Posted: Mon December 2, 2013 12:20PM; Updated: Mon December 2, 2013 4:05PM
Stewart Mandel
Stewart Mandel>INSIDE COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Bowl Projections: Season's end brings clarity to postseason picture

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Texas A&M has dropped two straight, but Johnny Manziel still makes the Aggies an appealing bowl pick.
Texas A&M has dropped two straight, but Johnny Manziel still makes the Aggies an appealing bowl pick.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

If I'm being honest, every edition of Bowl Projections prior to this one has consisted almost primarily of educated guesses. Now, however, with the regular season in the books for nearly 80 percent of the teams in the FBS, I'm finally able to make more informed predictions.

While there's still much in flux, the following lineup is based on numerous calls and texts, as well as reporting from local beat writers. The conferences whose predicted pecking orders I feel most confident about are the American, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, Mountain West, MAC and Conference USA. The ACC's and, most notably, the SEC's, are more muddled. The Sun Belt's consists of two teams.

Some items of note:

• The Alamo Bowl, which has second pick from the Pac-12, is most likely going to get 10-2 Oregon, which would meet 9-3 (or 10-2) Oklahoma. That's a great matchup.

• Texas A&M's two-game losing streak to end the season has dropped the Aggies a few spots in the polls, but, Johnny Manziel still has broad appeal. Will the Cotton Bowl opt for 9-3 LSU or 8-4 A&M?

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• The folks at the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., must be crossing their fingers that the Outback Bowl chooses 8-4 Iowa, which would allow 8-4 Nebraska to fall to them -- especially if Texas is the Big 12 opponent.

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• Notre Dame's most likely destination remains the Pinstripe Bowl, but the Fighting Irish may no longer be facing slumping Rutgers. Instead, 8-4 Houston could be their opponent. However, coach Brian Kelly's program is actively pursuing other warmer-weather alternatives. The problem is, few options provide a quality opponent.

• Due to their respective poor finishes, Minnesota and Texas Tech are probably going to get stuck in a second consecutive Texas Bowl matchup.

• The New Mexico Bowl may be a surprise landing spot for 8-4 Boise State, which would face a Pac-12 opponent, most likely 7-5 Arizona or 6-6 Washington State.

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• Finally, we finished with 77 bowl eligible-teams for 70 spots. The teams that will be left out hail from primarily from the non-AQ leagues, but barring some back-room deals, one of these four 6-6 AQ teams -- Washington State, Oregon State, Pittsburgh and Syracuse -- will stay home, too. I went with the Beavers, who ended the year with five straight losses.

A quick refresher on how all this works:

• After the No. 1 and 2 teams are slotted and replaced, the BCS at-large selection order this year is: 1) Orange, 2) Sugar and 3) Fiesta, 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." Bowls often pick a team with an inferior record due to its location, the propensity of its fans to travel, the need to avoid a regular-season rematch or good old backroom politicking.

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BCS bowls
DateBowlLocationPredicted matchup
Jan. 1 Rose Pasadena, Calif. Michigan State (BCS at-large) vs. Stanford (Pac-12 champ)
Jan. 1 Fiesta Glendale, Ariz. Oklahoma State (Big 12 champ) vs. Northern Illinois (BCS at-large)
Jan. 2 Sugar New Orleans Auburn (SEC champ) vs. UCF (AAC champ)
Jan. 3 Orange Miami Clemson (BCS at-large) vs. Alabama (BCS at-large)
Jan. 6 BCS championship Pasadena, Calif. Florida State (BCS No. 1) vs. Ohio State (BCS No. 2)

Other bowls
DateBowlLocationPredicted matchup
Dec. 21 New Mexico Albuquerque, N.M. Boise State (MWC) vs. Washington State (Pac-12 No. 7)
Dec. 21 Las Vegas Las Vegas Fresno State (MWC No. 1) vs. USC (Pac-12 No. 5)
Dec. 21 Idaho Potato Boise, Idaho Colorado State (MWC) vs. Buffalo (MAC)
Dec. 21 New Orleans New Orleans Louisiana-Lafayette (Sun Belt No. 1) vs. Tulane (C-USA)
Dec. 23 Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg, Fla. Ohio (AAC*) vs. Middle Tennessee State (C-USA)
Dec. 24 Hawaii Honolulu UNLV (MWC) vs. Rice (C-USA)
Dec. 26 Little Caesars Detroit Toledo (MAC) vs. Pittsburgh (Big Ten No. 8*)
Dec. 26 Poinsettia San Diego Utah State (MWC No. 2) vs. Bowling Green (Army*)
Dec. 27 Military Annapolis, Md. Maryland (ACC No. 8) vs. East Carolina (C-USA)
Dec. 27 Texas Houston Minnesota (Big Ten No. 6) vs. Texas Tech (Big 12 No. 6)
Dec. 27 Fight Hunger San Francisco Washington (Pac-12 No. 6) vs. BYU (BYU)
Dec. 28 Pinstripe Bronx, N.Y. Houston (AAC No. 4) vs. Notre Dame (Big 12 No. 7*)
Dec. 28 Belk Charlotte Cincinnati (AAC No. 3) vs. North Carolina (ACC No. 5)
Dec. 28 Russell Athletic Orlando Louisville (AAC No. 2) vs. Duke (ACC No. 3)
Dec. 28 Buffalo Wild Wings Tempe, Ariz. Texas (Big 12 No. 4) vs. Nebraska (Big Ten No. 4)
Dec. 30 Armed Forces Fort Worth, Texas San Diego State (MWC) vs. Navy (Navy)
Dec. 30 Music City Nashville Georgia Tech (ACC No. 6) vs. Ole Miss (SEC)
Dec. 30 Alamo San Antonio Oregon (Pac-12 No. 2) vs. Oklahoma (Big 12 No. 3)
Dec. 30 Holiday San Diego Arizona State (Pac-12 No. 3) vs. Kansas State (Big 12 No. 5)
Dec. 31 AdvoCare Shreveport, La. Boston College (ACC No. 7) vs. Arizona (SEC*)
Dec. 31 Sun El Paso, Texas Virginia Tech (ACC No. 4) vs. UCLA (Pac-12 No. 4)
Dec. 31 Liberty Memphis Marshall (C-USA No. 1) vs. Mississippi State (SEC)
Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Atlanta Miami (ACC No. 2) vs. South Carolina (SEC)
Jan. 1 Heart of Dallas Dallas Syracuse (Big Ten No. 7*) vs. North Texas (C-USA)
Jan. 1 Gator Jacksonville Michigan (Big Ten No. 5) vs. Georgia (SEC)
Jan. 1 Outback Tampa Iowa (Big Ten No. 3) vs. Texas A&M (SEC)
Jan. 1 Capital One Orlando Missouri (SEC No. 2) vs. Wisconsin (Big Ten No. 2)
Jan. 3 Cotton Arlington, Texas Baylor (Big 12 No. 2) vs. LSU (SEC)
Jan. 4 BBVA Compass Birmingham, Ala. Rutgers (AAC) vs. Vanderbilt (SEC)
Jan. 5 GoDaddy Mobile, Ala. Ball State (MAC) vs. Arkansas State (Sun Belt)

Teams in bold have accepted a bid.

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

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