Campbell Thinks Tigers Deserved A Shot At Title

Quarterback Jason Campbell talks candidly about his feelings on the BCS and not getting into the Orange Bowl.

Auburn, Ala.—-The strength of senior quarterback Jason Campbell's game is his cool, calm demeanor on the football field. Never worried or bothered about his surroundings, he blocks them out to play his best under pressure. Sunday afternoon Campbell gave a glimpse of his inner self when asked about Auburn's lack of presence in the national title game in the Orange Bowl.

Normally reserved and respectful of everything and everyone around him, it was obvious that Campbell had listened long enough to people putting down his team and wanted to answer back critics. One of those is likely ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit, who downplayed Auburn's win over Tennessee and told them to enjoy a trip to the Sugar Bowl because it was obvious they weren't one of the top two teams in the country.

"I'm excited to still have the opportunity to play in a BCS game," Campbell says. "The Sugar Bowl is our first one in a long time around here. To have the opportunity to play in the Sugar Bowl, I'm honored. I'm not going to say I'm not happy about it because I'm most definitely happy about the situation. We're SEC Champs and that's something to be proud of.

"It just takes something out of you when you hear commentators say that Auburn should just accept it and move on," Campbell adds. "That's not something you just accept. You work hard to get to this point and you think about all the hard work you've done this year to get the opportunity to play in the Orange Bowl and some one says "just accept it". They really don't respect you that much as a team. I'm not going to call any names or say anything about it, but it's something that we've really hard for. I'm proud to play in the Sugar Bowl."

Campbell throws against LSU earlier this season.

Going undefeated in the SEC should mean something in college football. It used to. Even until 1998, when Tennessee went undefeated on the way to the national championship, doing that usually meant a shot at the title. Glance back one season and you see an LSU team with one loss getting a shot and eventually winning the championship. Campbell said that starting so low was a death to Auburn's chances because voters had USC and Oklahoma highly rated and that wasn't going to change.

"I'm more disappointed (than upset)," Campbell says. "Carnell (Williams) is probably real upset. He talked about it last night for a little bit. We feel like we've done what we're supposed to do to get there. Every year people say "if you go undefeated in the SEC you'll get that shot to go to the national title". Look at Tennessee in the 1998 season. They had a lot of close calls that year and they still went to the championship in the Fiesta Bowl and won. Look at LSU last year. They come from being ranked 18th to playing in the Sugar Bowl last year and winning the national championship convincingly. That's just something that speaks for itself.

"I just think people don't respect us because they feel like we ought to be honored to be in this position. We didn't do anyone any favors. We earned where we're at. We feel like we should be respected and it wasn't something that was given to us. Everyone fought us off. If anyone thinks you're going to play the same team twice in the SEC Championship and you're going to walk all over them, you've got another thing coming. People were talking about Auburn better watch out because Tennessee has an opportunity to upset them. When you win the game you still don't get respect, you get shut down for not winning convincingly."

Unlike Auburn, Oklahoma has seemingly been the media darling since the arrival of Bob Stoops put them back in the national spotlight. Last season the Sooners lost the Big 12 title game to Kansas State, but somehow remained in the national championship game. Campbell said that the lack of respect for Auburn and the SEC is something he can't understand.

"I feel like they got the edge because they were one and two all year," Campbell says of USC and Oklahoma. "Even if they did struggle to beat someone or had a tough game, no one really mentioned anything about it. As soon as we struggled everyone in the nation would know about it. To play a team like Georgia and play the way we did and to beat Tennessee twice and LSU, who is a hot team right now, says a lot about our team. I think we're probably going to be the first SEC team to go undefeated and win our conference championship and not play in the championship. Last year Oklahoma lost the Big 12 Championship and still got the opportunity to go. It's just something they're going to have to fix with the system, but it's something we can't control. We just have to move on."

Moving on for Campbell and the Tigers means facing a hot Virginia Tech team that has won eight straight games since losing to North Carolina State 17-16. A strong defensive team and always tough on special teams, Campbell says that the Hokies are going to be tough for the Tigers in New Orleans.

"At this point Virginia Tech is playing like a Top five team," Campbell says. "We respect them very well. They went to Miami and played in the Orange Bowl this past weekend and won the game to become ACC Champions. We give them a lot of respect and we feel like they're playing as good as anyone in the nation right now.

"They are a team that has a great offense and defense," he adds. "They use their tight ends a lot in their offense. It's going to be a great game and one of the best bowl games of the year."

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