(Teams in italics have accepted bid)
BOWL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
LSU (BCS No. 1) vs. Alabama (BCS No. 2)
Jan. 9, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
At New Orleans
Comment: If LSU takes care of business (and maybe even if it doesn't), the only way to avoid this SEC vs. SEC rematch for the national title is for the voters to revolt and vault Oklahoma State into the No. 2 position if the Cowboys beat Oklahoma on Saturday. Even that might be a stretch. Will this game actually feature a touchdown (LSU won a 9-6 overtime decision on Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa)? LSU's two national titles were captured at the Superdome (and Alabama's Nick Saban was LSU's coach for the 2004 Sugar Bowl triumph).
OTHER BCS BOWLS
Virginia Tech (ACC champ) vs. Houston (BCS at-large)
Jan. 4, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Comment: After witnessing Clemson's executing a deep fade pattern, we're going with the safest bet in the ACC and that's Frank Beamer's generally reliable Hokies. Unbeaten Houston vs. one-loss Virginia Tech? It probably won't generate boffo TV ratings, but it's worth watching. The Orange Bowl could wind up with Virginia Tech against the Big East Conference champion, depending upon the Sugar Bowl's intentions. The Sugar could very well be infatuated with an unbeaten Houston team.
Orange Bowl tickets
Michigan (BCS at-large) vs. West Virginia (Big East champ)
Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
At New Orleans
Comment: The probable LSU-Alabama title game takes away the Sugar Bowl's SEC anchor team (twice). But the fast-charging Michigan Wolverines, finishing 10-2, and the West Virginia Mountaineers, whom we pick to escape from the Big East scrum, make for a fascinating matchup. (Coin-flip idea: Rich Rodriguez). The Sugar Bowl could opt to match Michigan against unbeaten Houston, but we're first intrigued by Michigan-West Virginia possibilities. Michigan, of course, must reach the BCS top 14 to qualify for an at-large spot.
Sugar Bowl tickets
Oklahoma State (Big 12 champ) vs. Stanford (BCS at-large)
Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Glendale, Ariz.
Comment: Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden vs. Stanford's Andrew Luck - not a bad quarterback matchup. Oklahoma State, of course, will forever dream about what might have been. It still must defeat Oklahoma on Saturday to clinch the Fiesta Bowl bid. Stanford, too, can look back at its 53-30 loss to Oregon with regret, but at least the Cardinal can try to win a second straight BCS bowl.
Fiesta Bowl tickets
Wisconsin (Big Ten champ) vs. Oregon (Pac-12 champ)
Jan. 2, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Pasadena, Calif.
Comment: If you reshuffle the deck of this season, the Badgers and Ducks very well could be playing for a national championship. But a play here, a play there, and that scenario didn't work out. It's still a very nice Rose Bowl matchup with two Heisman Trophy contenders (Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson, Oregon RB LaMichael James) leading the way.
Rose Bowl tickets
Northern Illinois (MAC No. 1) vs. Arkansas State (Sun Belt No. 2)
Jan. 8, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Mobile, Ala.
Comment: Northern Illinois' offense, led by QB Chandler Harnish, has surpassed the 40-point mark nine times this season. Arkansas State has accepted its first bowl bid since the 2005 New Orleans Bowl.
GoDaddy.com Bowl tickets
BBVA COMPASS BOWL
Western Kentucky (SEC No. 8/9) vs. Cincinnati (Big East No. 5/C-USA)
Jan. 7, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Birmingham, Ala.
Comment: When Cincinnati QB Zach Collaros went down, so did the Bearcats' realistic hopes of winning the Big East Conference championship. Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart, Jim Harbaugh's old assistant at Stanford, has guided the Hilltoppers to the program's first-ever bowl bid as a replacement choice for the SEC slot.
BBVA Compass Bowl tickets
Oklahoma (Big 12 No. 2) vs. Arkansas (SEC No. 3-West)
Jan. 6, 8 p.m. ET, FOX
At Arlington, Texas
Comment: Kansas State, likely 10-2, is worthy of a Cotton Bowl berth, but we're guessing that an Oklahoma-Arkansas matchup is a better fit for Jerry Jones' big ballyard. Oklahoma, once ranked No. 1, would fall to 9-3 if it loses against Oklahoma State, but the Sooners still have great appeal. Arkansas, which will get a long look from Orlando's Capital One Bowl, picked the wrong season to finish 10-2 with the SEC West presence of LSU and Alabama.
Cotton Bowl tickets
South Carolina (SEC No. 3) vs. Michigan State (Big Ten No. 3)
Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ET, ABC
At Tampa, Fla.
Comment: This might be the best coaching job for South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who dismissed quarterback Stephen Garcia at midseason and lost franchise running back Marcus Lattimore to a season-ending injury. Still, the Gamecocks are aiming for a program-best 11th victory. We expect Michigan State to fall in the Big Ten championship game. If the Capital One Bowl takes Nebraska, that leaves Michigan State available for its first trip to the Outback.
