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College football bowl projections

Les Miles
Les Miles and his LSU team are on course to play in the BCS Championship.
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It's fun to dream about following your favorite school to one of the big bowls and partying deep into the night.

But not everyone gets to go to one of the big season-ending games, so we've assembled our projections of where college teams appear to be heading as the season hits the homestretch.

A few rules . . .

1) The BCS games that lose their natural tie-ins get the first choices of at-large teams, and after that it goes Fiesta, Sugar, Orange in the selection process.

2) Notre Dame will have an automatic berth if it is in the top eight of the final BCS standings and can be selected as an at-large bid if it finishes in the top 14.

3) Some bowls ignore the final standings as far as the seedings and pairings. Again, geography is a big deal.

So, here we go:

Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Dec. 17, Albuquerque, NM, 2 p.m. ET)

Mountain West No. 5 vs. Pac-12
Projection: Wyoming vs. Iowa*
*No Pac-12 team projected available

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Dec. 17, Boise, Idaho, 5:30 p.m.)

WAC No. 1 or No. 2 vs. MAC No. 3
Projection: Nevada vs. Toledo

R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 17, New Orleans, 9 p.m.)

Payout: $1 million
Sun Belt No. 1 vs. Conference USA No. 5
Projection: Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Central Florida

Beef O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl (Dec. 20, 2011 St. Petersburg, Fla., 8 p.m.)

Payout: $1 million
Big East No. 5 vs. C-USA No. 2
Projection: Pitt vs. Tulsa

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (Dec. 21, San Diego, 8 p.m.)

Payout: $1 million
Mountain West No. 2 vs. WAC
Projection: Boise State vs. Louisiana Tech

MAACO Las Vegas Bowl (Dec. 22, Las Vegas, Nev., 8 p.m.)

Payout: $2.2 million
Mountain West No. 1 vs. Pac-12 No. 5
Projection: TCU vs. UCLA

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (Dec. 24, Honolulu, 8 p.m.)

C-USA No. 6 vs. WAC (Hawaii, if eligible)
Projection: Marshall vs. Hawaii

Advocare V100 Independence Bowl (Dec. 26, Shreveport, La., 5 p.m.)

Payout: $2.3 million
Mountain West No. 3 vs. ACC No. 7
Projection: San Diego State vs. Miami

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (Dec. 27, 2011 Detroit, 4:30 p.m.)

MAC No. 1 vs. Big Ten No. 8 (or Sun Belt if no Big Ten)
Projection: Northern Illinois vs. Illinois

Belk Bowl (Dec. 27, Charlotte, NC, 8 p.m.)

Payout: $3.4 million
Big East No. 3 vs. ACC No. 4
Projection: West Virginia vs. North Carolina

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman (Dec. 28, Washington, DC, 4:30 p.m.)

Payout: $1,725,000
ACC No. 8 vs. Navy (or C-USA if Navy not eligible)
Projection: Virginia vs. Navy

NICE GEAR

New-style or old-style, uniforms and helmets were the talk of the town. Here are some of the most distinctive.

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl (Dec. 28, San Diego, 8 p.m.)

Payout: $4.3 million
Big 12 No. 5 vs. Pac-12 No. 3
Projection: Missouri vs. Washington

Champs Sports Bowl (Dec. 29, Orlando, Fla, 5:30 p.m.)

Payout: $4.65 million
ACC No. 3 vs. Big East No. 2
Projection: Florida State vs. Notre Dame

Valero Alamo Bowl (Dec. 29, San Antonio, Texas, 9 p.m.)

Payout: $6.35 million
Big 12 No. 2 or 3 vs. Pac-12 No. 2
Projection: Texas vs. Arizona State

Bell Helicopters Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 30, Fort Worth, Texas,  noon)

Payout: $1.2 million
C-USA No. 3 vs. BYU (or Mountain West if BYU not eligible)
Projection: SMU vs. BYU

New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Dec. 30, 2011, New York City, 3:20 p.m.)

Payout: $3.6 million
Big East No. 4 vs. Big 12 No. 7
Projection: Rutgers vs. Baylor

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (Dec. 30, Nashville, Tenn., 6:40 p.m.)

Payout: $3,675,000
ACC No. 6 vs. SEC No. 7
Projection: Wake Forest vs. Tennessee

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (Dec. 30, San Francisco, 3:30 p.m.)

Payout: $1,675,000
Pac-12 No. 6 vs. Army (WAC if Army not available)
Projection: Utah vs. Utah State

Insight Bowl (Dec. 30, Tempe, Ariz., 10 p.m.)

Payout: $6.7 million
Big Ten No. 4 or 5 vs. Big 12 No. 4
Projection: Ohio State vs. Texas A&M

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas (Dec. 31, Houston, noon)

Payout: $3.4 million
Big Ten No. 6 vs. Big 12 No. 6
Projection: Penn State vs. Texas Tech

Hyundai Sun Bowl (Dec. 31, El Paso, Texas, 2 p.m.)

