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Auburn: Sour Grapes Or the Orange Bowl?

Auburn 38, Tennessee 28

Associated Press
Sunday, December 5, 2004; Page E16

ATLANTA, Dec. 4 -- The team most likely to be left out of the national championship game has a trophy of its own.

In all likelihood, Auburn won't get a chance to play for another one.

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Jason Campbell threw for three touchdowns and accounted for more than 400 yards, leading the No. 3 Tigers to a 38-28 victory over 15th-ranked Tennessee in the SEC championship game on Saturday night.

Despite being 12-0 for the first time in school history, Auburn appears to be the odd team out in another Bowl Championship Series mess.

"If we don't get a shot at playing for the national championship, sure, there will be some hard feelings," Campbell said. "But they can't take away what this team did this year."

Not that the Tigers passed up the chance to get in some last-minute lobbying.

"We definitely deserve a chance to play for the national championship," Campbell said. "We've done all we can do. We've done what people asked."

No. 1 Southern California also finished 12-0 by holding off UCLA 29-24 earlier Saturday. No. 2 Oklahoma (12-0) did nothing to hurt its standing, coasting to a 42-3 victory over Colorado in a Big 12 title game that ended after the Tigers had celebrated their first SEC championship since 1989.

"When you go 12-0 in the SEC, there's no doubt in my mind you should play in the dance -- and that's the Orange Bowl," Auburn safety Junior Rosegreen said. "Everyone in the world knows how hard we fought. We've been through it all, and we came out on top."

Even so, Auburn is expected to get twice-beaten Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl -- not USC or Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

Those teams led the BCS standings, and only a major change of heart from the poll voters or a short-circuiting of the computers will keep the Trojans and Sooners from playing for another disputed national championship.

"This is a true team, from top to bottom," said Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville, capping his own remarkable comeback from nearly getting fired a year ago. "I just hope everyone will be fair when they vote tonight. I know we'll get at least one first-place vote" in the coaches poll.

Campbell, the game's MVP, did all he could to get the Tigers to Miami. He completed 27 of 35 passes for 374 yards -- the first 300-yard passing game of his career. He also rushed for 57 yards, setting an SEC championship game record with 431 yards total offense.

Tennessee (9-3) will settle for a trip to the Cotton Bowl.

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