Outback Bowl tickets
Ohio State (Big Ten No. 4/5) vs. Florida (SEC No. 6)
Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN2
At Jacksonville, Fla.
Comment: Ah, it's the Urban Meyer Bowl. Urban's old team (Florida) takes on his new team (Ohio State). It hardly matters that the Gators and Buckeyes are each 6-6. This matchup will generate plenty of buzz. Five years ago, these programs faced each other in the BCS Championship Game, with Florida prevailing 41-14.
Gator Bowl tickets
CAPITAL ONE BOWL
Nebraska (Big Ten No. 2) vs. Georgia (SEC No. 2)
Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Orlando, Fla.
Comment: Nebraska's national appeal and strong band of traveling fans will be too difficult to bypass. Georgia won 10 straight games after an 0-2 start and will still be on the uptick, even if it loses as expected in the SEC Championship Game against top-ranked LSU.
Capital One Bowl tickets
TICKET CITY BOWL
Purdue (Big Ten No. 7) vs. Southern Methodist (C-USA)
Jan. 2, Noon ET, ESPNU
Comment: Purdue (6-6) has reached its first bowl game since 2007, but this one might seem like a true road game with an SMU-friendly crowd.
Ticket City Bowl tickets
Clemson (ACC No. 2) vs. Auburn (SEC No. 5)
Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Comment: Clemson began 8-0 and had visions of a BCS bowl. It's not going to happen. The regular-season finale against South Carolina was Clemson's third loss in its past four games. We're favoring Virginia Tech to win the ACC championship game. Nobody is wild about staging a regular-season rematch - Clemson beat Auburn 38-24 in September - but that's how it's falling right now.
Chick-Fil-A Bowl tickets
Southern Miss (C-USA No. 1) vs. Vanderbilt (SEC No. 8/9-Big East)
Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
At Memphis, Tenn.
Comment: Vanderbilt got it done against Wake Forest to clinch the program's second bowl bid since 1982. Southern Miss will take what is normally Conference USA's top prize, while Houston rockets to a BCS bowl.
Liberty Bowl tickets
KRAFT FIGHT HUNGER BOWL
UCLA (Pac-12 No. 6) vs. Wyoming (Army/ACC)
Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
At San Francisco
Comment: UCLA gets to a bowl game with a 6-7 record after receiving a waiver from the NCAA. Questions, questions: Will the fans even care? Will the interim coaching staff have adequate time for job-hunting between bowl practices? Will the players perform like they are auditioning for the new head coach?
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl tickets
Georgia Tech (ACC No. 4) vs. California (Pac-12 No. 4)
Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET, CBS
At El Paso, Texas
Comment: Georgia Tech's 6-0 start was offset by four losses in its past six games. Califonia finished strong with three victories in its past four games. The defeat was 31-28 against Stanford.
Sun Bowl tickets
MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL
Texas (Big 12 No. 6) vs. Iowa (Big Ten No. 6)
Dec. 31, Noon ET, ESPN
Comment: The Longhorns can achieve an 8-4 finish by defeating Baylor and would be a big draw in the Houston-based bowl. Iowa beat Michigan, but was otherwise the picture of mediocrity in the Big Ten Conference.
Meineke Car Care Bowl tickets
Texas A&M (Big 12 No. 4) vs. Penn State (Big Ten No. 4/5)
Dec. 30, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Tempe, Ariz.
Comment: It's Texas A&M's last Big 12 bowl trip before shuffling off to the SEC. Penn State normally would go higher in the Big Ten's bowl rotation, but this has been anything but a normal finish for the Nittany Lions. It's not fair to the current players, but bowl games are eager to showcase feel-good stories and excited fan bases - neither of which exist at Penn State right now.
Insight Bowl tickets
MUSIC CITY BOWL
Virginia (ACC No. 6) vs. Mississippi State (SEC No. 7)
Dec. 30, 6:40 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Nashville, Tenn.
Comment: Whew! Mississippi State (6-6) just squeaked in by defeating rival Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. Vanderbilt might have been a fit here, but it prefers a trip to the Liberty Bowl and Mississippi State never has qualified for the Nashville-based bowl. Virginia climbed into ACC contention with a late-season four-game winning streak, but was soundly beaten by Virginia Tech for the ACC Coastal Division title.
Music City Bowl tickets
Missouri (Big 12 No. 7) vs. Rutgers (Big East No. 4)
Dec. 30, 3:20 p.m. ET, ESPN
At New York
Comment: Missouri seems ready to ring in the New Year with its impending jump from the Big 12 to the SEC, so why not a trip to the Big Apple? Rutgers is a natural choice from the Big East, although the Scarlet Knights blew a chance to contend for the league's BCS bid with Saturday's crushing loss against Connecticut.
