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Bowl projections: Baylor and Fresno State on pace to meet

Associated Press
Baylor's Bryce Petty and Fresno State's Derek Carr lead two of the nation's most explosive offenses.

Here are our seventh bowl projections of the season, which is the last with the BCS in place.

Once again, the projection is that Alabama and Oregon will meet in the title game. And, once again, the projection is the Pac-12 and SEC will have two teams apiece in the BCS and that Fresno State will get a BCS berth, too.

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Fresno State is unbeaten and No. 16 in this week's BCS standings. BCS rules stipulate that if a team from a non-automatic qualifying conference (Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt) finishes in the top 12 of the final BCS standings or finishes in the top 16 of the final BCS standings and is ranked ahead of a league champ from an automatic qualifying conference, the non-AQ team is guaranteed a spot. Fresno State is seven spots ahead of UCF -- the front-runner in the AAC -- this week.

The MAC's Northern Illinois also is unbeaten and one spot behind Fresno State. As with Fresno, NIU should be favored in the rest of its games.

The final BCS standings will be released Dec. 8.

Remember that a bowl's tie-in with a league doesn't necessarily mean it will get the third- or fourth-, etc., place team from the league; instead, it means it gets the third or fourth, etc., selection from that league.

BCS MATCHUPS

ROSE BOWL

Site: Pasadena, Calif.
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 5 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: BCS/Big Ten vs. BCS/Pac-12
Projection: Ohio State vs. Stanford
Note: The Big Ten and Pac-12 champs head to Pasadena automatically if they are not in the title game. And even if one or both is in the title game, Rose Bowl organizers still crave a Big Ten/Pac-12 matchup.

FIESTA BOWL

Site: Glendale, Ariz.
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: BCS/Big 12 vs. BCS
Projection: Baylor vs. Fresno State
Note: The Big 12 champ is contractually obligated to the Fiesta if it is not in the national title game. This season, the Fiesta gets the last pick among the at-large teams. Fresno State seems a good bet to finish unbeaten; if the Bulldogs finish unbeaten, they will be in the BCS -- and they would be the last at-large pick. Baylor remains the pick to win the Big 12, which might be the most wide open of any league race. Baylor hasn't been in a "major" bowl since the Cotton Bowl following the 1980 season; the Bears have made just four major bowl appearances in their history. Fresno State never has been in a "major" bowl.

SUGAR BOWL

Site: New Orleans
Date: Jan. 2
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: BCS/SEC vs. BCS
Projection: Auburn vs. UCF
Note: The SEC champ is contractually obligated to the Sugar if it is not in the national title game. But the Sugar always wants an SEC team even if the champ is in the title game. The Sugar gets the second pick among the at-large teams. By virtue of its win over Louisville, UCF is the pick to win the AAC.

ORANGE BOWL

Site: Miami
Date: Jan. 3
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: BCS/ACC vs. BCS
Projection: Florida State vs. Wisconsin
Note: If the ACC champ is not in the BCS championship game, it is contractually obligated to go to the Orange Bowl. The Orange Bowl gets the first pick among the at-large teams. If Notre Dame is eligible for a BCS bowl, it will be picked. But the Irish "qualifying" for a BCS bid is a long shot. That gives Wisconsin a great shot if it can get to 10 wins, which means the Badgers need to win out. Wisconsin also needs Fresno State -- or another non-AQ team -- to get into the BCS. If that doesn't happen, a one-loss Clemson would be ahead of Wisconsin in the at-large pecking order.

BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Site: Pasadena, Calif.
Date: Jan. 6
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2
Projection: Alabama vs. Oregon
Note: SEC power vs. Pac-12 finesse. It would be a fitting end to the BCS era. But will either of these teams finish unbeaten? Both have tougher remaining schedules than Florida State or anyone in the Big Ten or Big 12.

THE OTHER BOWLS

NEW MEXICO BOWL

Site: Albuquerque
Date: Dec. 21
Time/TV: 2 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Mountain West No. 4/5 vs. Pac-12 No. 7
Projection: San Jose State vs. Arizona

LAS VEGAS BOWL

Site: Las Vegas
Date: Dec. 21
Time/TV: 3:30 p.m., ABC
Matchup: Mountain West No. 1 vs. Pac-12 No. 5
Projection: Boise State vs. Oregon State
Note: Boise State is the projection because Fresno State looks as if it could end up in the BCS.

FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL

Site: Boise, Idaho
Date: Dec. 21
Time/TV: 5:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Mid-American vs. Mountain West No. 6
Projection: Ohio vs. UNLV
Note: UNLV is one win away from bowl eligibility, a staggering feat for a school that had won a combined six games in the past three seasons. UNLV hasn't gone bowling since 2000 under John Robinson and has been to just three bowls in its history.

NEW ORLEANS BOWL

Site: New Orleans
Date: Dec. 21
Time/TV: 9 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Conference USA vs. Sun Belt
Projection: Tulane vs. Arkansas State
Note: Tulane is bowl eligible. The Green Wave haven't been bowling since 2002 and have been to just two bowls in the past 25 seasons.

BEEF 'O' BRADY'S BOWL

Site: St. Petersburg, Fla.
Date: Dec. 23
Time/TV: 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: AAC No. 6 vs. Conference USA
Projection: SMU vs. Middle Tennessee State

HAWAII BOWL

Site: Honolulu
Date: Dec. 24
Time/TV: 8 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Conference USA vs. Mountain West No. 4/5
Projection: Rice vs. Utah State
Note: It makes sense to pick a Mountain West team that didn't play a regular-season game at Hawaii, and Utah State fits that description.

