Can AJ McCarron lead Alabama back to the BCS championship game?
We're heading into the ninth week of the college football season, which means it's time to start projecting where the top teams in the country could be headed in the postseason.
There's obviously still a lot of football left to be played, and there are crucial games to be played that will have a huge impact on how everything shakes out.
At this point, however, here's a look at how the 35 bowl pairings could pan out.
West Virginia and Stanford look like they're missing a crucial element that's needed to win a conference championship. The Mountaineers don't have the proper pieces on defense, while the Cardinal are lacking at the quarterback position.
Still, these are two quality teams that should be able to finish strong and end up in a quality bowl.
The Alamo Bowl is supposed to pit the third-best team in the Big 12 against the second-best team from the Pac-12. Assuming each conference puts two teams in BCS bowl games, that would seem to be right where these teams stack up in their respective leagues.
The Armed Forces Bowl will be a matchup between teams out of Conference USA and the Mountain West.
Given the nature of the bowl game, officials would love to have a service academy like Air Force if it's available. The Falcons are 4-3, but they should be able to beat Army and Hawaii to get to the six wins it takes to become bowl eligible.
Houston has not looked to be anywhere close to the team that went 13-1 last season. However, the Cougars do have three wins and still have three winnable games on their schedule against UTEP, Marshall and Tulane.
This bowl is supposed to feature the fifth-best team in the Big East and the ninth-best team in the SEC. However, with the way things are headed, there's a good chance that both of those conference won't have enough bowl-eligible teams to fill the slots, especially if the SEC, as expected, gets two teams into BCS bowl games.
That could leave the BBVA Compass Bowl scrambling to find eligible teams from non-BCS conferences.
Seeing as how the WAC only has one bowl tie-in and the Sun Belt only has two bowl tie-ins this year, those would seem like logical places to find eligible teams.
This potential matchup between Utah State out of the WAC and Arkansas State out of the Sun Belt would feature a great quarterback battle between the Aggies' Chuckie Keeton and the Red Wolves' Ryan Aplin.
This game is supposed to feature teams from the Big East and Conference USA. However, there's a good chance that the Big East might not have enough bowl-eligible teams.
If that's the case, the bowl would likely invite an eligible team from the Sun Belt, which could end up being Louisiana-Lafayette, which is 4-2.
SMU is 3-4, but the Mustangs do have three winnable games against Memphis, Southern Miss and Rice left on their schedule. If they win all three, they'll be bowl eligible for the fourth straight year.
Cincinnati looks like it's destined to finish in third place in the Big East behind Rutgers and Louisville, which means that the Bearcats will probably wind up in the Belk Bowl.
There, they'll face a team from the ACC, which could end up being Duke, which just clinched bowl eligibility with its sixth win, beating North Carolina on Saturday.
The Blue Devils haven't made an appearance in the postseason since the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl.
Michigan State and Texas have been two of the most disappointing teams in the country this season.
The Spartans and the Longhorns were both expected to compete for conference championships, but instead, they'll likely end up in Arizona for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
In each of the past two years, the Capital One Bowl has featured an SEC team blowing out and embarrassing a Big Ten team. However, if this year's matchup ends up being LSU and Wisconsin, it could end up being a very competitive affair.
If the Tigers lose to Alabama on Nov. 3 and don't make it to the SEC championship game, they likely won't get the conference's at-large BCS bid. That means they'll likely end up in Orlando.
If Wisconsin wins the Big Ten Leaders Division but comes up short in the conference championship game against the Legends winner, the Badgers will likely join LSU to create a pretty intriguing matchup.
Clemson is clearly one of the top two teams in the ACC. But since the Tigers came up short against Florida State, which happens to be in the ACC Atlantic Division with them, they're going to need the Seminoles to lose in order to get to Charlotte for the conference championship game.
If Clemson can't overtake Florida State, Dabo Swinney's squad will likely get picked by the ACC's No. 2 bowl, the Chick-fil-A.
The Tigers will square off with a quality SEC opponent in Atlanta, which could end up being Texas A&M. The Aggies are 5-2 and have three winnable games against Auburn, Sam Houston State and Missouri left on their schedule.
Mississippi State and Texas Tech are teams that have surpassed expectations this season.
The Bulldogs will likely lose to Alabama and LSU in the coming weeks, but they still have a good shot to finish 10-2.
The 6-1 Red Raiders will likely lose to Kansas State this week, but they should also finish with a strong record as well.
Following a 5-0 start, Northwestern has lost two games in the past three weeks, which has dropped its Big Ten record to 2-2.
Still, the Wildcats have six wins, and they should pick up a few more in the weeks to come, which should help ensure them a spot in one of the Big Ten's better bowl games.
If Pat Fitzgerald's squad makes it to the Gator Bowl, one of the top teams out of the SEC East, most likely Georgia, will be there waiting for the Wildcats.
