PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — A look at the BCS championship game Monday night between top-ranked Florida State and No. 2 Auburn at the Rose Bowl.
DEE-FENSE: Auburn's defense was supposed to be a major question mark in this game after the Tigers earned a suspect reputation with shaky performances throughout the season. But they held Florida State's high-powered offense to 156 yards in the first half on 4.7 per play.
Auburn even stopped the Seminoles twice on one drive, overcoming a roughing-the-punter penalty that gave FSU a first down.
Meanwhile, there's a huge hole behind the linebackers in the middle of the Florida State defense. With the Seminoles geared up to slow Auburn's prolific ground attack, QB Nick Marshall keeps exploiting the middle of the field with wide-open receivers. Marshall is not known for his proficiency as a passer. Can he keep it up in the second half?
STILL IN IT: Florida State got a brief reprieve when Auburn missed a 33-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter, and the Seminoles later faked a punt to convert on fourth-and-4 late in the period. Jameis Winston led a touchdown drive that got FSU back in it at 21-10 after Devonta Freeman's 3-yard run with 1:28 left in the half.
Seminoles get the ball to start the second half and coach Jimbo Fisher says he likes where his team is going into halftime. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn says Tigers will try to wear down FSU in the second half. Auburn had the ball for almost 17 minutes in the opening half and was 8 of 12 on third down to 2 for 8 for Florida State.
Chris Fowler on ESPN just said the team leading at halftime is undefeated in BCS championship games. The Seminoles are down at halftime for the first time all season.
HEISMAN HISTORY LESSON: From Vinny Testaverde to Chris Weinke and Sam Bradford, plenty of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks have struggled in the national championship game. In the BCS era, QBs who had just won college football's biggest individual prize are 2-5 in national title games.
There must be something to it — not just coincidence. These Heisman winners spend much of December accepting awards and congratulations on the rubber-chicken circuit, going to banquets halfway around the country instead of the film room. Not exactly the best way to prepare for a top-notch defense itching to get its shot at the player getting all the hype.
This is turning into one of those nightmares so far for Winston, who fumbled in his own territory in the second quarter, leading to Auburn's third touchdown and a 21-3 Tigers lead. Nick Marshall ran it in from 4 yards out.
Winston, on his 20th birthday, was 6 of 15 for 62 yards in the first half — and he took some solid hits. Hasn't seen that kind of pressure all season. He did make some key plays on FSU's touchdown drive, scrambling for a big first down.
WIDE OPEN: Gus Malzahn and his up-tempo Auburn offense have Florida State fooled right now. Tigers just went 85 yards on three plays, capped by a 50-yard TD pass from Nick Marshall to Melvin Ray. WIDE open down the middle. Auburn faked a jet sweep and it appeared Marshall actually had his choice of two open receivers on the play. Tigers lead 14-3 early in the second quarter and just got the ball back.
IN FRONT: Auburn catches Florida State in a blitz on third-and-9 and Nick Marshall hits Tre Mason with a little swing pass for a 12-yard touchdown. Well-blocked, nicely executed. The extra point gives Auburn a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter. ESPN graphic alerts viewers that it's the first time Florida State has trailed since Sept. 28 at Boston College. Wow.
Anyone who thought Auburn didn't match up in this game, that's out the window. The Tigers may not win, but they certainly match up athletically with FSU on both sides of the ball.
BIG NUMBER: Sure, Florida State beat its opponents by an average of 43 points this season and won every game by at least two touchdowns. But was anyone else surprised to see the Seminoles favored by 10 points in this game? Last time we checked, the SEC had won seven national championships in a row, right? That schedule for FSU was far from a gauntlet.
STAYING READY: Auburn punter Steven Clark wasn't needed much down the stretch as the Tigers rolled up points with their high-powered offense. But he just pinned Florida State on its own 2-yard line. Auburn holds and gets great field position after Chris Davis' punt return.
ON THE BOARD: The first drive for Jameis Winston and Florida State results in a 35-yard field goal by Roberto Aguayo. Seminoles lead 3-0.
FIRST SERIES: Tre Mason goes for 11 yards on Auburn's first play, but then Florida State stiffens on two running plays to force third-and-7. Ricardo Louis, who caught that crazy, deflected Hail Mary to beat Georgia, was WIDE open deep downfield but dropped a throw at his knees. Underthrown a bit by Nick Marshall, but Louis could have caught it — and he might have scored if he did. TV shows FSU secondary confused trying to get lined up properly on the play. After squandering a great opportunity, Tigers have to punt it away.
LUCKY CHARM: Florida State coaching great Bobby Bowden and 1985 Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson from Auburn were the honorary captains for the coin toss. The Seminoles won the toss and deferred to the second half, giving Nick Marshall and the Tigers the ball first.
