With 70 slots to fill for the bowls and three postseason-banned teams handing losses to other teams who may not qualify for a bowl as a result, there are a lost of holes to be filled.
Those holes can be filled with a lot of talented teams, but it does look like the contingency plan may come into effect for at least one team.
The following schools are banned from the postseason this year:
- Ohio State (BCS bowl-eligible on merit)
- Penn State (bowl-eligible on merit)
- North Carolina (would-be bowl-eligible by the end of the season on merit)
Those three schools were removed from consideration, as were most schools who had six losses. (They'd have to win out to get in, and most just didn't look likely.) With that in mind, here are my predictions for each bowl, using the information we have gathered through 10 weeks of college football (all times ET).
When: Saturday, Dec. 15, at 1 p.m.
Target teams: Pac-12 No. 7 vs. Mountain West Conference No. 4/5
Prediction: Arizona Wildcats vs. Marshall Thundering Herd
The opening act of the 2012 postseason is the seventh-place Pac-12 Arizona Wildcats.
Due to the lack of bowl-eligible teams on the coming slides, Marshall (Conference USA) gets selected into this slot in place of a Mountain West team who was selected as a more appealing option for a better bowl.
When: Saturday, Dec. 15, at 4:30 p.m.
Target Teams: Western Athletic Conference vs. Mid-American Conference No. 3
Prediction: Kent State Golden Flashes vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl does include the MAC's No. 3, the Kent State Golden Flashes, but the Ragin' Cajuns of the Sun Belt round out this selection due to the WAC only qualifying three teams for bowls.
ULL will gladly take the open slot after qualifying for bowl season.
When: Thursday, Dec. 20, at 8 p.m.
Target Teams: BYU vs. MWC No. 2
Prediction: BYU Cougars vs. San Diego State Aztecs
BYU is contracted into the Poinsettia Bowl this year and definitely looks like it will deliver on that promise. BYU needs one more win to qualify, and Idaho is on the schedule for Nov. 10.
San Diego State will finish behind the Fresno State Bulldogs in the MWC to earn the home-county bowl for a postseason appearance.
When: Friday, Dec. 21, at 7:30 p.m.
Target Teams: Conference USA No. 2-6 vs. Big East No. 6
Prediction: Houston Cougars vs. Ball State Cardinals
The Big East only fielded eight teams this year. With the current records in the Big East, placing six teams in the postseason is nearly impossible.
Houston (C-USA) and Ball State (MAC) will manage the six-win requirement to get into the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.
When: Saturday, Dec. 22, at noon
Target Teams: C-USA No. 2-6 vs. Sun Belt No. 1
Prediction: Bowling Green Falcons vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves
The New Orleans Bowl will pit the Sun Belt champion against yet another team that benefits from the bowl shuffling. With C-USA's top four teams already whisked away, Bowling Green gets to take on the Red Wolves in The Big Easy.
When: Saturday, Dec. 22, at 3:30 p.m.
Target Teams: Pac-12 No. 5 vs. MWC No. 1
Prediction: Stanford Cardinal vs. Fresno State Bulldogs
Initially, this doesn't look like much of a game. However, USC was supposed to absolutely whip Stanford back in Week 3. As is, Stanford has already been upset once and taken a total of two losses.
Fresno State will be happy to add another upset to the underachieving Cardinal's resume.
When: Monday, Dec. 24, at 8 p.m.
Target Teams: WAC vs. C-USA No. 2-6
Prediction: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Western Kentucky's only losses on the season are to Louisiana-Monroe (in overtime) and No. 1 Alabama.
Louisiana Tech's only loss this season came in heartbreaking fashion to SEC surprise Texas A&M.
With LA Tech's ability to completely drop a game defensively and WKU's ability to shut down the likes of Arkansas State, this bowl game should be a lot better than it seems at first glance.
When: Wednesday, Dec. 26, at 7:30 p.m.
Target Teams: Big Ten No. 8 vs. MAC No. 2
Prediction: Northern Illinois Huskies vs. San Jose State Spartans
The official eighth-place Big Ten team will not make it to the postseason, thanks to two of the top teams' being ineligible. The Big Ten's actual 10th-place team will be nowhere near the six wins required for entry.
On a bright note, the Huskies will qualify, and it will then be up to the selection committee to pick a good game from all available options.
That team will be the San Jose State Spartans of the WAC. They should finish third in the conference to earn the right to face the MAC No. 2 team in the postseason.
