Bowl projections: Oregon, Alabama on course for title game

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A few days ago, we debated the strengths of the Alabama and Oregon rosters, with the Crimson Tide's starting 22 emerging as a runaway favorite. The premise of the debate was that the two schools appear destined to meet in the BCS National Championship Game after getting off to strong starts.

Things we learned

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From AJ McCarron praising an unsung hero for Alabama's win to Oregon's epic rout, here are the things we learned from the third weekend of college football play. More ...

Anything, of course, can and likely will change between now and the postseason, but that didn't stop us from publishing our first bowl projections in this final season with the BCS in place. For now, the projection is the ACC, Pac-12 and SEC will have two teams apiece in the BCS. Notre Dame will be a BCS team if it gets to 10 wins.

A few notes about these projections: Once again, there are 35 bowls, though one bowl changed its name since last season (the Independence Bowl is now the AdvoCare V100 Bowl). And a bowl's tie-in with a conference doesn't necessarily mean it will get the third- or fourth-, etc., place team from the conference; instead, it means it gets the third or fourth, etc., selection from that conference.

BCS rules stipulate that if a team from a non-automatic qualifying conference (C-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 conference champion from an automatic-qualifying conference, the team from the non-automatic-qualifying conference is guaranteed a spot.

The first BCS standings of the season come out on Oct. 20. The final standings will be released on Dec. 8.

BCS Matchups

BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Site: Pasadena, Calif.
Date: Jan. 6
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Matchup: BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2
Projection: Alabama vs. Oregon
Note: Neither has anything close to a clear path to the title game. Indeed, the easier schedules belong to Louisville and Ohio State. Still, these appear to be the two best teams, at least for now.

ORANGE BOWL

Site: Miami, Fla.
Date: Jan. 3
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Matchup: ACC/BCS vs. BCS
Projection: Clemson vs. Notre Dame
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's almost a certainty it will be the first at-large pick.

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SUGAR BOWL

Site: New Orleans, La.
Date: Jan. 2
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Matchup: SEC/BCS vs. BCS
Projection: Florida State vs. Texas A&M
Note: The SEC champ is contractually obligated to the Sugar Bowl if it is not in the national title game. But the Sugar Bowl always wants an SEC team even if the champ is in the title game. The Sugar Bowl gets the second pick among the at-large teams.

FIESTA BOWL

Site: Glendale, Ariz.
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Matchup: Big 12/BCS vs. BCS
Projection: Louisville vs. Oklahoma 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 Bowl gets the last pick among the at-large teams; hence, the AAC champ (Louisville) being picked to go here. Louisville went to the Sugar Bowl last season.

ROSE BOWL

Site: Pasadena, Calif.
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 5 p.m. ET, ESPN
Matchup: Big Ten/BCS vs. Pac-12/BCS
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.

THE OTHER BOWLS

NEW MEXICO BOWL

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

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LAS VEGAS BOWL

Site: Las Vegas
Date: Dec. 21
Time/TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Matchup: Mountain West No. 1 vs. Pac-12 No. 5
Projection: Fresno State vs. USC

FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL

Site: Boise, Idaho
Date: Dec. 21
Time/TV: 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Matchup: Mid-American vs. Mountain West No. 6
Projection: Bowling Green vs. Wyoming

NEW ORLEANS BOWL

Site: New Orleans
Date: Dec. 21
Time/TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Matchup: Conference USA vs. Sun Belt
Projection: Tulane vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

BEEF 'O' BRADY'S BOWL

Site: St. Petersburg, Fla.
Date: Dec. 23
Time/TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, 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. ET, ESPN
Matchup: Conference USA vs. Mountain West No. 4/5
Projection: Tulsa vs. Air Force

LITTLE CAESARS PIZZA BOWL

Site: Detroit
Date: Dec. 26
Time/TV: 6 p.m. ET, ESPN
Matchup: Big Ten No. 8 vs. Mid-American
Projection: Arkansas State vs. Toledo
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. ET, ESPN
Matchup: Army if bowl-eligible vs. Mountain West No. 2
Projection: Northern Illinois vs. Boise State
Note: Projection is Army won't be eligible.

MILITARY BOWL

Site: Washington, D.C.
Date: Dec. 27
Time/TV: 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Matchup: ACC No. 8 vs. Conference USA
Projection: Pittsburgh vs. Marshall

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TEXAS BOWL

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

KRAFT FIGHT HUNGER BOWL

Site: San Francisco
Date: Dec. 27
Time/TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Matchup: BYU if bowl-eligible vs. Pac-12 No. 6
Projection: BYU vs. Arizona

PINSTRIPE BOWL

Site: New York
Date: Dec. 28
Time/TV: 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
Matchup: AAC No. 4 vs. Big 12 No. 7
Projection: Cincinnati vs. Texas

BELK BOWL

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

RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL

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

BUFFALO WILD WINGS BOWL

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

ARMED FORCES BOWL

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

MUSIC CITY BOWL

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

ALAMO BOWL

Site: San Antonio
Date: Dec. 30
Time/TV: 6:45 p.m. ET, 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. ET, ESPN
Matchup: Big 12 No. 5 vs. Pac-12 No. 3
Projection: Kansas State vs. Washington

ADVOCARE V100 BOWL

Site: Shreveport, La.
Date: Dec. 31
Time/TV: 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Matchup: ACC No. 7 vs. SEC No. 10
Projection: NC State vs. Vanderbilt
Note: This formerly was known as the Independence Bowl.

SUN BOWL

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

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LIBERTY BOWL

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

CHICK-FIL-A BOWL

Site: Atlanta
Date: Dec. 31
Time/TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Matchup: ACC No. 2 vs. SEC No. 5
Projection: Miami vs. South Carolina

HEART OF DALLAS BOWL

Site: Dallas
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 12 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Matchup: Big Ten No. 7 vs. Conference USA
Projection: Iowa vs. Rice

GATOR BOWL

Site: Jacksonville
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 12 p.m ET, ESPN2
Matchup: Big Ten No. 5 vs. SEC No. 6
Projection: Nebraska vs. Ole Miss

CAPITAL ONE BOWL

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

OUTBACK BOWL

Site: Tampa
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
Matchup: Big Ten No. 3 vs. SEC No. 3/4
Projection: Wisconsin vs. Florida

COTTON BOWL

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

BBVA COMPASS BOWL

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

GODADDY.COM BOWL

Site: Mobile, Ala.
Date: Jan. 5
Time/TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Matchup: Mid-American vs. Sun Belt
Projection: Ball State vs. Louisiana-Monroe

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

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