LSU to play in the Sugar Bowl despite the fact USC was No. 1 in both human polls.

    We'll say it again: More reliance on the human polls this year doesn't necessarily clean things up.

    Here's an early glimpse at this year's potential train wreck: Assume there are these 13 legitimate national championship contenders at this point. Nine of them are undefeated -- USC, Oklahoma, Miami, Purdue, Wisconsin, Virginia, Utah, Arizona State and Auburn. Four have one loss -- Florida State, Michigan, Cal and Tennessee.

    At this point a year ago (using the Oct. 12, 2003 Associated Press poll), there were 14 contenders. But there were only three undefeated teams worthy of title...
    -10-11-2004, 01:36 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Auburn wants to stay in hunt; 'Bama has other ideas
    by DJRamFan
    Nov. 18, 2004 wire reports

    TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Tommy Tuberville is taking it one championship game at a time: state, conference and, with two wins and some outside help, perhaps even national.


    The Auburn coach wants his Tigers, tied with Oklahoma at No. 2, to forget about the muddled Bowl Championship Series and focus on what really matters in this football-mad state: winning the Iron Bowl.

    Nevertheless, the Tigers (10-0, 7-0 SEC) are stumping for national championship votes every time they step on the field these days, including Saturday's game at Alabama.

    "This is the most important game of the year and this is the championship game," insists Tuberville, whose team already has secured a spot in the Southeastern Conference title game. "There is no other like it and we approach it like that."

    The Iron Bowl is a 365-day-a-year borderline obsessive topic within the state. But this year, it's also got an abundance of national allure.

    The Tigers are fighting for a spot in the Orange Bowl at the BCS title matchup. They're ranked third in the BCS standings behind Oklahoma and No. 1 Southern California.

    Alabama (6-4, 3-4) would love to clear up that mess and erase some of those giddy feelings down on the Plains, boosting its own bowl standing in the process.

    If the Crimson Tide can end the Tigers' bid for No. 1, "I'd feel real happy," tailback Kenneth Darby said. "I think the whole team would feel happy."

    The game hasn't featured a national championship contender since 1992, when Alabama won the title. Last year, both teams were unranked. Two years ago, the Tide was ranked No. 9 but ineligible for the league title because of NCAA sanctions.

    "It's one of the greatest rivalries in college football history," Alabama safety Charlie Peprah said. "You can throw out the rankings, you can throw out our non-ranking. This is Auburn-Alabama. That's what we keep talking about. That's all it is: It's just Auburn versus Alabama."

    It's also a chance for the Tide to reverse a troubling trend for a program that had grown accustomed to being the team vying for national titles in this state. Alabama has lost 17 of its past 20 games against ranked teams in Tuscaloosa, dating back to 1997.

    "I'm not trying to ruin Auburn's season or anything like that," Tide free safety Roman Harper said. "I just want to get another win for Alabama. That's a better way to look at it for me. I'm not trying to be mean or anything like that. We just need a win."

    The Tigers haven't been ranked so high heading into this game since 1958. But tailback Carnell Williams said Auburn players have tried to block out the BCS buzz in class and around town....
    -11-18-2004, 12:41 PM
  • DJRamFan
    No. 2 Oklahoma gains on No. 1 USC
    by DJRamFan
    Oct. 10, 2004 wire reports

    The gap between No. 1 USC and No. 2 Oklahoma is smaller than it's been all season.


    The Sooners' 12-0 shutout of Texas and Southern California's close call against California persuaded some voters in the Associated Press Top 25 released Sunday to change their first-place vote.

    USC received 41 first-place votes, a season low, and 1,601 points in the media voting. Oklahoma got a season-high 23 first-place votes and 1,582 points, leaving the Sooners 19 points behind the Trojans with the Bowl Championship Series standings just a week away from making their 2004 debut.

    The BCS will release its newly formulated standings on Oct. 18. The AP poll will count for one-third of a team's BCS points this year. Thecoaches poll will also count for a third and a compilation of computer rankings will make up the remaining one-third.

    In the latest coaches poll, USC is No. 1, followed by Oklahoma, Miami, Auburn and Purdue.

