The Sugar Bowl has the touch of a neighborhood brawl with a high national ranking at stake when Florida State tangles with Auburn in the Louisiana Superdome Monday night.
Both teams carry 10-1 records into the 7:30 p.m. CST battle that will be televised nationally by ABC.Fourth-ranked FSU, armed with an explosive offense that has averaged 40 points per game, is riding a 10-game winning streak since an embarrassing 31-0 loss to defending national champion Miami in the season opener.
The Seminoles started the year ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason poll.
Auburn, ranked No. 7, has fashioned a six-game winning streak since a 7-6 loss to Louisiana State that cost the Tigers a shot at this year's national crown.
The Tigers will try to stop FSU's high-powered offense with a defense that led the nation in three categories - scoring (7.2 points per game), total defense (218 yards) and rushing defense (63 yards).
"Both teams will be playing as if they are playing for the national championship," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said.
"That's the only way to go at it," he added. "And, if some strange things should happen, who knows. But, in my opinion, we're all fighting for No. 2, and that isn't bad."
The national title is expected to be settled in the Fiesta Bowl where the nation's only two unbeaten teams collide - No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 3 West Virginia.
Besides Auburn and FSU, four other teams enter Monday's bowl season finales with only one loss - Miami, Southern Cal, Nebraska and Arkansas.
"Florida State is a great football team, as good as anybody in the country and playing as good as anybody in the country right now," Auburn coach Pat Dye said.
"It's a team a lot like we are," Dye said. "It does not have any glaring weakness. They have the best secondary we've played against."
The leader of the FSU secondary is All-American Deion Sanders, the nation's punt return leader with 503 yards on 33 attempts.
Sanders ran afoul of the law in a Christmas Eve incident when he was arrested on charges of battery on a police officer and disorderly conduct.