This is it, the final go-round for the BCS.
The much-maligned system for determining college football's national champion will be mothballed after this season, replaced by a four-team playoff next season.
As finales go, it's hard to argue too much about the final title-game participants. Florida State was the only major-conference team to finish undefeated and Auburn had the best resume of the one-loss teams.
That's the big one, but of course there are 34 other bowls, starting with four on Saturday, that will feature plenty of other good teams, star players and interesting match-ups.
To get you ready, we've got a rundown of what to look for:
BCS National Championship, Florida State vs. Auburn, Jan. 6, Pasadena, Calif. Duh.
Sugar Bowl, Alabama vs. Oklahoma, Jan. 2, New Orleans. Two storied programs that fell short of their national-title aspirations are still pretty good.
Orange Bowl, Ohio State vs. Clemson, Jan. 3, Miami. Teams that are a combined 45-5 since the start of last season and among the highest-scoring in college football.
Rose Bowl, Stanford vs. Michigan State, Jan. 1, Pasadena, Calif. If you like smash-mouth, defensive-minded football, this is your game.
AdvoCare V100 Bowl, Arizona vs. Boston College, Dec. 31, Shreveport, La. So what's so exciting about two 7-5 teams? Two All-American running backs going at each other: Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey and BC's Andre Williams.
Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State. Won the Heisman Trophy, playing for a national championship. Not a bad freshman season.
AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama. There will be no three-peat as national champion, but he's been as good a college quarterback as we've seen in a while.
C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama. Collects tackles like baseball cards.
Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona. Second nationally in yards per game, runs like he's trying to punish defenders for daring to tackle him.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M. Last year's Heisman winner could be making his last hurrah in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against Duke.
Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State. Arguably the most disruptive interior lineman in the country.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State. All-American can turn the simplest of routes into a score.
Food is king among bowl sponsors for the third straight season.
The 2013-14 bowl season includes seven bowls with food affiliations, from potatoes to pizza to wild wings.
Second on the list are financial companies with six and auto-related companies are third with five.
This year's bowl lineup also includes a helicopter company, a university, a defense contractor, a department store and a cause (Fight Hunger).
The folks at Glantz-Culver have made Florida State a decided favorite over Auburn in the national championship game at 8 1-2 points.
In the other bowls, the biggest spread is the Fiesta Bowl, where Baylor is a 16 1-2-point favorite over Central Florida. Right behind is the Pinstripe Bowl, with Notre Dame giving away 15 1-2 points to Rutgers. Alabama also is a 15-point favorite over Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
Tightest odds? San Diego State and Buffalo are a pick `em in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and three other bowls - Cotton, New Orleans and Capital One - all have 1-point spreads.
Florida State and Auburn will have to make quite a road trip to play for the final BCS championship despite being about 200 miles apart.
The Seminoles will cover about 2,200 miles to get to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., and the Tigers have a trip of roughly 2,100 miles to get there.
That's still not the longest road trip to a bowl. That distinction belongs to Boise State, which will travel about 2,800 miles to play Oregon State in the Hawaii Bowl. Central Florida also has a long trip ahead of it before the Fiesta Bowl, needing to go over 2,100 miles to get from Orlando to Glendale, Ariz.
Tulane has the shortest trip, staying in New Orleans for its bowl, but its opponent, Louisiana-Lafayette, doesn't exactly have to go far, traveling about 130 miles for the New Orleans Bowl. Rutgers has a short trip over about 45 minutes across the Hudson River - depending on traffic - for the Pinstripe Bowl against Notre Dame and Maryland should be able to get to the Military Bowl in Annapolis in about a half hour. North Texas has a similar drive to play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
2-Female officials (Sarah Thomas and Maia Chaka) working the Fight Hunger Bowl, a first for an FBS game.
13-Years since UNLV played in a bowl game. The Rebels will face North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
56-Years since Rice had won an outright conference title before taking the Conference USA championship this season.
624.5-Yards of offense per game by Baylor, most in the nation this season by over 50 yards and second-most all-time to the 624.9 by Houston in 1989.
4,866-Passing yards by Fresno State's Derek Carr, which led the nation.
NEW YORK (AP) -- While the New York Yankees set another salary record, the Houston Astros had the lowest average in the major leagues in 14 years and the attention of the players' union.
The overall big league average rose 5.4 percent this season to a record $3.39 million, according to the annual report released Wednesday by the Major League Baseball Players Association. The increase was the steepest since 2006.
In the economy at large, civilian compensation is increasing at an annual rate of 1.9 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average U.S. wage in 2012 was $42,498, according to the Social Security Administration.
The Yankees had the highest average for the 15th consecutive season at $8.17 million, breaking the mark of $7.66 million when they won the World Series in 2009. The Los Angeles Dodgers were second at $7.82 million.
Houston's average of $549,603 was the smallest since the 1999 Kansas City Royals at $534,460. The Miami Marlins were 29th at $830,069, down from $3.77 million in 2012, when they ranked 10th.
