Auburn makes claim for No. 1

The Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, Fla. Too bad the Auburn Tigers can't vote in The Associated Press poll. If they could, they would be No. 1 instead of Penn State.

The Tigers staked their claim to the top spot Saturday by beating then-No. 1 Florida 36-33 for their 18th straight victory.

Auburn fullback Joe Frazier posed a rhetorical question when asked about the rankings.

"When you're a little kid and play king of the mountain, where are you when you knock him off?" he said.

Coach Terry Bowden, still unbeaten in two seasons at Auburn, left no doubt about his opinion.

"This was our Super Bowl," he said. "To me, this makes us No. 1."

AP voters didn't agree Sunday, placing the Tigers (7-0) at No. 4, two spots higher than last week. Penn State (6-0) moved up to No. 1, followed by Colorado (6-0) and Nebraska (7-0). Penn State also is No. 1 in the USA Today-CNN coaches' poll, which doesn't include probation teams like Auburn.

Florida coach Steve Spurrier declined to pick a No. 1 team.

"I think there should be playoffs," he said. "Until there is, it's just a popularity contest."

It may be difficult for Auburn to win the AP championship because the Tigers can't play in a bowl. But if they complete a second straight perfect season, they'll be hard to ignore.

"I want us to be recognized as a great football team," Bowden said after Auburn handed Florida, now ranked No. 5, its first Southeastern Conference home loss in five years.

Auburn won it on Patrick Nix's 8-yard touchdown pass to Frank Sanders with 30 seconds left. Nix kept the drive alive with a clutch 14-yard pass to Thomas Bailey on fourth-and-10 from the Florida 42.

"When our defense got them into fourth-and-10, I thought we had stopped them and were going to win the game," said Florida receiver Chris Doering. "But Auburn made the play."

Auburn made a lot of big plays, including Brian Robinson's third interception of the game with 1:20 left, which set up the winning 55-yard drive.

"When we got the ball back that last time, I thought God was giving me a chance to do something special," said Nix, who passed for 319 yards and three touchdowns.

Auburn cornerback Chris Shelling said Florida (5-1), which routed its first five opponents, got flustered in a close game where the lead changed four times in the fourth quarter.

"It was a battle and Florida is not used to being in a battle," Shelling said. "They did not know what to do in that predicament."

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