Payout: $4 million
ACC No. 4 vs. Pac-12 No. 4
Projection: Georgia Tech vs. California

AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Dec. 31, Memphis, Tenn,, 3:30 p.m.)

C-USA No. 1 vs. SEC No. 6 or No. 7 (Big East if no SEC team)
Projection: Southern Miss vs. Vanderbilt

Chick-fil-A Bowl (Dec. 31, Atlanta, 7:30 p.m.)

Payout: $6.9 million
ACC No. 2 vs. SEC No. 3, 4 or 5
Projection: Virginia Tech vs. South Carolina

TicketCity Bowl (Jan. 2, Dallas, noon)

Payout: $2.2 million
Big Ten No. 6 vs. C-USA
Projection: Purdue vs. South Florida*
*No CUSA team projected available

Capital One Bowl (Jan. 2, Orlando, Fla., 1 p.m.)

Payout: $9.2 million
Big Ten No. 2 vs. SEC No. 2
Projection: Michigan State vs. Arkansas

Gator Bowl (Jan. 2, 2011 Jacksonville, Fla., 1 p.m.)

Payout: $5.4 million
Big Ten No. 4 or 5 vs. SEC No. 6
Projection: Nebraska vs. Florida

Outback Bowl (Jan. 2, Tampa, Fla., 1 p.m.)

Payout: $7 million
Big Ten No. 3 vs. SEC No. 3, 4 or 5
Projection: Michigan vs. Georgia

AT&T Cotton Bowl (Jan. 6, Arlington, Texas, 8 p.m.)

Payout: $7.25 million
Big 12 No. 2 vs. SEC No. 3, 4, or 5 (West)
Projection: Kansas State vs. Auburn

BBVA Compass Bank Bowl (Jan. 7, Birmingham, Ala., 1 p.m.)

Payout: $1,925,000
Big East No. 4 vs. SEC (or MAC if no Big East or SEC)
Projection: Louisville vs. Mississippi State

GoDaddy.com Bowl (Jan. 8, Mobile, Ala. 9 p.m.)

Payout: $1.5 million
MAC No. 2 vs. Sun Belt
Projection: Ohio vs. Arkansas State

BCS BOWLS

Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO (Jan. 2, Pasadena, Calif., 5 p.m.)

Payout: $36 million
Big Ten No. 1 vs. Pac-12 No. 1
Projection: Wisconsin vs. Oregon

Rationale: Wisconsin got the break it needed with Ohio State and Penn State losing. The Badgers will beat Illinois and Penn State before blasting Michigan State in the rematch for the Big Ten title. Oregon's toughest remaining game is USC in the real Pac-12 championship next week.

BEST OF WEEK 11

Looking for college football action? We've got the best shots right here.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 2, Glendale, Ariz., 8:30 p.m.)

Big 12 No. 1 vs. BCS
Projection: Oklahoma State vs. Stanford

Rationale: Stanford might have lost to Oregon, but it'll still get to a BCS game by beating Cal and Notre Dame to finish 11-1. The Oklahoma State/Oklahoma loser will be here, and the winner will play for the BCS title.

Allstate Sugar Bowl (Jan. 3, New Orleans, 8:30 p.m.)

SEC No. 1 vs. BCS at-large
Projection: Alabama vs. Houston

Rationale: Boise State is out and Houston is in as long as it wins out. Watch out, though; the Conference USA title game against Southern Miss will be a battle, and Tulsa is good enough to win the West. Alabama will finish No. 3 in the BCS standings.

Discover Orange Bowl (Jan. 4, Miami Gardens, Fla., 8 p.m.)

ACC No. 1 vs. BCS at-large
Projection: Clemson vs. Cincinnati

Rationale: The Big East race is wide open now after Cincinnati lost to West Virginia and with QB Zach Collaros hurt, but the Bearcats still control their own destiny. Clemson isn't a lock to get by Virginia Tech — or maybe even Virginia — in the ACC title, but it's the league's best team.

BCS Championship (Jan. 9, New Orleans, 9 p.m.)

BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2
Projection: LSU vs. Oklahoma

Rationale: It's now set up perfectly for Oklahoma. Oklahoma State is the far and away No. 2 team in the country and one of just three unbeatens left. If Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State, Oklahoma gets the BCS juice and moves into the No. 2 spot. LSU will be tested. Arkansas is hardly a layup and Georgia, if it really is Georgia, is playing well enough to provide a push in the SEC title game.

Tagged: Virginia, Illinois, Michigan, Penn State, Ohio, Oregon, Florida, Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Navy, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Cincinnati, Houston

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