Auburn can't ride underdog status now

Updated: October 12, 2003, 8:02 PM ET

AUBURN, Ala. -- Bad news for Auburn: Mississippi State is not a Top 10 team. The Bulldogs aren't even ranked, and worse yet the Tigers will surely be favored for Saturday's game.

The 19th-ranked Tigers (4-2, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) are possibly the league's hottest team after beating two opponents ranked seventh nationally, re-entering both the Associated Press and coaches polls on Sunday.

One vote they didn't get in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll -- they were 25th -- was from Tommy Tuberville. Auburn's coach has seen his team rise to the occasion numerous times as the underdog and falter as the favorite.

His tongue-in-cheek reaction to the ranking?

"Well, we're disappointed," Tuberville said. "We were hoping we wouldn't move into either one of them."

Fat chance, coach. The Tigers have beaten Arkansas (10-3) and Tennessee (28-21) the past two weeks. Auburn and Mississippi (2-0) are the only SEC teams without a league loss with the Tigers' win over the Razorbacks and Florida's upset of LSU.

Tuberville's team has a nice track record against highly ranked teams, despite a season-opening, 23-0 loss to then-No. 8 Southern Cal. It's no wonder -- Auburn was ranked sixth and favored for that game.

Mississippi State (2-4, 1-1) is coming off wins over Vanderbilt and Memphis after an 0-4 start.

The Tigers have won six of their eight meetings with Top 10 teams since 2001 and five straight when unranked. Auburn has faced six opponents ranked in the Top 10 among its last nine games, twice as many as any other team in the country during that span.

"I can't put my finger on it," Tuberville said.

He admitted the Tigers probably did deserve to be ranked, but that doesn't change his preferred status with the oddsmakers.

"We still want to be the underdog," Tuberville said.

"We're a pretty good football team and probably should be ranked, but it doesn't really make any difference until the end of the year," he said. "We've got a lot of ballgames left and we've told our players, `Don't even look at those things because you can move out as quick as you can move in."

Auburn discovered that a month ago, disappearing from the rankings with two ugly losses.

Since then, the Tigers have outscored opponents 131-34 and 76-6 in the first half.

Tuberville wasn't exactly ecstatic about his team's performance against the Razorbacks, praising the effort and panning the execution.

"When you don't play very well and play ugly and win the game, it means you're doing something right," Tuberville said. "The guys played real hard, they laid it on the line. But we're going to have to continue to get better and be much more improved than how we played if we expect to move up the charts."

TIGER TALES:@ The players of the week were Carnell Williams (offense), Karlos Dansby and Spencer Johnson (defense) and Justin Fetsko (special teams) ... Tuberville expects defensive end Jay Ratliff (sprained ankle), tailback Ronnie Brown (strained hamstring) and cornerback Carlos Rogers (broken thumb) to return from injuries this week. Ratliff has missed the past four games while Rogers andBrown both were injured against Tennessee.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index