LITTLE CAESARS PIZZA BOWL

Site: Detroit
Date: Dec. 26
Time/TV: 6 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big Ten No. 8 vs. Mid-American
Projection: Western Kentucky vs. Ball State
Note: Projection is Big Ten won't be able to fill its slot.

POINSETTIA BOWL

Site: San Diego
Date: Dec. 26
Time/TV: 9:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Army if bowl-eligible vs. Mountain West No. 2
Projection: Toledo vs. San Diego State
Note: Projection is Army won't be eligible. This would be a home game for San Diego State.

MILITARY BOWL

Site: Annapolis, Md.
Date: Dec. 27
Time/TV: 2:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: ACC No. 8 vs. Conference USA
Projection: Maryland vs. Marshall

TEXAS BOWL

Site: Houston
Date: Dec. 28
Time/TV: 6 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big Ten No. 6 vs. Big 12 No. 6
Projection: Iowa vs. TCU

KRAFT FIGHT HUNGER BOWL

Site: San Francisco
Date: Dec. 27
Time/TV: 9:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: BYU if bowl-eligible vs. Pac-12 No. 6
Projection: BYU vs. USC
Note: BYU is eligible. USC plays 13 regular-season games, so it needs to get to seven wins to become bowl-eligible.

PINSTRIPE BOWL

Site: New York
Date: Dec. 28
Time/TV: Noon, ESPN
Matchup: AAC No. 4 vs. Big 12 No. 7
Projection: Rutgers vs. Notre Dame
Note: Projection is Big 12 won't fill its slot. That the game is played at Yankee Stadium makes it a natural for Notre Dame to fill that open slot.

BELK BOWL

Site: Charlotte, N.C.
Date: Dec. 28
Time/TV: 3:20 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: AAC No. 3 vs. ACC No. 5
Projection: Houston vs. North Carolina State

RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL

Site: Orlando
Date: Dec. 28
Time/TV: 6:45 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: AAC No. 2 vs. ACC No. 3
Projection: Louisville vs. Miami

BUFFALO WILD WINGS BOWL

Site: Tempe, Ariz.
Date: Dec. 28
Time/TV: 10:15 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big Ten No. 4 vs. Big 12 No. 4
Projection: Nebraska vs. Texas

ARMED FORCES BOWL

Site: Fort Worth, Texas
Date: Dec. 30
Time/TV: 11:45 a.m., ESPN
Matchup: Mountain West No. 3 vs. Navy if bowl-eligible
Projection: Colorado State vs. Navy

MUSIC CITY BOWL

Site: Nashville
Date: Dec. 30
Time/TV: 3:15 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: ACC No. 6 vs. SEC No. 7
Projection: Georgia Tech vs. Ole Miss

ALAMO BOWL

Site: San Antonio
Date: Dec. 30
Time/TV: 6:45 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big 12 No. 3 vs. Pac-12 No. 2
Projection: Oklahoma vs. UCLA

HOLIDAY BOWL

Site: San Diego
Date: Dec. 30
Time/TV: 10:15 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big 12 No. 5 vs. Pac-12 No. 3
Projection: Oklahoma State vs. Washington

ADVOCARE V100 BOWL

Site: Shreveport, La.
Date: Dec. 31
Time/TV: 12:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: ACC No. 7 vs. SEC No. 10
Projection: Duke vs. Bowling Green
Note: This formerly was known as the Independence Bowl. Projection is the SEC won't fill its slot.

SUN BOWL

Site: El Paso, Texas
Date: Dec. 31
Time/TV: 2 p.m., CBS
Matchup: ACC No. 4 vs. Pac-12 No. 4
Projection: Virginia Tech vs. Arizona State

LIBERTY BOWL

Site: Memphis
Date: Dec. 31
Time/TV: 4 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Conference USA No. 1 vs. SEC No. 8 or 9/AAC No. 6
Projection: East Carolina vs. Vanderbilt

CHICK-FIL-A BOWL

Site: Atlanta
Date: Dec. 31
Time/TV: 8 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: ACC No. 2 vs. SEC No. 5
Projection: Clemson vs. Texas A&M

HEART OF DALLAS BOWL

Site: Dallas
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: Noon, ESPNU
Matchup: Big Ten No. 7 vs. Conference USA
Projection: Indiana vs. North Texas
Note: North Texas hasn't been in a bowl since 2004. UNT is in Denton, a Dallas suburb.

GATOR BOWL

Site: Jacksonville
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: Noon, ESPN2
Matchup: Big Ten No. 5 vs. SEC No. 6
Projection: Minnesota vs. Georgia

CAPITAL ONE BOWL

Site: Orlando
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ABC
Matchup: Big Ten No. 2 vs. SEC No. 2
Projection: Michigan vs. South Carolina

OUTBACK BOWL

Site: Tampa
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big Ten No. 3 vs. SEC No. 3/4
Projection: Michigan State vs. Missouri

COTTON BOWL

Site: Arlington, Texas
Date: Jan. 3
Time/TV: 7:30 p.m., Fox
Matchup: Big 12 No. 2 vs. SEC No. 3/4
Projection: Texas Tech vs. LSU

BBVA COMPASS BOWL

Site: Birmingham, Ala.
Date: Jan. 4
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: AAC No. 5 vs. SEC No. 8/9
Projection: Cincinnati vs. Florida

GODADDY.COM BOWL

Site: Mobile, Ala.
Date: Jan. 5
Time/TV: 9 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Mid-American vs. Sun Belt
Projection: Northern Illinois vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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