When: Thursday, Dec. 27, at 3 p.m.
Target Teams: Army vs. ACC No. 8
Prediction: Air Force Falcons vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Army is already mathematically eliminated from the postseason. Even to qualify for the contingency plan, the Black Knights would have to win out.
Air Force will be happy to take Army's spot in the Military Bowl. The underrated Blue Raiders will do the same for the at-home-watching-this-on-TV Georgia Tech Bulldogs.
When: Thursday, Dec. 27, at 6:30 p.m.
Target Teams: ACC No. 5 vs. Big East No. 3
Prediction: Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. Cincinnati Bearcats
Wake Forest will actually finish sixth in the ACC, but the two teams selected to BCS bowls will pull the entire bottom portion of bowl-eligible ACC squads up a slot.
Cincinnati will finish behind Louisville and Rutgers in the Big East to earn a trip to face the Deacons in the Belk Bowl.
When: Thursday, Dec. 27, at 9:45 p.m.
Target Teams: Pac-12 No. 3 vs. Big 12 No. 5
Prediction: UCLA Bruins vs. TCU Horned Frogs
UCLA will maintain its hold on the Pac-12 South Division and make it to the conference championship game. When all is settled down, Oregon and Oregon State will be the only two teams ahead of UCLA in the Pac-12 race.
The Big 12 has a little bit of a problem putting its No. 5 team in this bowl, but will substitute the No. 6 team. That will pit TCU against UCLA in the marquee game of this Thursday night.
When: Friday, Dec. 28, at 2 p.m.
Target Teams: ACC No. 7 vs. MWC No. 3
Prediction: Boise State Broncos vs. Utah State Aggies
The ACC No. 8 team will likely be sitting home during the postseason. (Maryland and Georgia Tech have a brutal stretch to end the season, and they both need two more wins to get in.)
Boise State lost its "BCS-buster" status after the Week 10 loss to San Diego State and will land smack in the Independence Bowl as a result. Not at all a bad thing the year after Kellen Moore left the program.
A bowl appearance in a rebuilding year is nothing to be ashamed of. On the flip side of the ball, Utah State will be glad to give Maryland something to watch from the living room.
Boise vs. Utah State makes so much sense that I had to double-check that it hadn't happened during the season already.
When: Friday, Dec. 28, at 5:30 p.m.
Target Teams: Big East No. 2/Notre Dame vs. ACC No. 3
Prediction: Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Duke Blue Devils
Louisville wins the Big East, and Rutgers establishes minor dominance over a slumping Munchie Legaux in Week 12. With Notre Dame almost guaranteed a BCS berth at this point, it's obvious that the Big East selection will go to the Russell Athletic Bowl (formerly the Champs Sports Bowl).
Duke will finish fourth in the ACC, but will benefit from two ACC squads being selected to the BCS bowls. That's not a bad bowl for the Blue Devils' first one since the 1994 season.
When: Friday, Dec. 28, at 9 p.m.
Target Teams: Big 12 No. 6 vs. Big Ten No. 6
Prediction: West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers
West Virginia will rebound from its recent upsets to finish the season strong and earn a spot opposite the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
While this looks like a fairly even match on paper, it wouldn't surprise me if it were a repeat of last year's Orange Bowl. West Virginia has already been owned in three straight games. If the Mountaineers can snap the losing streak to make the postseason, Minnesota will need to be heavily prepared.
Of course, Minnesota only has losses to the top teams in the Big Ten. (Northwestern may not be the top team, but they are one of only two ranked Big Ten teams right now.)
When: Saturday, Dec. 29, at 11:45 a.m.
Target Teams: C-USA No. 2-6 vs. MWC
Prediction: Ohio Bobcats vs. Nevada Wolf Pack
With a severe shortage of service academies qualifying for the postseason, the Armed Forces Bowl will not have any of them in it. (Navy's contracted with another bowl and Air Force finished high enough in the MWC to put a service academy in the Military Bowl.)
The Ohio Bobcats of the MAC will take on the Nevada Wolf Pack of the MWC in one of the more entertaining games of the postseason.
When: Saturday, Dec. 29, at 3:15 p.m.
Target Teams: Navy vs. Pac-12 No. 6
Prediction: Navy Midshipmen vs. Arizona State Sun Devils
Navy is contracted for this bowl and has achieved bowl-eligibility. Arizona State will finish sixth in the Pac-12. Even with the completely contracted situation we have on our hands here, it does look like a major mismatch.
