ORLANDO, FLA., DEC. 31 -- Georgia Tech will try to complete one of the most remarkable turnarounds in college football history Tuesday when it plays Nebraska in the Florida Citrus Bowl.

As Division I-A's only undefeated team, the second-ranked Yellow Jackets (10-0-1) can stake a serious claim for the national championship by beating the 19th-ranked Cornhuskers (9-2), if top-ranked Colorado loses Tuesday night to Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl. Even if the Buffaloes win, Georgia Tech believes that a victory today should bring a title.

"A lot of people have asked me if we win and Colorado wins, who should be number one," the Yellow Jackets' all-American safety Ken Swilling said. "I feel we should be, because we'll have the only undefeated record."

Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne reluctantly seemed to agree.

"I kind of hate to comment on that," he said. "I feel like any time that you have a better record than anyone else, there's an awful strong case for that -- a good example being the time that BYU went undefeated {in 1984}. I'll get the BYU people mad at me, but certainly Georgia Tech has played a much stronger schedule, and nobody's beaten them."

The Cornhuskers are not exactly bereft of motivation. They have not won a bowl game since the 1987 Sugar Bowl against Louisiana State. To make sure they get the point, Osborne said he has worked his players "harder than we have for any bowl in the last several years, with more hitting than normal."

However, the focus Tuesday will be on the Yellow Jackets, who were 2-9 in 1987, 3-8 in 1988 and began the 1989 season 0-3. Since then, they are 17-1-1, including a current Division I-A-best 15 straight games without a loss.

If they come away with the No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press poll, they will become only the eighth of 56 teams to have had a losing season during the four-year period that concluded with the national title season. Only two others will have won the title in comparable fashion. Minnesota won it in 1960 after going 1-8 and 2-9, and Louisiana State did so in 1958 after going 3-5-2, 3-7 and 5-5.

"This game is very, very important," Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Ross said. "It's not a life-or-death situation, but we're in a position to accomplish something very special. You don't get in that position very often."

After a spirited walk-through today that ended with a group of players singing a fight song, Ross sounded pleased.

"That was noisy as they've ever been," he said. "People expect us to be uptight. We're not. But we're not loosey-goosey, either."

Georgia Tech is in good shape physically, with starting tight end Tom Covington (pulled thigh) the only player of import who is injured.

Mickey Joseph, Nebraska's starting quarterback, is out because of a severe laceration of his lower left leg, sustained when he slid into a metal bench after being run out of bounds in the regular season finale against Oklahoma. Tight ends Chris Garrett and William Washington have nagging injuries, as does wingback Tyrone Hughes, who averages 29.1 yards per kickoff return and 12.5 yards per punt return.

With Joseph out, junior Mike Grant will start over junior Tom Haase. Grant, a native of Tampa, will be playing in Florida for the first time since high school, which could help him or hurt him.

"Mike's fine," said Osborne, who waited until midweek to name his starter and still had Haase taking snaps with the first team today. "He's looking forward to the game, and I think he'll play well."

Grant was Nebraska's starter in its season opener against Baylor, but he bruised a knee in that game and was replaced by Joseph for the next two. He started the two games after that, but Osborne switched back to Joseph, who ended up the Cornhuskers' third-leading rusher.

Although Ross said he believes Grant is a better passer than Joseph, Nebraska still will need to get significant production from a running game that ranked second in the nation this season with an average of 340 yards per game.

I-backs Leodis Flowers and Scott Baldwin will be the featured runners against a Georgia Tech defense that has been ferocious at times, but allowed 31 points to Duke and 38 to Virginia. In addition to Swilling, the Yellow Jackets have standout linebackers Marco Coleman and Calvin Tiggle (Friendly High School).

Nebraska's excellent defense is led by all-America tackle Kenny Walker, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound senior, who was rendered deaf at age 2 by spinal meningitis. He has become an almost certain first-round choice in next year's NFL draft.