SEATTLE -- Stanford wants to win 10 games. Georgia Tech wants to make up for a season it felt got away.
Winning 10 "would be a great accomplishment," Cardinal coach Tyrone Willingham said Saturday. "I say at any level and at any program that a 10-win season is spectacular."
No. 11 Stanford (9-2) will face the Yellow Jackets (7-5) in the inaugural Seattle Bowl on Thursday at the Mariners' Safeco Field.
"Sure, we have something to prove," interim Georgia Tech coach Mac McWhorter said at a news conference.
"If you look at the preseason rankings and expectations, obviously we fell short of that. So this game offers us an opportunity to make amends."
Stanford wound up back in Seattle by winning its final four games - including Pac-10 victories over Arizona and California and a win over Notre Dame - after losing badly to Washington 42-28 at Husky Stadium on Nov. 3.
Like the Yellow Jackets, the Cardinal thought the season could have been better. Stanford is still muttering about the game that got away; a 45-39 loss to Washington State at home.
"I tell people that we were one game away from being in the national championship game," quarterback Randy Fasani said. "If we would have beaten Washington State, we would have been in the national championship game. I can honestly tell you we're one of the best teams in the country."
Stanford has the best record in Willingham's seven seasons there. His 1999 team lost to Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and went 8-4.
Willingham's name has been connected with other job possibilities. When he woke up in Seattle on Saturday morning, he read newspaper stories speculating that Washington coach Rick Neuheisel is being talked to by Notre Dame about its vacant football coaching job.
"I decided I'd probably call Neuheisel and tell him I had some friends who were interested in his job at Washington," Willingham said. "I thought he'd get a kick out of that."
Willingham said he decided not to make the call to Neuheisel, who is in San Diego preparing his Huskies team for the Holiday Bowl, because he didn't want to spoil Neuheisel's Christmas.
Under Willingham, the Cardinal have had their best season since 1992, when they won 10 games and beat Penn State in the Blockbuster Bowl under coach Bill Walsh. Willingham succeeded Walsh at Stanford in 1995.
Willingham said it was a good thing for the Stanford program to have his name keep showing up for other college coaching jobs.
"It should tell our young men in the program that they've done a great job and that we have an outstanding program when people would even think to consider their coach worthy of being a coach at another program," he said.
Stanford defensive end Marcus Hoover agreed.
"I think it's definitely a compliment," Hoover said. "We understand that coach Willingham's a legend and we hear it every year."
McWhorter, Georgia Tech's assistant head coach and offensive line coach, became the Yellow Jackets' interim coach when George O'Leary temporarily landed the Notre Dame job - only to lose it when he admitted lying about education and athletic accomplishments on his resume.
McWhorter, who has been an assistant at Tech for nine years in two different stints, would like to be considered as a permanent replacement. He said he wasn't sure where he stood and didn't know if a Georgia Tech win here would help him get the job.
"I'm not really concerned at this point with a quasi-audition for the job," he said. "I'm going to do the best I can for us to win the game."
While Stanford's players are familiar with Seattle, Georgia Tech's players are not. The Yellow Jackets are playing their first game in the Northwest. Georgia Tech's last West Coast appearance was in 1969, when it lost at Southern California.
Defensive end Nick Rogers and center David Schmidgall said their knowledge of Seattle was mainly gleaned from movies and television.
"I saw 'Sleepless in Seattle,"' Rogers said.
Schmidgall said he knew what he was going to do with some of his time here.
"I'm going to drink some coffee," he said.
Stanford and Georgia Tech are practicing at the Huskies' indoor practice facility on the Washington campus.
The Seattle Bowl on Saturday announced Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc.'s 989 Sports software brand has signed on as its title sponsor.