It depends on which Navy shows up, honestly. This is a winnable game for either side and should be very intriguing.
When: Saturday, Dec. 29, at 3:15 p.m.
Target Teams: Big 12 No. 7 vs. Big East No. 4
Prediction: Iowa State Cyclones vs. Temple Owls
Iowa State has Kansas coming in two weeks, so bowl-eligibility is probable for the Cyclones. So is a berth in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Temple will win out by upsetting Cincinnati, beating Army and taking down Syracuse to end the season. This will give the Owls the fourth-place spot in the division and the place at the table opposite the Cyclones.
When: Saturday, Dec. 29, at 6:45 p.m.
Target Teams: Pac-12 No. 2 vs. Big 12 No. 3
Prediction: Oregon State Beavers vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oregon State will finish behind only Oregon in the Pac-12 race. Oklahoma State will actually finish fourth in the Big 12, but that will be good enough for the Alamo Bowl against the Beavers.
All it takes for this to happen is a couple more wins for each team. (Oregon State's probable loss to Oregon is factored into this call.)
When: Saturday, Dec. 29, at 10:15 p.m.
Target Teams: Big 12 No. 4 vs. Big Ten No. 4/5
Prediction: Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Northwestern Wildcats
Texas Tech has shown flashes of greatness this season and will be a force in the Big 12 within a couple of years. However, the lack of consistency from the Red Raiders will land them a questionable bowl berth.
The reason it's questionable is because nobody knows if the Raiders that earned the spot will show up. There are two Texas Tech teams.
The good news for the Northwestern Wildcats is that either Texas Tech is beatable; one just takes a lot more effort to beat than the other.
Northwestern will be more than happy with a bowl this late in December.
When: Monday, Dec. 31, at noon
Target Teams: SEC No. 7 vs. ACC No. 6
Prediction: Missouri Tigers vs. Virginia Tech Hokies
Tennessee, Syracuse and Texas A&M are left on the schedule. All are winnable games for the Tigers, but it will take every ounce of energy they have to beat the Aggies.
Virginia Tech has the ability to back into bowl season as well. The reason both these teams have this opportunity is because both conferences already have the maximum two representatives in BCS bowls.
That moves some of the bottom-dwellers up into decent shape for the bowls, as long as they qualify.
When: Monday, Dec. 31, at 2 p.m.
Target Teams: ACC No. 4 vs. Pac-12 No. 4
Prediction: USC Trojans vs. NC State Wolfpack
The Pac-12 fourth-place Trojans take on the fifth-place NC State Wolfpack in the Hyundai Sun Bowl.
After taking three regular-season losses, USC is going to be disappointed with this bowl berth. That could go either way for the Wolfpack.
Either USC plays a game like it doesn't care or Matt Barkley uses this stage to make one last impression on the NFL scouts.
Either way, NC State already held a prolific offense (Florida State) to less than 20 points in a game. The ability is there.
When: Monday, Dec. 31, at 3:30 p.m.
Target Teams: C-USA No. 1 vs. Big East No. 5/SEC 8/9
Prediction: UCF Knights vs. Tennessee Volunteers
UCF is the beneficiary of an appeal to its original postseason ban. Since the next hearing will not be held until January, they are not on ban in effect for this season. That makes the Knights very happy, as they are currently already bowl-eligible and leading its division for a potential conference championship.
Tennessee had a scare against Troy in Week 10, and that makes its season outlook a little grim. The good news for the Vols is that all they need to do is win two of the last three games (against Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky).
UCF faces Tennessee in the Liberty Bowl due to the SEC having two teams in BCS bowls.
When: Monday, Dec. 31, at 7:30 p.m.
Target Teams: ACC No. 2 vs. SEC No. 5
Prediction: Miami Hurricanes vs. Texas A&M Aggies
These two offenses will be a lot of fun to watch, and the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta is a fitting venue for the Aggies' first SEC postseason appearance.
Miami is able to win this game and will have earned the berth by virtue of finishing behind only Clemson and Florida State in the conference.
The Chick-Fil-A Bowl is a fun game to watch (live or on TV), and that's a large reason that the sponsor created the kickoff games it's so well-known for.
When: Tuesday, Jan. 1, at noon
Target Teams: C-USA No. 2-6 vs. Big Ten No. 7
Prediction: SMU Mustangs vs. Washington Huskies
The Big Ten No. 7 team will actually be the Big Ten No. 9 team this year, so there's no real reason to think they'll be bowl-eligible this season.