This bowl will pit top teams from the MAC and Sun Belt.
Toledo looks like its on track to make it to the MAC championship game out of the West Division, while Louisiana-Monroe seems to be the team to beat in the Sun Belt.
If these teams do end up in Mobile, the GoDaddy.com Bowl could turn into a huge offensive shootout. These are two of the best offenses outside of the BCS conferences.
Derek Carr and Robbie Rouse
The Hawaii Bowl would love to have the University of Hawaii's football team in this game, but considering the Warriors are 1-5, it doesn't seem like that's going to happen.
Instead, the bowl will feature another team out of the Mountain West, most likely Fresno State, battling one of the top teams from Conference USA, possibly East Carolina.
The Heart of Dallas Bowl, formerly known as the Ticket City Bowl, will pit one of the bottom-feeders from the Big Ten against a team out of Conference USA
Iowa is 4-3, but the Hawkeyes still have Indiana on their schedule, and they should be able to pull off an upset to get to the required six wins to meet eligibility requirements.
Central Florida appears to be on course to win the Conference USA East Division. But the problem is, the Knights were banned from the postseason by the NCAA over the summer.
The school did appeal the decision, however, and there's still a chance the Knights could end up in a bowl game this year.
The Holiday Bowl could feature a lot of black and orange in the stands if Oregon State and Oklahoma State meet up in San Diego.
The Beavers may be undefeated at this point, but they still have two tough games against Stanford and Oregon left on their schedule. There's a good chance that they could slip up a few times in the final weeks.
But Mike Riley's squad should still end up in a quality bowl game.
The Independence Bowl is supposed to feature a matchup between teams out of the ACC and the SEC. However, there's a chance that the SEC may not have enough bowl-eligible teams.
Maryland could be the team out of the ACC. The Terrapins are 4-3, but they have winnable games against Boston College, Georgia Tech and North Carolina left on their schedule.
If there's no SEC team available, bowl officials will have to look elsewhere, and they may find that team in a conference like the Mountain West, where San Diego State could be available.
Navy is contractually obliged to play in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, so all the Midshipmen have to do is win two of their last five games and they'll be headed to San Francisco.
There, they'll square off with one of the Pac-12's lower-tier teams.
Arizona State could end up being the choice. The Sun Devils are 5-2, but with games against UCLA, Oregon State, USC, Washington State and Arizona remaining, it looks like they're only going to win one or two more games this season.
Boise State has been to the Las Vegas Bowl two years in a row, and if the Broncos win the Mountain West again this year, that's likely where they'll be headed again.
Chris Petersen's squad trampled Arizona State in last year's game. There's a chance they could meet up with the other team from the state, the Arizona Wildcats, in this year's game.
The Wildcats are 4-3, but they do have three winnable games against Colorado, Utah and Arizona State left on their schedule.
It's been a disappointing campaign for Arkansas, as the Razorbacks have stumbled to a 3-4 start. Still, there's a chance that the Razorbacks could make it to a bowl game if they can get to six wins.
In order to do that, they'll have to beat Ole Miss and Tulsa and then upset either South Carolina, Mississippi State or LSU.
If they can pull off a big upset, the Hogs will likely end up in the Liberty Bowl, where they'll square off against a top team from Conference USA, most likely Tulsa.
This bowl will feature one of the top teams in the MAC versus an also-ran from the Big Ten.
Unbeaten Ohio looks like it's destined to finish at the top of the MAC East standings, while Minnesota is 4-3 and clawing to get to bowl eligibility for the first time since 2009.
Purdue and Iowa State both barely made it into the postseason last year, and it looks like they're both going to have to barely sneak in again this season.
If the two teams do become bowl eligible, they could end up meeting in Houston in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, which matches up teams from the Big Ten and the Big 12.
The Military Bowl is supposed to feature an ACC team versus Army, but since the Knights have already lost six games this season, that's probably not going to be possible.
Instead, if officials can't find an eligible team out of Conference USA, they could look to a conference like the MAC, where a team like Kent State could be available.
Vanderbilt made an appearance in the 2008 Music City Bowl, and there's a chance the Commodores could be headed back there this season.
After starting 3-4, James Franklin's squad still has some work to do to become bowl eligible. However, the Commodoes do have three winnable games coming against Massachusetts, Kentucky and Ole Miss.
N.C. State has a good shot to be the representative out of the ACC.
It will be interesting to see if the Pac-12 ends up with enough teams to fill this final bowl slot.
Washington is a Pac-12 team that may only be 3-4, but the Huskies have the type of favorable schedule down the stretch that could allow them to reach the necessary six wins to sneak into the New Mexico Bowl.
It would be a great story if New Mexico, a team that won just one game last year, were able to represent the Mountain West in its home-state bowl game.
The New Orleans Bowl is supposed to feature a matchup of teams the Sun Belt and Conference USA. However, there's a good chance that there will not be enough bowl-eligible teams in Conference USA to fill that slot.