    The polls and rankings released on Oct. 17 and 18 will determine the first BCS standings. The top two teams in the BCS standings at the end of the regular season will play in the Orange Bowl for the national title.

    Oklahoma and RB Adrian Peterson ran past Texas Saturday to close in on No. 1 USC in the polls. (AP)
    USC and Oklahoma have been 1-2 in the AP and coaches polls since the preseason, but before the Trojans' 23-17 victory over Cal on Saturday the points differential between the teams was more than double what it is now.

    Voters may have been impressed by the performance of Sooners freshman running back Adrian Peterson, who proved himself a more-than-capable complement to Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jason White by rushing for 225 yards against the Longhorns.

    "We expected to be able to run the football, and it wasn't just Adrian," Stoops said. "I think our offensive line and the way they played are all part of running the ball. We're improving with it."

    Georgia had been No. 3, but a 19-14 loss at home to Tennessee on Saturday dropped the Bulldogs to No. 12.

    Idle Miami moved up one spot to No. 3. No. 4 Auburn received the remaining first-place vote and Purdue moved up four spots to No. 5.

    Auburn's ranking is the Tigers best since Nov. 6, 1994. Purdue hasn't been ranked this high in 25 years. On Sept. 10, 1979, the Boilermakers were ranked fifth in the country.

    Unbeaten Virginia is No. 6 and No. 7 is Florida State. The Cavaliers and Seminoles will play in Tallahassee on Saturday.


    Cal slipped one spot to No. 8; Texas dropped four spots to No. 9; and undefeated Wisconsin is 10th.

    The second 10 starts with No. 11 Utah, followed...
    -10-11-2004, 01:38 PM
  • DJRamFan
    USC vs. Oklahoma: As close to perfect as BCS can get
    by DJRamFan
    Jan. 01, 2005 wire reports

    MIAMI -- Pete Carroll calls this one the perfect matchup, and in many ways it is: USC vs. Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl for the national title.


    Preseason favorites to make it to Miami, the Trojans and Sooners were No. 1 and No. 2 in the polls all year. They feature the last two Heisman Trophy winners and about a dozen All-Americans between them.

    Two of college football's most storied and tradition-rich programs, Oklahoma and Southern California have 11 AP national titles combined.

    Of course, rarely is anything ever perfect when the Bowl Championship Series is involved.

    Just ask Auburn.

    The top-ranked Trojans (12-0) and No. 2 Sooners (12-0) meet Tuesday night for a national championship that will wrap up the college football season, but not necessarily the debate over who's No. 1.

    On Monday night, No. 3 Auburn puts its 12-0 record on the line against Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl with a chance to finish a perfect season that will compare favorably with the Orange Bowl winner's.

    "It stinks the way it played out this year for them," Oklahoma quarterback Jason White said. "They're a great team. They probably deserve to be in this championship game just as much as either one of us. But that's the way it worked out."

    USC and Oklahoma were right at the center of last year's BCS mess. The Trojans were left out of the BCS title game despite being No. 1 in the polls. The Sooners got in despite a lopsided loss in the Big 12 championship game.

    In the end, USC finished on top in The Associated Press Top 25 and LSU beat Oklahoma to win the BCS crown.

    "We were playing for the title in our minds last year," said Carroll, the Trojans' coach. "But this year there's an added dimension."

    The BCS guys were determined to make sure a consensus No. 1 would never again be left out of the title game, so this year's formula emphasized the polls over the computers.

    One problem solved.

    Next problem: There are three unbeaten teams, all clearly worthy of a spot in the title game. For that, there is no BCS solution.


    "I'd love to see a playoff, though this does feel a little like a playoff," Carroll said. "But I'm not hopeful for that."

    At least this season neither title game participant is being labeled undeserving, as the Sooners were last season after being throttled 35-7 by Kansas State for the Big 12 championship.

    With a chance to redeem themselves, the Sooners fell flat in the Sugar Bowl. A battered White looked little like a Heisman Trophy winner in the 21-14 loss to LSU.

    The Sooners turned...
    -01-01-2005, 02:58 PM