ATLANTA (AP) -- Take that, pollsters and computers. The team most
likely to be left out of the national championship game has a
trophy of its own.
For Auburn, that will probably have to do.
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 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
"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
"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
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
"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 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), which will settle for a trip to the Cotton
Bowl, played much better than its first meeting against Auburn. The
Volunteers were embarrassed on their home field, committing six
turnovers in a 34-10 loss in early October.
With third-string Rick Clausen at quarterback because of
injuries, the Volunteers rallied to tie this game at 21 on Gerald
Riggs Jr.'s 80-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Then,
Tennessee pulled to 31-28 with just over 10 minutes remaining when
Riggs rumbled for a 9-yard TD.
But Campbell would not be denied. He finished off the Volunteers
with his final touchdown, a 43-yard pass to Ben Obomanu with 6:56
Tennessee might have pulled off the upset if not for three
crucial penalties. Cedric Houston had a 70-yard touchdown run wiped
out by a yellow flag, and a holding call negated a 44-yard pass
from Clausen to Robert Meachem.
Also, Campbell threw a 53-yard scoring pass to Devin Aromashodu
-- putting the Tigers ahead to stay late in the third quarter --
after an interference penalty on Roshaun Fellows extended the
Tennessee was livid about the calls.
"In 13 years, I've never criticized the officials, and many
times I've taken up for the officials," Fulmer said. "I'm not
going to cross that line now, but I'll be real anxious to see the
film. That's all I'm going to say."
Riggs gained 182 yards on just 11 carries, the first runner in
17 games to surpass 100 yards against the fearsome Auburn defense.
Houston also ran for a touchdown that counted, giving the Vols
three rushing scores against a team that had given up only one
Auburn had a 14-0 lead before Tennessee made a first down, and
the Tigers dominated the first two quarters. Auburn held a 303-39
lead in total yards at the half, was up 17-2 in first downs and had
a nearly 13-minute edge in time of possession.
"Too much, too early," Fulmer said.
Yet the Volunteers were still in the game, trailing only 21-7
because of two big mistakes by Auburn.
Punter Kody Bliss mishandled a snap, and Tennessee took over at
the Tigers 14. The blunder set up Houston's 2-yard touchdown dive.
Auburn was in position to extend its two-touchdown lead in the
waning seconds of the first half, but Campbell messed up by
attempting a pass over the middle. The ball was intercepted in the
end zone by Corey Campbell with just 7 seconds left, costing the
Tigers a chance to at least attempt a field goal.
The Auburn quarterback had another costly turnover early in the
second half, fumbling on a hit by Kevin Burnett. Turk McBride
recovered at Auburn 19, leading to Clausen's 17-yard touchdown pass
After Bliss punted into the Tennessee end zone, Riggs found a
gaping hole on the very next play. He wasn't so much as touched on
his long, tying touchdown.
"The pressure was on them," said Clausen, who was just 8-of-20
for 69 yards. "They were ranked third in the nation, and we were
projected to finish third in the conference. We had nothing to
But Jason Campbell made sure the Tigers came away from this
season with at least one title.
"It's been 15 long years since Auburn won an SEC championship,
and we've never won 12 games in a season," Tuberville said. "This
is a special team."