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Bowl projections: Baylor, Texas A&M headed for in-state clash?

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This is the biggest weekend of the season thus far -- and by far -- in terms of winnowing the possible playoff field.

There are three huge games in the SEC West (Alabama at Mississippi, LSU at Auburn and Texas A&M at Mississippi State), with all six teams in the top 15 of both media polls -- and the top 20 of the CFB 24/7 Power Rankings. There is one of the biggest regular-season games in the Big Ten (Nebraska at Michigan State). There's an important game in the Big 12 between two unbeatens (Oklahoma at TCU), with one team that appears legit and one that doesn't. And there's a big intersectional game featuring one of the preseason favorites in the Pac-12 and what looks to be the nation's best independent (Stanford at Notre Dame).

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There also are a number of so-called "pecking order" games in the ACC (Miami at Georgia Tech, Pitt at Virginia, Clemson at N.C. State, Virginia Tech at North Carolina), SEC (Florida at Tennessee), Big Ten (Ohio state at Maryland, Michigan at Rutgers), Pac-12 (Arizona at Oregon, Arizona State at USC) and Big 12 (Texas Tech at Kansas State).

Obviously, this is a huge weekend, and one that will start to give everyone a better idea of who is going where for the postseason.

Remember that four bowls have been added this season, so when you include the two playoff semifinal games that will be played in bowls, there are 38 bowls. That means 76 teams will be in the postseason -- or 59 percent of the 128 teams in the FBS ranks.

This season, the playoff semifinals are in the Rose and Sugar bowls, meaning the 13-person playoff selection committee also will pick the matchups in the Cotton, Fiesta, Orange and Peach bowls. While there are 12 teams involved in the six games, it's not necessarily the 12 highest-ranked teams by committee; instead, the highest-ranked team from outside of the "Power Five" conferences is guaranteed a slot in one of the games, even if it falls outside the top 12. (Just don't expect a non-Power Five school to be in a four-team playoff.)

When looking over these bowl projections, 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. You'll also notice that there is no clear-cut designation for some of the league tie-ins; that's because the leagues and bowl organizers want a lot of leeway to put together what they consider the best possible matchup.

Note: Start times listed are ET.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF MATCHUPS

ROSE BOWL

Site: Pasadena, Calif.
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 5 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Semifinal game this season.
Projection: Oklahoma vs. Oregon

SUGAR BOWL

Site: New Orleans
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Semifinal game this season.
Projection: Alabama vs. Florida State

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Site: Arlington, Texas
Date: Jan. 12
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Semifinal winners.
Projection: Florida State vs. Oregon

THE OTHER BOWLS

NEW ORLEANS BOWL

Site: New Orleans
Date: Dec. 20
Time/TV: 11 a.m., ESPN
Matchup: Mountain West #6 vs. Sun Belt
Projection: Fresno State vs. Arkansas State

ROYAL PURPLE BOWL

Site: Las Vegas
Date: Dec. 20
Time/TV: 12:30 p.m., ABC
Matchup: Mountain West #1 vs. Pac-12 #6/7
Projection: Boise State vs. Oregon State

NEW MEXICO BOWL

Site: Albuquerque
Date: Dec. 20
Time/TV: 2:20 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Conference USA vs. Mountain West #3/4
Projection: North Texas vs. Utah State

IDAHO POTATO BOWL

Site: Boise, Idaho
Date: Dec. 20
Time/TV: 5:45 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Mid-American vs. Mountain West #5
Projection: Bowling Green vs. Colorado State

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CAMELLIA BOWL

Site: Montgomery, Ala.
Date: Dec. 20
Time/TV: 8:15 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Mid-American vs. Sun Belt
Projection: Ball State vs. Georgia Southern

MIAMI BEACH BOWL

Site: Miami
Date: Dec. 22
Time/TV: 2 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: AAC vs. BYU if bowl-eligible
Projection: East Carolina vs. BYU

POINSETTIA BOWL

Site: San Diego
Date: Dec. 23
Time/TV: 9:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Mountain West #2 vs. Navy if bowl-eligible
Projection: San Diego State vs. Navy
Note: If this matchup comes to fruition, SDSU would be playing in its home stadium.

BOCA RATON BOWL

Site: Boca Raton, Fla.
Date: Dec. 23
Time/TV: 6 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Conference USA vs. Mid-American
Projection: Western Kentucky vs. Northern Illinois

POPEYES BAHAMAS BOWL

Site: Nassau
Date: Dec. 24
Time/TV: Noon, ESPN
Matchup: Conference USA vs. Mid-American
Projection: Old Dominion vs. Ohio

HAWAII BOWL

Site: Honolulu
Date: Dec. 24
Time/TV: 8 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Conference USA vs. Mountain West #3/4
Projection: Middle Tennessee State vs. Air Force
Note: One thing to remember about this game is that it makes sense to take a Mountain West team that does not play at Hawaii during the regular season. Air Force does not.

