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Happy New Year From Atlanta

Let's face it. It's hard to get excited about playing in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl when less than a year ago you were the toast of the college football world. Then again, when you think back to the blowout losses to LSU, Georgia and Alabama, you feel grateful to be going anywhere.

As expected, Auburn's season will conclude in Atlanta on New Year's Eve against the Virginia Cavaliers - not Frank Beamer's Hokies as widely speculated. Consider it a break that Auburn will face a four-loss Virginia team instead of Virginia Tech, who prior to Saturday night's loss to Clemson was ranked third in the Coaches Poll.

So what do we know about Virginia? If you're like me, you had to double check to see if they were still playing football. After legendary coach George Welsh retired in 2000, the program seemed to go into the witness protection program.

After going 4-8 last season under first-year coach Mike London, the Cavaliers surprised everyone in the ACC by finishing 8-4. Last week, London was named ACC Coach of the Year. Notable wins include games against Miami, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Maryland. Their losses were to North Carolina, Southern Miss, NC State and Virginia Tech.

On the surface, this looks like an evenly matched game. It should also help ticket demand among Tiger fans. There didn't seem to be a big appetite to see Auburn get possibly pounded into submission by Tech or face Clemson a second time. Auburn people will likely bite on this matchup.

Auburn last faced Virginia in a home-and-home series during the 1997 and 1998 seasons. Terry Bowden's Tigers grabbed a 28-17 win in Charlottesville, VA in 1997 and lost the following season at home on a Thursday night in the season opener, 19-0.

The latest coaching rumor mill has Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn high on the list of candidates at Kansas. This comes in a tweet last night from ESPN's Joe Schad. Considering Schad's track record, you can read whatever you want into it.

Malzahn also remains a candidate at North Carolina, although according to Phillip Marshall at Auburn Undercover, he's not their top choice.

Here's reason number 100 why Ole Miss should be kicked hard from the SEC. Apparently their coaching search has now turned toward Arkansas State coach Hugh Freeze. A former assistant coach under Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss, Freeze led Arkansas State to the Sun Belt title this season in his first year as head coach.

Why would a school that's competing against Auburn, Alabama, LSU and Arkansas look to a coach with one year of Division I head coaching experience? You guessed it, because they'll always be Ole Miss.

If I had a Heisman ballot, my top four would look like this: 1. Robert Griffin III (Baylor) 2. Andrew Luck (Stanford) 3. Trent Richardson (Alabama) 4. Matt Barkley (USC).

Griffin has clearly been the best player in college football. He has thrown for 4,000 yards and 36 touchdowns this season playing in the Big 12.

I don't like the trend of winners always having to play on national championship contenders. The award is for the top player in college football, not the top player on the top team. You'll remember Bo Jackson played on an Auburn team that lost four games in 1985. We may never see another winner with that many losses in a year.

While Alabama is the last team I want playing for the national title, I think the voters got it right. Alabama's loss at home in overtime to top-ranked LSU trumps Oklahoma State's loss at Iowa State. It's all voters and fans have to go on in this very flawed system.

It's insane that college football still doesn't have a playoff system. Like Auburn in 2004, we'll never know how Oklahoma State would have matched up with LSU and that's a shame. While I believe the voters got it right under the present system, I don't know who the better team is between the Cowboys and the Tide.

How can something so easy to fix be so hard to implement?