And we're underway at the Rose Bowl in the final BCS championship game.
GOVERNOR'S PICK: Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who along with his wife, Ann, was decked out in garnet as they entered the Rose Bowl, predicted a huge win for Florida State.
"It's exciting to be the governor when we're going to win a national championship," Scott said. "It's exciting to beat Auburn. It would have been exciting to beat Alabama or Auburn. It's going to be a big win. I predict 47-10 will be the score. It's not even going to be close."
Scott made the traditional bet with Alabama Gov. Robert J. Bentley, putting up a key lime pie against a gallon of lemonade from Toomer's Drugs on the Auburn campus.
"I'm looking forward to the lemonade," Scott said. "I hope Governor Bentley's already sent the lemonade for our bet. There's no chance I'll have to send any key lime pie to him."
STAR POWER: The sidelines at the Rose Bowl before the BCS championship game were filled with celebrities from around the sports world. In one corner of the field, Heisman Trophy winners Charlie Ward and Johnny Manziel spoke with Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
John Salley, a two-time NBA champion with the Detroit Pistons, was seen walking through the crowd.
Minnesota Vikings and former Seminoles quarterback Christian Ponder was on the Florida State sideline with wife and ESPN reporter Samantha.
Heisman winner and Auburn running back Bo Jackson was also on the field before the game.
Florida State starters listed on the press box depth charts:
Offense: QB Jameis Winston; FB Chad Abram; TB Devonta Freeman; WR Rashad Greene; WR Kelvin Benjamin; WR Kenny Shaw; TE Nick O'Leary; LT Cameron Erving; LG Josue Matias; C Bryan Stork; RG Tre' Jackson; R Bobby Hart.
Defense: LE Eddie Goldman; DT Nile Lawrence-Stample; NG Timmy Jernigan; RE Mario Edwards Jr.; SLB Christian Jones; MLB Terrance Smith; WLB Telvin Smith; CB P.J. Williams; CB Lamarcus Joyner; CB Ronald Darby; SS Terrance Brooks; FS Jalen Ramsey.
Specialists: K Roberto Aguyao; P Cason Beatty; LS Phillip Doumar; H Cason Beatty; PR Kenny Shaw; KR Karlos Williams; KR Kermit Whitfield.
Auburn starters listed on the press box depth charts:
Offense: QB Nick Marshall; RB Tre Mason; H-B Jay Prosch; TE C.J. Uzomah; WR Sammie Coates; WR Quan Bray; LT Greg Robinson; LG Alex Kozan; C Reese Dismukes; RG Chad Slade; RT Avery Young.
Defense: DE Dee Ford; DT Nosa Eguae; DT Gabe Wright; DE LaDarius Owens; MLB Jake Holland; WLB Cassanova McKinzy; STAR Robenson Therezie; CB Jonathon Mincy; FS Jermain Whitehead; BS Ryan Smith; CB Chris Davis.
Specialists: K Cody Parkey; P Steven Clark; LS Jake Lembke; H Ryan White; KR Corey Grant; PR Chris Davis.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Florida State star Jameis Winston turned 20 on Monday. Seminoles fans serenaded him with Happy Birthday about 40 minutes before the game. Winston is the youngest player to win the Heisman Trophy and would be the first freshman quarterback to lead his team to a BCS championship.
COMMISSIONERS: SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and his predecessor, Roy Kramer, shared a handshake and a brief laugh on the sideline at the Rose Bowl about 90 minutes before kickoff.
Slive took over for Kramer in 2003 and since then the SEC has become the dominant conference in college football, winning the last seven national titles and raking in billions of dollars for its members.
Kramer laid the groundwork from 1990-2002, expanding the SEC to 12 teams and creating the conference championship game, The BCS was also his brainchild. He was scheduled to be honored on the field before kickoff of the final BCS championship game between No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Auburn.
TEBOW TIME: Tim Tebow was part of ESPN's blowout coverage of the BCS championship, sharing a set with Mark May and Lou Holtz on the sideline at the Rose Bowl.
Sporting a snug gray suit, Tebow was on the set chatting with colleague Rece Davis when Auburn's band strolled by about two hours before kickoff.
"Oh my God, that's Tim Tebow," a band member exclaimed.
Davis said the new guy was working out well. "He watched film of each game the teams have played," Davis said.
Tebow recently signed a deal with ESPN to be part of the SEC Network, which launches next season.
The ESPN "BCS Megacast included coverage on all its TV networks, ESPN3 online, at ESPN.com and on the Twitter handles @ESPNCFB and @COLLEGEGAMEDAY, hashtags #FSUvsAUB and #BCS