by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor

NEW MEXICO BOWL: Arizona vs. Nevada...Word was that the loser of last Friday’s Territorial Cup between Arizona and Arizona State would get this assignment in Albuquerque, while the winner got the Las Vegas Bowl instead. Looks like the Wildcats draw Albuquerque. Nevada is the likely Mountain West rep for this game unless it can upset Boise State in its finale, which could move the Wolf Pack to perhaps the Hawaii or Poinsettia Bowls instead.

FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO: Utah State vs. Kent State... Utah State is locked into this slot and has already accepted the bid as the WAC’s last champion. It will be a return visit for the Utags, who blew a late lead last year vs. Frank Solich’s Ohio U in this game. Kent State is involved in this Friday’s MAC title game vs. Northern Illinois and could still end up in a variety of different locales (even as a longshot BCS Buster), although this spot in the Potato Bowl is one of three contractually-guaranteed MAC bowls.

POINSETTIA: BYU vs. San Diego State...BYU was locked into this slot in San Diego as long as it was bowl-eligible and not invited to the BCS (a dream that ended back in mid-September for the Cougs). Hometown SDSU tied for the Mountain West crown and can renew what was a very spirited rivalry not long ago when the Cougs still campaigned in the MW.

BEEF O’BRADYS ST. PETE: Pitt vs. UCF...We’re not too far out on a limb penciling Pitt into this slot as the Big East rep for the Beef; all the Panthers have to do is beat staggering South Florida this week to get to six wins and bowl eligibility. Nearby UCF, which plays at Tulsa n the Conference USA title game this week, is back among the bowl-eligibles with its postseason ban put on hold. The Knights could also end up in the Liberty Bowl if they beat the Golden hurricane this week.

NEW ORLEANS: Louisiana vs. Rice...The Ragin’ Cajuns have already accepted a return engagement to New Orleans, which proved quite a hit for local bowl organizers last season when thousands of Louisiana fans from nearby Lafayette flocked to the Superdome. This matchup will have a real Bayou flavor if the opponent is Houston-Based Rice, which roared down the stretch with four straight wins to close out the season and become bowl-eligible.

LAS VEGAS: Arizona State vs. Fresno State...If regional scuttlebutt is to be believed, the Sun Devils played themselves into Las Vegas and out of a date in the New Mexico Bowl at Albuquerque by virtue of last week’s win over Arizona in Tucson. If true, this would mark ASU’s second straight trip to the Las Vegas Bowl. Pleasant surprise Fresno has tied for the MW regular-season crown and could still end up in Honolulu or San Diego (Poinsettia); some Bulldog fans would like to see a rematch of the 1992 Freedom Bowl win over Southern Cal instead.

SHERATON HAWAII: East Carolina vs. Boise State...As Boise prepares to depart the Mountain West (or does it?), this trip to Honolulu could be a nice going-away present. Meanwhile, ECU has quietly posted eight wins for HC Ruffin McNeill and narrowly missed a spot in the CUSA title game. This would be a rematch of an exciting Pirate win (under Skip Holtz) over the Broncos in the 2007 renewal of this bowl.

LITTLE CAESAR’S: San Jose State vs. Northern Illinois...As a desirable bowl “free agent” out of the soon-to-disband (for football) WAC, San Jose could wind up in a variety of locales. Including Detroit in place of a slot the Big ten likely can’t fill for this game. Meanwhile, NIU will be involved in the MAC title game on this same field vs. Kent State on Friday night and still harbors longshot BCS Buster hopes. Could be an appealing “mid-major” matchup.

MILITARY: Ball State vs. Georgia Tech...This spot was being held for Army if the Black Knights could get bowl-eligible, but that can’t happen with West Point at 3-8. We assume Georgia Tech (like UCLA last year) could get a special dispensation from the NCAA to participate in a bowl if it should fall to 6-7 by losing the ACC title game vs. Florida State. Which would also mean the ACC could fill this slot at RFK Stadium. Impressive Ball State, one of several bowl-eligibles from the MAC, likely lands somewhere in the bowl mix.

BELK CHARLOTTE: Duke vs. Cincinnati...The Blue Devils were riding on fumes down the stretch, losing their last four games, but had fortunately become bowl-eligible in mid-December. Taking the ACC’s spot in Charlotte at least figures to make it an easy trip from Durham. Cincy still has a remote shot at the Big East’s BCS spot should it end up in a four-way tie for the league crown, although we suspect the Bearcats land here instead.

HOLIDAY: Baylor vs. UCLA...Believe it or not, since the Holiday Bowl began in 1978, neither UCLA nor Southern Cal from the nearby L.A. area has participated in the game. That likely changes this year if the Bruins lose in Friday’s Pac-12 title game at Stanford. Baylor’s late surge with wins over Kansas State and Texas Tech could get the Bears a nice trip to San Diego as the Big 12 rep.