The Washington Huskies will win just enough games to qualify for the bowls, and the selection committee will rob them from the Pac-12 in place of the originally planned team.
SMU will finish third in C-USA behind only Tulsa and East Carolina. That will earn them a bout with the Washington Huskies in the TicketCity Bowl.
When: Tuesday, Jan. 1, at noon
Target Teams: Big Ten No. 4/5 vs. SEC No. 6
Prediction: Michigan State Spartans vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs
The Gator Bowl matches a Big Ten power against an SEC power from somewhere around the top half of each conference.
There is no more fitting pair of teams this season than Mississippi State and Michigan State. Both teams were expected to finish higher than they will, and both teams have fallen almost equally as far down the conference standings.
This would have been a good-looking bowl in the middle of the season. It doesn't look any less entertaining in Week 11.
Bulldogs vs. Spartans for the Gator Bowl. Lots of fun will be had by all.
When: Tuesday, Jan. 1, at 1 p.m.
Target Teams: SEC No. 2 vs. Big Ten No. 2
Prediction: Florida Gators vs. Michigan Wolverines
Michigan was the preseason No. 8 team and suffered a debilitating defeat to the Crimson Tide in the season opener. Ever since then, the Wolverines have had serious issues getting back to form.
Florida had a great run all the way up to No. 2 in the BCS rankings for two full weeks before finally falling to the Georgia Bulldogs.
Florida will finish right behind the SEC champion and runner-up, who will both go to BCS bowls. A Capital One Bowl may be less than what a one-loss SEC team would really want, but it's far better than the Gators would have expected before this season started.
When: Tuesday, Jan. 1, at 1 p.m.
Target Teams: Big Ten No. 3 vs. SEC No. 3
Prediction: Wisconsin Badgers vs. South Carolina Gamecocks
Hot on the heels of the Florida Gators will be the South Carolina Gamecocks. Falling right into the Outback Bowl is not too shabby for a team that faced a much tougher schedule than the Georgia Bulldogs that beat them for the divisional title.
Wisconsin will benefit the most from the sanctioning that has plagued this bowl season, as both Big Ten teams facing bans are from the Badgers' division.
Wisconsin will finish third in the division behind Nebraska and Michigan to win the Big Ten's Outback Bowl slot.
When: Tuesday, Jan. 1, at 5 p.m.
Target Teams: Pac-12 No. 1 vs. Big Ten No. 1
Prediction: Oregon Ducks vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Oregon will win the Pac-12, but will remain behind the Kansas State Wildcats in the BCS standings. Thanks to USC's fall to the Arizona Wildcats, Oregon's strength of schedule did not get enough of a boost to pass Kansas State after Week 10.
The only way Oregon can get in is if:
- USC takes down No. 4 Notre Dame and manages to show up in the Pac-12 title game only to lose to Oregon again. (The Stanford and Oregon State games may not be enough to jump the Wildcats, who will play tough opponents as well. K-State finishes with No. 17 Texas in the last game of the season.)
- Kansas State loses.
If the first situation happens, don't forget that UCLA currently leads the Pac-12 South Division. A UCLA conference loss is necessary for the Trojans to get back into that game.
Nebraska will defeat the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten title game to earn this berth straight up just like Oregon.
Oregon vs. Nebraska in Pasadena. Oregon destroys Nebraska for a 14-0 record and a gigantic argument for the coming playoff system.
When: Tuesday, Jan. 1, at 8:30 p.m.
Target Teams: BCS/ACC No. 1 vs. BCS At-Large
Prediction: Florida State Seminoles vs. Louisville Cardinals
Florida State wins the ACC championship game against Miami and earns the contracted trip to the Orange Bowl. The at-large bid goes to Louisville of the Big East after the Cardinals reel off a perfect season and a Big East title.
Other bowls would make sense for Louisville, but we just saw Florida State and Notre Dame last year in the Champs Sports Bowl. Selectors will not be as interested in that rematch so soon.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 2, at 8:30 p.m.
Target Teams: BCS/SEC No. 1 vs. BCS At-Large
Prediction: Georgia Bulldogs vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Even if the Irish were to fall to the USC Trojans in the final game of the season, you've got to admit that they will look really good to match against the Georgia Bulldogs. The Bulldogs don't have nearly as good an offense as USC, and a Notre Dame loss to USC wouldn't do much to hinder the Irish from a Sugar Bowl appearance.
