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Auburn stakes its claim to title

Auburn's perfect 13-0 season will be a source of pride for generations.

But the Tigers weren't worrying too much about their pride Tuesday morning. They wanted a share of the national title, even if it meant groveling for it.

"We fought just as hard as anyone. It's not our fault we're not playing in the national championship game," quarterback Jason Campbell said. "If you look at last year, you had two (13-1) teams and they shared the national title. And one team wasn't in the national title game. This year, you have two 13-0 teams, so why not just be fair about the whole situation?

"Both of us should be national champs. Until they figure out a better way for that happening, it's not our fault not to be called national champions because we did everything we could and we answered all the questions."

The Tigers entered Monday's Sugar Bowl knowing they were a long shot even to split the national title because they finished third in the BCS behind fellow unbeatens Southern Cal and Oklahoma.

Auburn's only hope was to beat Virginia Tech convincingly then have Oklahoma knock off USC in an ugly Orange Bowl, giving voters in the Associated Press media poll reason to pick the Tigers No. 1 and create another split title.

But the 16-13 victory was far from impressive. Auburn's offense lacked fire, and it gave up two long touchdowns late.

"We dominated the game for three-and-a-half quarters," Campbell said. "You can't look at the final score and judge us by that because if you were at the game and watched the game, you understood how we dominated the game."

While coach Tommy Tuberville opposes a playoff system, he does believe there's a better way. Let Auburn play the Orange Bowl champion next week in a winner-take-all game. Or get the top four teams and let them play each other in a miniplayoff.

"If you don't have a playoff, you should have an opportunity to have a share of it," Tuberville said. "Why not? They ought to give it to Utah and everyone who is undefeated."

Campbell and his teammates barely took time to celebrate their Sugar Bowl victory before making their pitch for No. 1. Tuesday morning, Campbell spent almost four minutes listing reasons why Auburn is the best team in the country.

Among them: Auburn allowed more than 20 points once, less than USC (twice) and Oklahoma (three times); five of Auburn's wins came against teams with 10 or more wins; USC had close wins against Cal and Virginia Tech while Oklahoma had slim victories over Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.

"We're national champions in our hearts, even if no one else thinks so," Campbell said. "We've got to have rings that have "National Champions' on them. I'd sport it anywhere."

Oh, he'll get that ring. Tuberville said he will give his players rings touting them as 13-0, SEC champs, Sugar Bowl winners and national champions.

"We really don't have to campaign," Tuberville said before going ahead and doing so one last time. "Somebody's going to pick us. I'll have my own poll."

Utah quarterback

declares for draft

SALT LAKE CITY _ Alex Smith already has his degree, a perfect season and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.

There's not much more for the Utah quarterback to accomplish, so he's leaving school a season early and entering the NFL draft.

"I just felt like this was the right opportunity for me to make the jump," Smith said.

Smith, 20, is 21-1 since taking over the starting job early in the 2003 season. He led Utah to a 12-0 season this fall, capped by a 35-7 win over Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl in which he threw four touchdowns. He finished the season with 32 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Smith, who received his economics degree last spring, will not attend graduate classes this semester. He plans to work out and try to bulk up his 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame.

Gil Brandt, the NFL's chief draft consultant, said he believes Smith is a "first-day" pick, meaning during the first three rounds.

WAC'S BEST DECLARES: Louisiana Tech's Ryan Moats will skip his final season. He rushed for 1,774 yards and 18 touchdowns in being named the WAC's player of the year this season.

UCF considers building on-campus stadium

ORLANDO _ Central Florida has explored the idea of building a stadium on its main campus and moving its home games from the Citrus Bowl, its home since the inaugural season in 1979.

A design being considered would cost about $40-million. Earlier estimates placed the price at nearly three times that amount. The stadium would be paid for and supported by boosters and ticket and concession sales. No state dollars would be used.

Construction could begin as early as this summer and be completed before the 2006 season, UCF officials said.



Chosen by the Football Writers Association of America and Scripps Howard News Service:


QB _ Chad Henne, Michigan

RB _ Michael Hart, Michigan

RB _ Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma

RB _ Jamario Thomas, North Texas

WR _ Todd Blythe, Iowa St. +

WR _ Dwayne Jarrett, USC

TE _ Zach Miller, Arizona St.

OL _ Sam Baker, USC

OL _ Kory Lichtensteiger, B. Green +

OL _ Jake Long, Michigan +

OL _ Barry Richardson, Clemson

OL _ Ryan Wendell, Fresno St.


DL _ Quentin Groves, Auburn +

DL _ Stanley McClover, Auburn +

DL _ Frank Okam, Texas

LB _ Dan Connor, Penn St.

LB _ Brandon Siler, Florida

LB _ Brian Toal, Boston College

LB _ Josh Williams, Arkansas St. +

CB _ Antoine Cason, Arizona

CB _ Roshaun Fellows, Tennessee +

S _ Quintin Demps, UTEP +

S _ Ko Simpson, South Carolina


K _ Travis Bell, Georgia Tech +

P _ Chris MacDonald, Arizona St. +

KR _ Kevin Robinson, Utah St.

PR _ Ted Ginn Jr., Ohio St.

+ Redshirt freshman