INDEPENDENCE: La Tech vs. Arkansas State...Neither the ACC nor the SEC is likely to fill their slots in this game at Shreveport. Thus, the Independence becomes a nice excuse for a colorful regional shootout between WAC La Tech and Sun belt Arkansas State. Now, the question with both the Bulldogs and Red Wolves is if their respective coaches (Sonny Dykes and Gus Malzahn) will be lured away to higher-profile locales sometime in December.

RUSSELL ATHLETIC: Bowling Green vs. Syracuse...With Miami and North Carolina ineligible for bowls, the ACC isn’t going to be able to fill all of its postseason slots, including this one in Orlando. Which opens up this spot for one of several bowl-eligible MAC entries, of which we believe Dave Clawson’s Bowling Green could make a nice fit in the Russell Athletic. Potentially lots of orange in the crowd with surprising Syracuse, which rallied down the stretch to likely save the job of HC Doug Marrone, and good candidate to fill the Big East’s place in Orlando.

MEINEKE TEXAS: Iowa State vs. Michigan State...Both the Cyclones and Spartans did just enough to get bowl-eligible, with the Spartans waiting until the last regular-season game to do so vs. Minnesota last week. Which spared Houston organizers from scrambling for MAC or Sun Belt entries to fill the slots. One of the inevitable “6-6 vs. 6-6" bowls this postseason.

ARMED FORCES: SMU vs. Air Force...By virtue of its win over Tulsa last Saturday, June Jones’ SMU (with a bit of a bipolar performance pattern over the last half of the season) gets bowl-eligible for the fourth straight year and could play on its home field in the Armed Forces for the second time in three seasons. Once Air Force got bowl-eligible with its win over Hawaii on November 16, it was quickly invited to fill this spot in an appropriately-named game for the Falcons, although this looks like the least of Troy Calhoun’s six straight AFA postseason qualifiers.

YANKEE PINSTRIPE: Louisville vs. West Virginia...This would resurrect a colorful Big East rivalry that ended when West Virginia bolted for the Big 12 this season. Maybe the Cards will be joining the Mounties in the Big 12 in the near future. In fact, WVU, once considered a possible BCS title game participant while QB Geno Smith’s Heisman hopes were running high in September, didn’t even secure bowl eligibility until last Saturday vs. Iowa State. Louisville still believes it can get into the BCS by beating Rutgers in a Big East showdown this week, but if the Cards can’t, a spot in Yankee Stadium could beckon.

KRAFT FIGHT HUNGER: Navy vs. Washington...Navy has surged in the second half of the season to comfortably get bowl eligible after missing the postseason for the first time in since 2002 a year ago. The Mids were contractually obligated to San Francisco if they got bowl-eligible. Washington’s hopes for a better bowl slot (such as the Sun, Holiday, or Alamo) were probably dashed by the upset loss to Wazzu in last Friday’s Apple Cup.

ALAMO: Oklahoma State vs. Southern Cal...How far they have fallen; preseason No. 1 SC lands far outside of the BCS and the Trojans might even be relegated to a lesser bowl destination than San Antonio. And the bowl status of QB Matt Barkley (shoulder injury) remains up in the air. This matchup vs. Mike Gundy’s OSU would have “shootout” written all over it at the Alamodome.

BUFFALO WILD WINGS: Texas Tech vs. Purdue...Just when it looked as if HC Danny Hope had saved his job at Purdue when the Boilermakers won their last three games to get bowl-eligible, he is shown the door after the Old Oaken Bucket win over Indiana. Hope will not coach in the bowl game, with WR coach Patrick Higgins serving in an interim capacity. The bowl is likely in Tempe against Texas Tech, which was getting peripheral BCS mention at one time this season but again flattened out down the stretch, losing 4 of its last 5 games.

MUSIC CITY: Vanderbilt vs. Virginia Tech...At 8-4, Vandy has won its most games in 30 years, and makes back-to-back bowl visits for the first time in school history. The SEC pecking order, however, likely has the Dores staying in their hometown of Nashville. The ACC barely fills it slot in this game with Frank Beamer’s 6-6 Virginia Tech team, the worst Hokie outfit in 20 years since the 1992 team finished 2-8-1.

SUN: Oregon State vs. NC State...Here’s another bowl coaching shocker announced on Sunday, with tom O’Brien out at NC State despite the Wolfpack qualifying for their third straight bowl and fourth in the past five years. At 7-5, NCS still fills the ACC spot in El Paso, perhaps against Mike Riley’s Oregon State Beavers, who figure to be a toss-up with USC for this spot or the Alamo in San Antonio.

