Posted: Monday August 27, 2012 1:19PM ; Updated: Monday August 27, 2012 1:52PM
Stewart Mandel

LSU-Oregon title game headlines preseason bowl projections

Story Highlights

Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC each projected to put two teams in BCS bowls

Duke and Washington State could both return to bowl games after droughts

The rash of teams serving sanctions could mean not enough eligible schools

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Quarterback Sean Renfree and Duke look poised to end the Blue Devils' 18-year bowl drought.
Quarterback Sean Renfree and Duke look poised to end the Blue Devils' 18-year bowl drought.

My national championship and other BCS bowl projections will likely garner the most interest, but some of the most intriguing issues for me this year deal with the bottom of the bowl pecking order.

For one thing, this season's rash of ineligible teams (Ohio State, North Carolina, Penn State and possibly UCF, pending appeal) creates a very real possibility of not having enough six-win teams. The NCAA has already devised a contingency plan for this very scenario. However, much to my surprise, I still wound up with 73 eligible teams for 70 spots. Maybe I'm forecasting too much parity in some conferences (like the Big 12, where nine of 10 teams reached six wins).

Some other surprises you may find on this list: The Duke Blue Devils, ending an 18-year bowl drought; Mike Leach restoring Washington State to the realm of .500 (and drawing a postseason date with Boise State); and Notre Dame, which has no contracted bowl partner this year if it fails to reach the BCS, making a return trip to Hawaii for Christmas Eve. (It was that or the Military Bowl.)

A quick refresher:

• After the No. 1 and 2 teams are slotted and replaced, the BCS at-large selection order this year is: 1) Fiesta, 2) Sugar and 3) Orange. The highest-ranked champion from a non-automatic qualifier is guaranteed a BCS berth if it finishes in the top 12 or in the top 16 and ahead of an AQ-conference champion.

• Most bowls are not obligated -- I repeat, NOT OBLIGATED -- to choose in exact order of conference standings. For instance, "Big 12 No. 3" means "third selection of Big 12 teams," not "the Big 12's third-place team."

BCS Bowls
Jan. 1 Rose: Michigan State (Big Ten champ) vs. USC (BCS at-large)
Jan. 1 Orange: Florida State (ACC champ) vs. Louisville (Big East champ)
Jan. 2 Sugar: Alabama (BCS at-large) vs. Texas (BCS at-large)
Jan. 3 Fiesta: Oklahoma (Big 12 champ) vs. Wisconsin (BCS at-large)
Jan. 7 BCS Championship: LSU (BCS No. 1) vs. Oregon (BCS No. 2)

Other Bowls
Dec. 15 New Mexico: Fresno State (MWC No. 4) vs. Washington (Pac-12 No. 7)
Dec. 15 Idaho Potato: Louisiana Tech (WAC) vs. Northern Illinois (MAC No. 3)
Dec. 20 Poinsettia: Nevada (MWC No. 2) vs. BYU (BYU)
Dec. 21 Beef 'O' Brady's: East Carolina (C-USA) vs. Arkansas State (Big East*)
Dec. 22 New Orleans: Louisiana Lafayette (Sun Belt No. 1) vs. Tulsa (C-USA)
Dec. 22 Maaco: Boise State (MWC No. 1) vs. Washington State (Pac-12 No. 5)
Dec. 24 Hawaii: Wyoming (MWC) vs. Notre Dame (C-USA*)
Dec. 26 Little Caesars: Toledo (MAC) vs. Western Kentucky (Big Ten No. 8*)
Dec. 27 Belk: Rutgers (Big East No. 3) vs. Georgia Tech (ACC No. 5)
Dec. 27 Military: Iowa State (ACC No. 8*) vs. Bowling Green (Army*)
Dec. 27 Holiday: Stanford (Pac-12 No. 3) vs. TCU (Big 12 No. 5)
Dec. 28 Independence: Duke (ACC No. 7) vs. Texas A&M (SEC No. 10)
Dec. 28 Meineke Texas: Purdue (Big Ten No. 6) vs. Texas Tech (Big 12 No. 6)
Dec. 28 Russell Athletic:** USF (Big East No. 2) vs. Clemson (ACC No. 3)
Dec. 29 Pinstripe: Pittsburgh (Big East No. 4) vs. Baylor (Big 12 No. 7)
Dec. 29 Buffalo Wild Wings:*** Oklahoma State (Big 12 No. 4) vs. Illinois (Big Ten No. 5)
Dec. 29 Alamo: Utah (Pac-12 No. 2) vs. Kansas State (Big 12 No. 3)
Dec. 29 Armed Forces: Houston (C-USA) vs. Air Force (MWC)
Dec. 29 Kraft Fight Hunger: Cal (Pac-12 No. 6) vs. Navy (Navy)
Dec. 31 Music City: Virginia (ACC No. 6) vs. Arkansas (SEC)
Dec. 31 Sun: NC State (ACC No. 4) vs. UCLA (Pac-12 No. 4)
Dec. 31 Liberty: UCF**** (C-USA No. 1) vs. Mississippi State (SEC No. 8/9)
Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A: Virginia Tech (ACC No. 2) vs. Tennessee (SEC No. 5)
Jan. 1 TicketCity: Northwestern (Big Ten No. 7) vs. Southern Miss (C-USA)
Jan. 1 Capital One: Georgia (SEC No. 2) vs. Michigan (Big Ten No. 2)
Jan. 1 Outback: Nebraska (Big Ten No. 3) vs. South Carolina (SEC)
Jan. 1 Gator: Iowa (Big Ten No. 4) vs. Florida (SEC No. 6)
Jan. 4 Cotton: West Virginia (Big 12 No. 2) vs. Auburn (SEC)
Jan. 5 BBVA Compass: Cincinnati (Big East) vs. Missouri (SEC No. 8/9)
Jan. 6 Ohio (MAC) vs. FIU (Sun Belt No. 2)

* -- Replacement team for a conference without an eligible team.

** --The former Champs Sports Bowl is now the Russell Athletic Bowl.

*** --The former Insight Bowl is now the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

**** -- UCF is currently appealing an NCAA-sanctioned postseason ban and remains eligible until a decision is rendered.'s 2012 college football preview content archive
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