Midway through the fourth quarter Auburn was pitching a shutout at 16-0 and had the football in Virginia Tech territory. While Auburn held on to win 16-13, the final 8:38 of the game turned an impressive win into a into a squeaker and hurt the Tigers' statement for being the best team in the country.
"I think it's very close between them and Southern Cal," said Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer, who is the only coach to face Auburn and USC this season. "We played them both. Oklahoma is probably right there in that group, too. They just fly around there and play hard and they're well coached. I think it's a well, well coached football team. I think they're right there in the middle of it."
With the Tigers leading by 16 points in the final period of play, Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville decided to pull the plug on the offense and eat up the clock. It was the same coaching philosophy that got Auburn to 12-0 and playing in the Sugar Bowl, but it might also have been the reason why Auburn was playing in New Orleans instead of Miami and it almost cost the Tigers a win Monday night.
A win is a win, but unfortunately in this day and age with the current BCS system style points count almost as much as wins and losses.
"They were good," said tailback Mike Imoh, who rushed for 16 yards on six carries. "It's hard to say whether or not they're not a national championship team. They outplayed us today.
"It's hard to say (if Auburn is better than USC)," he added. "They're both good teams. I can't say exactly which team is better."
Auburn's sloppy play in the final minutes of the game might have changed the opinion of some Hokies. However, some still believe that Auburn is the best team in the country.
"I'm not going to take anything away from Auburn," defensive end Darryl Tapp said. "They earned a victory and they're the No. 1 team in my eyes."
Receiver Josh Morgan, who scored both of his team's touchdowns, agreed.
"If you look what they did this year they really deserve to be No. 1," he said.
The Tigers beat four Top 10 teams this season. They have four wins against 10-win teams--Georgia, Tennessee twice and Virginia Tech. They also beat the defending BCS champions and nine-win LSU.
It's hard to argue that Auburn doesn't deserve to win the national championship. No team has been able to prove otherwise on the field. Unfortunately for the Tigers style points matter, and a sloppy finish by the Tigers is the last thing that AP voters will see.