LIBERTY: Tulsa vs. Ole Miss...One of the better storylines being authored in the SEC has taken place at Ole Miss, where new HC Hugh Freeze has revived a Rebel program that had gone stale under Houston Nutt. Now Ole Miss is bowl-eligible after its first Egg Bowl win over rival Mississippi State sicne 2008. With Freeze’s Memphis connections, and with Oxford a short drive from the Liberty Bowl, Ole Miss should be a popular choice for this date. Tulsa gets to Memphis if it can beat UCF in this week’s CUSA title game.

CHICK FIL-A: Mississippi State vs. Clemson...The Tigers had their eye on a possible BCS at-large slot if they could have beaten South Carolina last Saturday. They didn’t, and we project an extra Big 12 side (likely Oklahoma) earning that place instead, so Clemson is relegated to the ACC’s top non-BCS spot in Atlanta. MSU struggled down the stretch after breaking 7-0 and could even be pipped by Vanderbilt for a spot in the Chick Fil-A.

TAXSLAYER.COM GATOR: Michigan vs. South Carolina...The Wolverines fell short of their goals this season by losing every big game on their schedule (save perhaps vs. rival Michigan State), but in a thin year for Big Ten bowl teams still likely gets to Florida on New Year’s Day. Steve Spurrier was hoping for a BCS berth at one time this season, but back-to-back late October losses to LSU and Florida knocked the Gamecocks back in the SEC bowl queue.

TICKET CITY/HEART OF DALLAS: TCU vs. Minnesota...We’ve included the old sponsor’s name to this game at the Cotton Bowl because we’re not crazy about the new name. Maybe a new sponsor will be found before kickoff. Nearby Metroplex entry TCU might prove a nice fit as the Big 12’s rep for this spot, and Minnesota squeezes into what appears to be the Big Ten’s last bowl slot.

OUTBACK: Northwestern vs. LSU... Pat Fitzgerald and NU enjoyed an unexpectedly good season (especially vs. the pointspread at 11-1!) and figure to wind up in position to get one of the Florida New Year’s Day spots. LSU’s chances for a BCS at-large berth probably went up in smoke when Florida rallied against Florida State last week, setting up the Gators as the likely second SEC BCS rep.

CAPITAL ONE: Wisconsin vs. Georgia...Of course, Georgia still has its eyes on the BCS title game. To do so would require a win over Alabama in this week’s SEC title game; a loss likely sends the Bulldogs (or Crimson Tide) out of the BCS entirely. Wisconsin is also hoping for a BCS invitation (a third straight Rose Bowl trip) if it wins the Big Ten title game this Saturday vs. Nebraska; if not, the Badgers are somewhere in Florida on New Year’s Day.

ROSE: Nebraska vs. UCLA...The Pac-12 is almost assured two BCS reps this season, with Oregon a likely at-large and the winner of the UCLA-Stanford conference title game on Friday getting the other spot and probably a slot in the Rose Bowl. Nebraska, which played in Pasadena (and lost to UCLA) in the regular season, likely returns for the second time this campaign iof it beats Wisconsin in this week’s Big Ten title game.

ORANGE: Florida State vs. Rutgers...Barring a surprise loss to Georgia Tech in this Saturday’s ACC title game, Florida State returns to the BCS for the first time in seven years, when it faced Penn State in this same Orange Bowl. The Big East’s BCS rep could be any from among Rutgers, Louisville, Cincinnati, or Syracuse, but the Scarlet Knights can make it easy on everyone by simply beating the ‘Ville this week and earning the outright league title.

SUGAR: Florida vs. Oklahoma...The Gators effectively punched their ticket as a BCS at-large by winning the showdown game vs. Florida State last week. As for Oklahoma, we suspect the Sooners jumped ahead of Clemson in the queue for the other up-for-grabs at-large spot by beating Ok State in the Bedlam game last week, and Clemson losing to South Carolina.

FIESTA: Kansas State vs. Oregon...A couple of weeks ago this looked like the national title matchup; now we’ll likely have to settle watching these two duke it out for a bit less at stake in the Fiesta Bowl.

COTTON: Texas A&M vs. Texas...Potentially the most-delicious non-NCS title game bowl of them all if the Cotton can succeed in matching up old rivals Texas A&M (with Heisman hopeful QB Johnny Football) and Texas, the year after their long rivalry temporarily ended when the Aggies bolted for the SEC.

BBVA COMPASS: Toledo vs. UL-Monroe...We don’t think either the Big East or SEC fills allotted berths in this game, so expect Toledo (MAC) and ULM (Sun Belt) to put on a good show in Birmingham.

GO DADDY: Ohio vs. Middle Tennessee...As always in Mobile, we will be counting the Danica Patrick GoDaddy.com commercials as this one is being aired. This bowl reserves slot for the MAC and Sun Belt each season.

BCS TITLE GAME: Alabama vs. Notre Dame...It’s either Notre Dame-Bama or Notre Dame-Georgia...we’ll find out this Saturday.

Stay tuned!

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