Baseball's collective bargaining agreement requires a team to use revenue-sharing money it receives "in an effort to improve its performance on the field." The Marlins had been required to raise player payroll annually from 2010-12 under an agreement between MLB and the union.
However, the issue is being dealt with under a provision in the collective bargaining agreement that gradually eliminates the 15 teams in the largest markets from receiving revenue sharing, and the Astros are 15th. Under that provision, those clubs forfeited 25 percent of the money this year, half in 2014, 75 percent the following year and all in 2016.
"We are watching both clubs closely, but were already aware what their 2013 spending would be and that there wasn't enough there to move beyond acknowledging as much," new union head Tony Clark said in an email to The Associated Press. "With Houston a big factor is their impending `market disqualification.' For Miami, they actually have a long-range plan that suggests they will make the considerations necessary to be compliant.
"That said, both clubs are being monitored, and MLB recognizes that there is a potential for a dispute if the clubs do not move in the right direction."
World Series champion Boston was fourth at $5.46 million, just behind Detroit at $5.53 million. St. Louis, which won the NL pennant, was 10th at $3.75 million.
Tampa Bay had the lowest ranking among the 10 playoff teams and was 24th at $2.13 million.
Among regulars at positions, designated hitters took over from first basemen for the highest average at $10.5 million. First basemen were next at $6.5 million, followed by starting pitchers at $6.3 million, second basemen at $5.8 million, outfielders at $5.6 million, third basemen at $5.2 million, shortstops at $4.5 million, catchers at $4.4 million and relief pitchers at $2.2 million,
Figures are based on Aug. 31 rosters and disabled lists, with 940 players averaging $3,386,212. Major League Baseball, which uses slightly different methods, calculated its average at $3,320,089, an increase of 6.9 percent.
The Cardinals have made another move to improve their hitting against left-handed pitching.
The team announced they have signed infielder Mark Ellis to a one-year deal. Ellis has spent more than 11 seasons in the majors. Last year, Ellis was with the Dodgers and hit .270 with 48 RBI.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- David Backes scored 22 seconds into overtime on a breakaway and the St. Louis Blues rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 Saturday night.
Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice and Chris Stewart tied it with 6:27 remaining in regulation for St. Louis, which entered tied for the fewest regulation losses in the league with six and have now won three straight and four of five. Brenden Morrow added two assists and Jaroslav Halak made 30 saves for the Blues.
On the winner, Columbus lost the puck at its blue line. Backes took it, fended off Fedor Tyutin on a delayed penalty call then deked Mike McKenna and calmly scored with a high shot.
Tyutin, Artem Anisimov and Ryan Johansen scored for Columbus, which came out flying to take a 3-1 lead after the first period. It was a tough loss for the Blue Jackets, who had won four of five, jelling around their backup goalies with last season's Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovksy on the shelf.
Third stringer and St. Louis native McKenna was back in net for the second straight game, making his first start since 2010 while playing for New Jersey, which was also against the Blues. On Thursday, in a 4-2 win at the New York Rangers, he stopped 17 of 18 shots in relief of an injured Curtis McElhinney.
But in this one, the Blue Jackets and McKenna couldn't hold down the fort.
Trailing 3-2 to start the third period, St. Louis pulled even after Nick Foligno and Mark Letestu couldn't convert on breakaway chances. Seconds after Letestu fired high into the glass, a puck bouncing through traffic found Stewart down low and he wasted no time converting his seventh at 13:33.
Tarasenko staked St. Louis to the early lead. Catching a fortuitous carom off Blue Jackets' Dalton Prout and with McKenna leaning toward the initial play, he scored from the slot at 4:10 of the first on the Blues' second shot.
Columbus answered with three goals in just under five minutes.
Blake Comeau powered his way around Kevin Shattenkirk and slid a short pass to near the crease where Anisimov chipped home his ninth at 8:49. Tyutin followed two minutes later with a blast from the point for his third after a hard Blue Jackets' forecheck led to a St. Louis turnover.
Then things heated up after the whistle with Columbus on the power play. Matt Calvert fought Ian Cole near the Blues goal while Barret Jackman and Folingo squared off. Cole took an extra roughing penalty giving the Blue Jackets a two-man advantage. Johansen cashed in 8 seconds later at the left dot, taking Brandon Dubinsky's feed across the circles, and firing the puck past Halak for his team-leading 12th goal.
St. Louis pressed the issue early in the second period but McKenna made several nice saves, including one with his leg pad on Vladimir Sobotka.
Tarasenko finally broke through for St. Louis, notching his second and 11th of the season, snapping a screened shot from the left circle on the power play at 8:33.
The teams had a combined eight minor penalties in the period with St. Louis whistled for five of them. Halak stoned Foligno from point-blank range late in the period with the Blue Jackets on another two-man advantage.
