Auburn has put together one of the greatest years in school history, claiming a spot in today's Southeastern Conference title game against No. 15 Tennessee.
Beating Georgia and Alabama to close the regular season, the third-ranked Tigers (11-0) feel they have made a persuasive case for playing in the national title game in the Orange Bowl Jan. 4.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, they are projected to be the odd team out unless either No. 1 Southern Cal or No. 2 Oklahoma loses today. Both scenarios are extreme long shots -- USC is a 23-point favorite against crosstown rival UCLA, while Oklahoma is a 22-point pick to beat Colorado in the Big 12 championship game.
If the Tigers beat Tennessee (9-2) but don't get any help, they'll probably settle for a spot in the Sugar Bowl against the winner of today's Miami-Virginia Tech game.
"It's disappointing," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. "An 11-0 season happens once or twice in the lifetime, if you're lucky. But most of the talk has been about polls and rankings, rather than what we have accomplished."
That said, the Auburn coach didn't pass up a chance for some last-minute lobbying. He hopes enough voters -- either in the media or among his coaching colleagues -- will change their ballots and give the Tigers a chance to pass either the Trojans or the Sooners in the Bowl Championship Series standings.
"It's not who you played or how high you were ranked at the beginning of the year," Tuberville said. "I think the voters should look at all three teams and vote with their hearts."
The Atlantic Coast Conference Sugar Bowl representative is a tossup.
No. 9 Miami (8-2, 5-2) is looking to send off the seniors playing their home finale in style, with a ticket to a BCS game for the fifth straight year; No. 10 Virginia Tech (9-2, 6-1), which has won seven straight games, can win the ACC title outright and reach the BCS for the first time since the 1999 season.
Today's showdown at the Orange Bowl between the ACC's two newcomers essentially will serve as the league championship game.
The rivalry between Virginia Tech and Miami formed about a decade ago in the Big East. Moving to the ACC only heightened the disdain they have for each other.
The Hurricanes want revenge; they were simply awful in last year's 31-7 loss at Virginia Tech. The Hokies want respect; they've beaten Miami in six of the last nine years, yet usually have found themselves looking up at the 'Canes by year's end.
"It's going to be a long afternoon," Miami coach Larry Coker said. "It's an afternoon where we'll have to, as we say, keep punching. I hope they don't even turn the scoreboard on. I don't even want to know what the score is. I just want to play until somebody says they win or we win."
As for Oklahoma, the Sooners need a win over Colorado in the Big 12 title game to get to the Orange Bowl.
The second-ranked Sooners (11-0) will have to defeat the underdog Buffaloes (7-4) in Kansas City, Mo., in a game known for its history of upsets.
The last one came last year when Kansas State swamped Oklahoma, 35-7, and denied the Sooners their 39th conference title.
Oklahoma has long had a knack for getting it done against the Buffaloes. The Sooners are 37-16-2 against the Buffs -- including 3-0 over the last two seasons.
The Sooners have two Heisman Trophy contenders in quarterback Jason White and tailback Adrian Peterson.