Georgia will probably lose the SEC championship game in Atlanta. Georgia will be the more appealing selection for the Sugar Bowl—especially if Florida loses to Florida State in the rivalry game over Thanksgiving weekend.
Georgia, even with two losses, will probably get into the Sugar Bowl against Notre Dame. This should be a game to remember for everyone involved.
When: Thursday, Jan. 3, at 8:30 p.m.
Target Teams: BCS/Big 12 No. 1 vs. BCS At-Large
Prediction: Oklahoma Sooners vs. Clemson Tigers
The Big 12 champion would normally land here, but Kansas State will be otherwise engaged. Oklahoma will finish second in the division after reeling off four straight wins to end the season (against Baylor, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU).
Clemson will finish high enough in the rankings to merit a BCS berth. With all the contending conferences already having representation in two BCS bowls, the ACC will match up well with a two-loss Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
When: Friday, Jan. 4, at 8 p.m.
Target Teams: Big 12 No. 2 vs. SEC No. 3/4
Prediction: Texas Longhorns vs. LSU Tigers
In a near rematch of the 2009 national championship match between the Crimson Tide and the Longhorns, LSU will take all of its aggression out on Texas.
The Longhorns will show up with the better offense and try to prove to the Tigers that aggression will not be enough to take them down.
LSU and Texas both bring some serious baggage into this Cotton Bowl, and it will be one of the high-energy games of the postseason. Arkansas vs. Kansas State last year comes to mind, but that's not meant to be a prediction of the winner.
Either team could win, and they both will play like it.
When: Saturday, Jan. 5, at 1 p.m.
Target Teams: SEC No. 8/9 vs. Big East No. 5/C-USA
Prediction: Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Vanderbilt will be one of the last SEC teams to qualify for the postseason and will get selected to play against a conference champion.
The Tulsa Golden Hurricane will attempt to hand Vanderbilt its second shocking out-of-conference loss of the 2012 season. (The first came at the hands of the Northwestern Wildcats.)
With both teams fighting for so much respect this season, it's hard to imagine this game being a letdown between the Cotton Bowl and BCS title match.
It should be pleasantly entertaining and surprisingly high-quality football to anyone who hasn't already seen these teams play yet in 2012.
When: Sunday, Jan. 6, at 9 p.m.
Target Teams: Sun Belt No. 2 vs. MAC No. 1
Prediction: Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks vs. Toledo Rockets
ULM's upset of the Arkansas Razorbacks is one of the biggest upsets in recent college football history, and it was the biggest in ULM's history. Ever since then, the Warhawks have handled everyone on their schedule except for Louisiana-Lafayette and Auburn (they lost to Auburn in overtime). The Warhawks will finish second in the Sun Belt to earn the trip to the GoDaddy Bowl.
Toledo's only loss in 2012 was to the Arizona Wildcats of the Pac-12. They even handed Cincinnati its only loss so far this season. Toledo will continue to tear through its conference and land on the field against ULM.
The opening act for the BCS title game will be another surprisingly entertaining game in this postseason.
When: Monday, Jan. 7, at 8:30 p.m.
Target Teams: BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2
Prediction: Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Kansas State Wildcats
Basically, Kansas State has to lose or something huge has to happen in the Pac-12 to keep Kansas State out of the national championship game. If Oregon were going to straight up overtake the Wildcats, it would likely have happened after taking down the USC Trojans.
There is some concern regarding the Oregon vs. Stanford and Oregon vs. Oregon State games, but Kansas State also faces tough opponents of its own between now and the end of the season. Maybe the conference championship will play a part in this, but there's one thing the Wildcats have to remember.
No one has ever been ranked No. 2 and been jumped during championship weekend. This was a fact that was thrown around a lot last year when Oklahoma State and LSU were both playing on the first weekend of December. Alabama sat at home and didn't get jumped. The major difference? Kansas State hasn't lost a game that would give voters real ammunition against it...Alabama had.
Granted, Oregon hasn't lost one, either, so it's not completely apples-to-apples.
Assuming Alabama gets its act together after that LSU performance and beats the Texas A&M Aggies, there isn't another team on the schedule that will pose more of a threat than the Aggies. The Tide is the only undefeated team in the SEC right now.
It would be a grave mistake not to project them into the title game as of right now.