Unlike most other sports in North America, no official minor league farm organizations exist in American or Canadian football. Therefore, college football is generally considered to be the second tier of American football in the United States and Canadian football in Canada; one step ahead of high school competition, and one step below professional competition. However, in some areas of the country, college football is more popular than professional football, and for much of the early 20th century, college football was seen as more prestigious than professional football.
It is in college football where a player's performance directly impacts his chances of playing professional football. The best collegiate players will typically declare for the professional draft after three to four years of collegiate competition, with the NFL holding its annual NFL draft every spring in which 256 players are selected annually. Those not selected can still attempt to land an NFL roster spot as an undrafted free agent. (Full article...)
Virginia Tech was selected as a participant in the game after winning the ACC football championship during the team's first year in the conference. Tech, which finished 10–2 in the regular season prior to the Sugar Bowl, defeated 16th-ranked Virginia and ninth-ranked Miami en route to the game. Auburn finished the regular season undefeated and 12–0. The Tigers defeated fourth-ranked LSU and fifth-ranked Georgia during the course of the season, and were one of five teams to finish the regular season undefeated. The other undefeated teams were Southern California, Oklahoma, Utah, and Boise State, with USC and Oklahoma being selected to play in the Bowl Championship Series national championship game. Auburn, by virtue of its lower ranking in the BCS poll, was left out of the national championship and was selected to play in the Sugar Bowl.
Pre-game media coverage of the game focused on Auburn being left out of the national championship game, a point of controversy for Auburn fans and other observers in the weeks leading up to the game. Much was made of that fact and the success of Auburn running backsCarnell Williams and Ronnie Brown, each of whom were considered among the best at their position. On the Virginia Tech side, senior quarterbackBryan Randall had a record-breaking season and was predicted to continue his success in the Sugar Bowl. Both teams also had high-ranked defenses, and Tech's appearance in the 2000 Sugar Bowl also was mentioned in the runup to the game.
The 2005 Sugar Bowl kicked off on January 3, 2005 at 8:00 p.m. EST. Early in the first quarter, the Tigers took a 3–0 lead. Following an interception by the Auburn defense, the Tigers were able to extend their lead to 6–0. In the second quarter, another field goal resulted in three points for the Tigers. At halftime, Auburn led, 9–0. Auburn opened the second half with its first and only touchdown drive of the game, giving Auburn a 16–0 lead, which it held into the fourth quarter. In that quarter, Tech scored its first touchdown of the game but did not convert the two-point try, making the score 16–6. Late in the quarter, Tech quarterback Bryan Randall cut Auburn's lead to 16–13 on an 80-yard pass that resulted in another touchdown. With almost no time remaining in the game, Virginia Tech was forced to attempt an onside kick to have another chance on offense. When Auburn recovered the kick, the Tigers were able to run out the clock and secure the win. In recognition of his game-winning performance, Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell was named the game's most valuable player.
Despite Auburn's victory and the Tigers' undefeated season, they were not named national champions. That honor went to the University of Southern California, which defeated Oklahoma in the 2005 national championship game. Three voters in the final Associated Press poll of the season voted Auburn the number one team in the country, but their votes were not enough to deny USC a national championship, as voted by members of the Associated Press and Coaches' polls. Several players from each team were selected in the 2005 NFL Draft and went on to careers in the National Football League.