HEART OF DALLAS BOWL

Site: Dallas
Date: Dec. 26
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big Ten #9 vs. Conference USA
Projection: Rutgers vs. UT San Antonio

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QUICK LANE BOWL

Site: Detroit
Date: Dec. 26
Time/TV: 4:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: ACC #7 vs. Big Ten #8
Projection: Georgia Tech vs. Illinois

ST. PETERSBURG BOWL

Site: St. Petersburg, Fla.
Date: Dec. 26
Time/TV: 8 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: AAC vs. ACC #8
Projection: UCF vs. North Carolina

MILITARY BOWL

Site: Annapolis, Md.
Date: Dec. 27
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: AAC vs. ACC #9
Projection: Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh

SUN BOWL

Site: El Paso, Texas
Date: Dec. 27
Time/TV: 2 p.m., CBS
Matchup: ACC #3/4/5/6 vs. Pac-12 #5
Projection: Louisville vs. Arizona State

INDEPENDENCE BOWL

Site: Shreveport, La.
Date: Dec. 27
Time/TV: 4 p.m., ESPN2
Matchup: ACC #10 vs. SEC #10
Projection: Duke vs. Arkansas

PINSTRIPE BOWL

Site: New York
Date: Dec. 27
Time/TV: 4:30, ESPN
Matchup: ACC #3/4/5/6 vs. Big Ten #7
Projection: Miami vs. Maryland

HOLIDAY BOWL

Site: San Diego
Date: Dec. 27
Time/TV: 8 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big Ten #4 vs. Pac-12 #3
Projection: Iowa vs. USC

LIBERTY BOWL

Site: Memphis
Date: Dec. 29
Time/TV: 2 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big 12 #5 vs. SEC #3/4/5/6/7/8
Projection: West Virginia vs. Mississippi

RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL

Site: Orlando
Date: Dec. 29
Time/TV: 5:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: ACC #2 vs. Big 12 #3
Projection: Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma State

TEXAS BOWL

Site: Houston
Date: Dec. 29
Time/TV: 9 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big 12 #4 vs. SEC #3/4/5/6/7/8
Projection: Texas vs. Missouri

MUSIC CITY BOWL

Site: Nashville
Date: Dec. 30
Time/TV: 3 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: ACC #3/4/5/6 vs. SEC #3/4/5/6/7/8
Projection: Virginia Tech vs. LSU

BELK BOWL

Site: Charlotte, N.C.
Date: Dec. 30
Time/TV: 6:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: ACC #3/4/5/6 vs. SEC #3/4/5/6/7/8
Projection: North Carolina State vs. South Carolina

SAN FRANCISCO BOWL

Site: Santa Clara, Calif.
Date: Dec. 30
Time/TV: 10 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big Ten #6 vs. Pac-12 #4
Projection: Minnesota vs. Washington

PEACH BOWL

Site: Atlanta
Date: Dec. 31
Time/TV: 12:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: This is part of the "playoff" bowl group. The Peach will play host to a national semifinal in the 2016 season.
Projection: Auburn vs. Marshall

FIESTA BOWL

Site: Glendale, Ariz.
Date: Dec. 31
Time/TV: 4 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: This is part of the "playoff" bowl group. The Fiesta will play host to a national semifinal in the 2016 season. (This site also will play host to the national title game after the 2015 season.)
Projection: Michigan State vs. UCLA

ORANGE BOWL

Site: Miami
Date: Dec. 31
Time/TV: 8 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: This is part of the "playoff" bowl group. The Orange will play host to a national semifinal in the 2015 season. The bowl has a contractual agreement with the ACC.
Projection: Clemson vs. Wisconsin

COTTON BOWL

Site: Arlington, Texas
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 12:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: This is part of the "playoff" bowl group. The Cotton will play host to a national semifinal in the 2016 season. (This site also is the site of the national title game this season.)
Projection: Baylor vs. Texas A&M

CITRUS BOWL

Site: Orlando
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 12:30 p.m., ABC
Matchup: Big Ten #2 vs. SEC #2
Projection: Ohio State vs. Georgia
Note: The bowl went back to its old name last week; it recently had been known as the Capital One Bowl.

OUTBACK BOWL

Site: Tampa
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ESPN2
Matchup: Big Ten #3 vs. SEC #3/4/5/6/7/8
Projection: Nebraska vs. Mississippi State

ARMED FORCES BOWL

Site: Fort Worth, Texas
Date: Jan. 2
Time/TV: Noon, ESPN
Matchup: AAC vs. Army if bowl-eligible
Projection: Houston at TCU
Note: The projection is that Army won't be eligible. That is an extreme long shot to begin with, and because the Big 12 has a secondary tie-in, TCU is the pick to play in its home stadium.

TAXSLAYER BOWL

Site: Jacksonville
Date: Jan. 2
Time/TV: 3:20, ESPN
Matchup: Big Ten #5 vs. SEC #3/4/5/6/7/8
Projection: Penn State vs. Florida

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ALAMO BOWL

Site: San Antonio
Date: Jan. 2
Time/TV: 6:45 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big 12 #2 vs. Pac-12 #2
Projection: Kansas State vs. Stanford

CACTUS BOWL

Site: Tempe, Ariz.
Date: Jan. 2
Time/TV: 10:15 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big 12 #6 vs. Pac-12 #6/7
Projection: Texas Tech vs. Arizona

BIRMINGHAM BOWL

Site: Birmingham, Ala.
Date: Jan. 3
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ESPN or ESPN2
Matchup: AAC vs. SEC #9
Projection: Memphis vs. Tennessee

GODADDY.COM BOWL

Site: Mobile, Ala.
Date: Jan. 4
Time/TV: 9 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Mid-American vs. Sun Belt
Projection: Toledo 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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