That means that bowl officials will likely have to scour other non-BCS conferences to find a bowl-eligible team like San Jose State out of the WAC to square off with a Sun Belt squad such as Western Kentucky.
We could end up possibly seeing a rematch of last year's Capital One Bowl between Nebraska and South Carolina in this year's Outback Bowl, since the conference bowl tie-ins for both games are the same.
Last year's game was rather lopsided, as the Gamecocks won 30-13. But this potential matchup looks like it would be much more evenly balanced.
It would be fun to see two of the country's top dual-threat quarterbacks, Nebraska's Taylor Martinez and South Carolina's Connor Shaw, duke it out one more time.
Pittsburgh has had a disappointing start to the season, stumbling to a 3-4 record. However, with games against Temple, Connecticut and South Florida remaining on the schedule, there's a chance that Paul Chryst's Panthers could end up in the postseason.
The Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium would seem to be the most logical destination for Chryst's team.
There, the Panthers would square off with a Big 12 opponent, likely TCU, which could struggle down the stretch without Casey Pachall at quarterback.
If BYU can win two of its next four games, the Cougars will be heading to the Poinsettia Bowl.
There, they'll face the runner-up in the Mountain West Conference, which will likely be either Nevada or Boise State.
If the Wolf Pack can't beat the Broncos in the season finale, it will set up an interesting matchup between two of the most talented teams outside of the BCS conferences.
A fan of offensive football has to love this potential matchup between Louisiana Tech and Northern Illinois.
The Bulldogs and the Huskies have two of the most potent and powerful offensive attacks in college football, as they're combining to average 96 points and 1,045 yards per game.
If Louisville doesn't win the Big East, the Cardinals will end up in the Russell Athletic Bowl, formerly known as the Champs Sports Bowl.
There, they'll square off with one of the ACC's top teams, which could be Miami, who would gladly make the trip up to Orlando.
Still, it remains to be seen whether the Hurricanes will actually choose to participate in the postseason, as an NCAA investigation into the Nevin Shapiro scandal continues to linger over the program.
This is a potential matchup of two teams that have gone in opposite directions this season.
UCLA has surpassed modest expectations by starting the season 5-2, while Virginia Tech has been one of the biggest busts of 2012, going 4-4.
If Oklahoma wins out, it would still need a loss by Kansas State, which beat the Sooners back in Week 4, to win the Big 12 championship.
If Oklahoma can't overtake Kansas State, but still ends up 11-1, the Sooners will likely earn a BCS at-large bid, probably to the Fiesta Bowl.
There, they could face a team like USC. If the Trojans upset Oregon on Nov. 3 and then fall to the Ducks in the Pac-12 championship game, they'll likely still have done enough to earn a BCS at-large bid.
Florida has a great shot to finish the regular season undefeated. All that stands in the Gators' way is Georgia and Florida State.
Still, even if Will Muschamp's team does go undefeated and wins the SEC East, Alabama will likely knock the team off in the SEC championship game.
Still, a 12-1 SEC team is obviously going to get an at-large BCS bowl bid.
If the Gators finish the regular season undefeated but lose to Alabama, they'll likely be headed to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl.
If Notre Dame slips up once in its last five games and finishes with 11 wins, the Irish will likely be headed down there as well.
Rutgers has never been to a BCS bowl game, but this could be the year that the Knights reach that elusive goal.
The New Jersey squad is 7-0, and it looks like it has the dominant defense it takes to win a conference championship.
The ACC favorite, Florida State, on the other hand, has been to plenty of big bowl games, including a few recent trips to the Orange Bowl in the past decade.
Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas
If Oregon slips up against USC on Nov. 3, but finishes the season strong and beats the Trojans in the rematch in the Pac-12 championship game, there's a slight chance the Ducks could still make it into the BCS national championship game.
More likely, though, they would be headed to their third Rose Bowl in the past four years.
It seems all but a certainty that either Oregon or USC will end up in the Rose Bowl, but the Big Ten participant remains much more unclear.
Right now, Michigan seems like its rounding into form and looking to make a run at a Big Ten championship.
To get back to the BCS national championship game, Alabama still has tough games against Mississippi State, LSU and whomever it would face in the SEC championship game.
However, given the way the Tide are playing, it's hard to see any team knocking off Nick Saban's squad.
The question is, if Alabama does make it down to Miami Gardens as expected, who will it play in the big game?
Right now, it looks like Kansas State is the top challenger.
The Wildcats have arguably the biggest game-changer in the country, QB Collin Klein, running their offense. Plus, they have enough veteran playmakers on both sides of the ball such as LB Arthur Brown, RB John Hubert, FS Ty Zimmerman, WR Chris Harper and DT Vai Lutui to beat any team remaining on their schedule.
One thing's for sure, it sure would be fun to watch the loaded Alabama defense try to contain Klein on college football's biggest stage.