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Posted: Wednesday December 2, 2009 1:40AM; Updated: Saturday December 5, 2009 8:05PM
Stewart Mandel
Stewart Mandel>INSIDE COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Updated bowl game projections

Story Highlights

The Outback Bowl's reported choice of Auburn impacts the SEC's eligible teams

The Gator Bowl is trying to bypass ACC rules and have Bobby Bowden face WVU

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Quarterback Kevin Craft and 6-6 UCLA have the inside track to a bowl game -- in either Mobile, Boise or Detroit.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Notre Dame's decision to turn down a potential bowl berth could open the door for a UCLA bowl berth and create a potential headache for the MAC.

Heading into this weekend's games, there is believed to be only one available spot for a 6-6 at-large team, with the Bruins now atop that list. However, should Hawaii beat Wisconsin on Saturday, it would get to seven wins and possibly lock out the Bruins. Possible destinations for UCLA include the Humanitarian Bowl, GMAC Bowl, EagleBank Bowl and Little Caesars Bowl.

The problem is, two of those games (GMAC and Little Caesars) involve teams from the MAC, and that conference will also have two guaranteed at-large teams (7-5 Bowling Green and 7-5 Northern Illinois). Therefore, if UCLA chooses one of the non-MAC bowls, like the Humanitarian (which makes the most geographic sense), either the GMAC or Little Caesars will be stuck with two MAC teams.

Also affecting the current landscape is the fact that we won't know until Dec. 12 whether Army beats Navy to become 6-6 and secure its spot in the EagleBank Bowl. That game has a backup agreement with Conference USA, which means it must wait an extra week to finalize its matchup. However, it's possible other bowls with at-large openings will wait an extra week, as well, to see which teams will comprise the final at-large pool.

For now -- and this is purely an educated guess based on multiple conversations with numerous parties -- I'm placing UCLA in the Humanitarian Bowl, but don't rule out the Bruins for Washington D.C. or Detroit. Mobile seems less likely. If that's the case, the International Bowl is expected to release Temple to play closer to home in EagleBank, taking Northern Illinois instead. That leaves the Little Caesars with a far-from-ideal Ohio-Bowling Green matchup.

• I'm also revising a previous projection that had East Carolina filling Army's spot in the EagleBank Bowl. Based on discussions I've had, it sounds like the D.C. game may not have a choice about taking 6-6 Marshall due to the ripple effect on other C-USA bowls. The Pirates move to New Orleans.

• Finally, it's important to remember that bowls are NOT obligated to choose their teams in exact order of conference standings. For instance, "ACC No. 3" means "third choice of ACC teams" -- not "the ACC's third-place team." Also, a bowl can only select a 6-6 team from a conference if no 7-5 team from that league is still available, and bowls seeking a replacement for a conference without enough eligible teams cannot choose a 6-6 team if there is a 7-5 team available.

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BCS Bowls
Date Predicted Matchup
Jan. 7 BCS Championship: Alabama (BCS No. 1) vs. Texas (BCS No. 2)
Jan. 5 Orange: Georgia Tech (ACC champ) vs. TCU (BCS at-large)
Jan. 4 Fiesta: Iowa (BCS at-large) vs. Boise State (BCS at-large)
Jan. 1 Rose: Ohio State (Big Ten champ) vs. Oregon (Pac-10 champ)
Jan. 1 Sugar: Florida (BCS at-large) vs. Cincinnati (Big East champ)

Non-BCS Bowls
Date Predicted Matchup
Dec. 19 New Mexico: Wyoming (MWC) vs. Fresno State (WAC)
Dec. 19 St. Petersburg: Connecticut (Big East) vs. UCF (C-USA)
Dec. 20 New Orleans: Middle Tennessee State (Sun Belt) vs. Southern Miss (C-USA)
Dec. 22 Las Vegas: Oregon State (Pac-10 No. 5) vs. BYU (MWC No. 1)
Dec. 23 Poinsettia: Utah (MWC No. 2) vs. Arizona (Pac-10 No. 6)
Dec. 24 Hawaii: Nevada (WAC) vs. SMU (C-USA)
Dec. 26 Little Caesars: Ohio (MAC) vs. Bowling Green (Big Ten No. 7*)
Dec. 26 Meineke Car Care: North Carolina (ACC) vs. Pittsburgh (Big East No. 3)
Dec. 26 Emerald: Stanford (Pac-10 No. 4) vs. Boston College (ACC)
Dec. 27 Music City: Clemson (ACC) vs. Kentucky (SEC)
Dec. 28 Independence: Iowa State (Big 12) vs. Georgia (SEC)
Dec. 29 Eagle Bank: Temple (ACC*) vs. Marshall (Army/C-USA)
Dec. 29 Champs Sports: Miami (ACC No. 4) vs. Northwestern (Big Ten No. 4)
Dec. 30 Humanitarian: UCLA (MWC*) vs. Idaho (WAC)
Dec. 30 Holiday: USC (Pac-10 No. 2) vs. Nebraska (Big 12 No. 3)
Dec. 31 Armed Forces: Air Force (MWC) vs. Houston (C-USA)
Dec. 31 Sun: California (Pac-10 No. 3) vs. Oklahoma (Big 12 No. 5)
Dec. 31 Texas: Texas A&M (Big 12) vs. Navy
Dec. 31 Insight: Missouri (Big 12 No. 6) vs. Minnesota (Big Ten No. 6)
Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A: Tennessee (SEC) vs. Virginia Tech (ACC No. 2)
Jan. 1 Outback: Wisconsin (Big Ten No. 3) vs. Auburn (SEC)
Jan. 1 Gator Florida State (ACC No. 3) vs. West Virginia (Big East No. 2)
Jan. 1 Capital One: Penn State (Big Ten No. 2) vs. LSU (SEC No. 2)
Jan. 2 International: Rutgers (Big East) vs. Northern Illinois (MAC)
Jan. 2 PapaJohns.com South Florida (Big East) vs. South Carolina (SEC)
Jan. 2 Cotton: Oklahoma State (Big 12 No. 2) vs. Ole Miss (SEC)
Jan. 2 Liberty: East Carolina (C-USA Champ) vs. Arkansas (SEC)
Jan. 2 Alamo: Texas Tech (Big 12 No. 4) vs. Michigan State (Big Ten No. 5)
Jan. 6 GMAC: Central Michigan (MAC) vs. Troy (ACC*)
Teams in bold have accepted bowl invitation.
* -- replacement team for conference without enough eligible teams.

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