NOTES: Columbus coach Todd Richards said injured F Marian Gaborik (sprained knee) and D James Wisniewski (upper body) may return next week. RW Nathan Horton continues to progress in his rehab after having shoulder surgery in July. ... The Blue Jackets added Jeremy Smith to their roster on emergency recall from their AHL affiliate to be McKenna's back up. ... McKenna, who played for St. Louis' AHL affiliate last season, has played in 19 games in the NHL with New Jersey, Tampa Bay and Columbus, going 5-9-2. His father is an off-ice official and scorer for the Blues. ... Johansen extended his career-high points streak to eight games, totaling four goals and six assists. ... St. Louis improved to 11-3 versus the Eastern Conference this season. ... The Blue Jackets had won four in a row at home.
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Just like two years ago, a St. Louis Rams team going nowhere jumped on the playoff-bound New Orleans Saints early and never let them up.
Drew Brees threw interceptions that led to touchdowns on the Saints' first two possessions and the Rams got big days from Zac Stacy, Robert Quinn and on special teams in a 27-16 victory Sunday.
"When you looked at their sideline, they realized, `Oh gosh, like, here we go again,'" Rams defensive end Chris Long said. "We hit `em early, and they were reeling."
The Rams were 0-6 and double-digit underdogs before upsetting the Saints in 2011. St. Louis was 2-14 that year and New Orleans went 13-3.
Everything went sour fast for the 10-win Saints. Brees was intercepted on the first snap, and again in the second series, and the Saints played catch-up all day.
"You want to talk about waking the whole place up," Brees said. "That did it."
Quinn had two sacks, giving him an NFC-leading 15, for a pass rush that took the heat off a young secondary. His quarterback hit on the Saints' first snap of the game altered the flight of the ball on T.J. McDonald's interception, and he had a sack, strip and fumble recovery to keep the Saints down in the third quarter.
Coach Sean Payton benched left tackle Charlie Brown after that play and shifted left tackle Zack Strief to the right side in an attempt to neutralize Quinn.
"I saw enough. Period. I mean, enough," Payton said.
The Saints (10-4) missed their first chance to clinch a playoff berth, trailing 24-3 at the half, but made it look respectable with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. They're unbeaten at home, but just 3-4 on the road and play at Carolina with the NFC South lead on the line next week.
The Saints are averaging 32.9 points at home, with five of the wins by double-digits including playoff hopefuls Dallas and Arizona. They're averaging just 18.4 points on the road with the three wins by eight, four and two points.
Kellen Clemens threw for two TDs in the first quarter, matching his best performance in seven games as the fill-in starter for Sam Bradford. The Rams (6-8) recovered an onside kick to set up a field goal in the first quarter, and Michael Brockers blocked a field-goal attempt at the end of the half.
Brees was 39 for 56 for 393 yards, but with just one touchdown, and threw two interceptions in the first quarter for the first time in a decade.
The Rams played one of their strongest games of the year a week after getting eliminated, and the franchise is assured of a 10th consecutive season without a winning record.
St. Louis' offense had a nice day against Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who had an extended interview with the Rams in January before joining New Orleans.
"When people change their mind, they change their mind, and I was fine with that," coach Jeff Fisher said. "He's a good coach."
Stacy shook off an early hip injury scare and set a franchise rookie record with 106 yards by halftime, bettering the likes of Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, Steven Jackson and Jerome Bettis. Stacy finished with 132 yards on 27 carries.
"Questionable? Nah, I was never questionable," Stacy said. "I was always going back. I'm a competitor."
Brees scored on a 1-yard sneak and threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston with 3:07 to go. The Saints recovered an onside kick, but their comeback ended when Garrett Hartley was wide left on a 26-yard field-goal attempt.
Last week, Brees became the fastest in NFL history to 50,000 yards passing while throwing for four TDs in a 31-13 victory over Carolina at home.
Cory Harkey broke three tackles on a 31-yard touchdown catch the first play - just his seventh reception of the year after Brees' first interception.
Brees floated a rollout aimed at Jimmy Graham, who was in triple-coverage, and Trumaine Johnson snared another underthrown pass at the goal line. The Rams drove 93 yards, helped by a pair of personal penalties, and made it 14-0 on Clemens' 4-yard pass to a wide-open Lance Kendricks.
The Rams followed up with perfect execution on an onside kick by kicker Greg Zuerlein recovered in the air by a leaping Stedman Bailey, setting up a field goal for a 17-0 cushion early in the second quarter.
Clemens got a chance to use the victory formation the Rams practice after Brockers blocked Hartley's 36-yard field-goal attempt with 2 seconds left.
Notes: Former Rams two-time Pro Bowl QB Marc Bulger, holding his daughter, was introduced during the break while Stacy was helped off the field. ... According to STATS, the first seven games, the Saints forced 15 turnovers and scored 48 points. They had no turnovers or sacks against the Rams, and over the last seven games they have just two takeaways.
AP NFL website: WWW.PRO32.AP.ORG