Pinstripe Bowl tickets
ARMED FORCES BOWL
Brigham Young (BYU) vs. Tulsa (C-USA)
Dec. 30, Noon ET, ESPN
At Fort Worth, Texas
Comment: Tulsa was unbeaten in the Conference USA's West Division, but it settled for this consolation prize after running into Houston to close the regular season. Brigham Young has eight victories, but none of them resonate.
Armed Forces Bowl tickets
Kansas State (Big 12 No. 3) vs. Utah (Pac-12 No. 2)
Dec. 29, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
At San Antonio, Texas
Comment: Kansas State, which could rise to 10-2 by defeating Iowa State on Saturday, will contend for a BCS bowl at-large spot, but probably will land here (if Oklahoma grabs the Cotton Bowl bid). Utah was rolling with a five-game winning streak in its first Pac-12 season, but Friday's upset loss against Colorado cost the Utes the league's South Division championship.
Alamo Bowl tickets
CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL
Notre Dame (Big East No. 2) vs. Florida State (ACC No. 3)
Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Comment: The Champs Sports can take Notre Dame in place of a Big East team (provided the Fighting Irish are 7-5 or better) once in a four-year cycle, so the time is right. Florida State, once ranked in the national top five, could use a marquee victory to erase the taste of a bitter season, although the Seminoles are feeling good about their second straight victory against the Florida Gators.
Champs Sports Bowl tickets
Washington (Pac-12 No. 3) vs. Baylor (Big 12 No. 5)
Dec. 28, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
At San Diego
Comment: Baylor QB Robert Griffin III is an attraction all to himself. It's a supreme test for Washington's defense, which allowed an average of 44.4 points in its five losses.
Holiday Bowl tickets
North Carolina (ACC No. 8) vs. Air Force (replacement pick for Navy)
Dec. 28, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Washington, D.C.
Comment: Navy was sunk by a 27-24 defeat against San Jose State, preventing it from becoming bowl eligible, so Air Force makes for an appropriate replacement. North Carolina (6-6) is just happy to be here after dropping four of its past six games.
Military Bowl tickets
Louisville (Big East No. 3) vs. N.C. State (ACC No. 5)
Dec. 27, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Charlotte, N.C.
Comment: Louisville goes into the weekend with a shot at the Big East's BCS bowl bid, but barring some upsets, the Cardinals probably will lose the tiebreaker. The trip to Birmingham might be viewed as a comedown, but in the bigger picture, coach Charlie Strong's Cardinals rallied for a postseason berth and a share of the Big East's regular-season title after a 2-4 start. Not bad. Talk about finishing with a flourish. N.C. State routed Clemson 37-13, then rallied from a 27-point second-half deficit to stun Maryland 56-41.
Belk Bowl tickets
LITTLE CAESARS BOWL
Toledo (MAC No. 2) vs. Northwestern (Big Ten No. 8)
Dec. 27, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Comment: Christmas in Detroit? After a five-game losing streak at midseason, Northwestern is OK with that. The Wildcats must slow down Toledo's scoring machine. It's also not often that a team scores 60 points - and loses! But you can look it up. Northern Illinois 63, Toledo 60. The Rockets were so angered that they promptly beat Western Michigan 66-63.
Little Caesars Bowl tickets
Iowa State (Mountain West No. 3) vs. Wake Forest (ACC No. 7)
Dec. 26, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN2
At Shreveport, La.
Comment: This would've been the slot for the Miami Hurricanes, but the school turned down a bowl bid as part of its NCAA penance. Miami was certainly worthy. Five of its losses were by a combined 24 points. Wake Forest is the ACC's fallback option. Meanwhile, the Big 12 Conference's Iowa State Cyclones, who jump-started the BCS chaos with that Friday upset of Oklahoma State, step into the Mountain West bowl slot.
Independence Bowl tickets
Hawaii (WAC) vs. Florida International (C-USA replacement)
Dec. 24, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Comment: Hawaii (6-6) still must beat BYU on Saturday to be bowl-eligible, but we're predicting it. Conference USA came up short with its bowl teams, but we think the Sun Belt Conference's Florida International University Golden Panthers are a great fallback choice. When former Miami offensive lineman Mario Cristobal took the FIU job in 2007, the Golden Panthers struggled to win a game. Now they have earned the program's second straight bowl bid. FIU game-breaking receiver T.Y. Hilton will be the best player on the field.
Hawaii Bowl tickets
TCU (Mountain West No. 1) vs. Arizona State (Pac-12 No. 5)
Dec. 22, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Las Vegas
Comment: TCU could be headed for a 10-2 finish, which would be coach Gary Patterson's eighth double-digit victory season in the past 10 years. How solid is his program as it prepares for its ascension into the Big 12. Meanwhile, 6-6 Arizona State will try to avoid a losing record. It once had control of the Pac-12 South, where USC was ineligible, but fell apart down the stretch with a four-game losing streak.
MAACO Bowl tickets
Boise State (Mountain West No. 2) vs. Louisiana Tech (WAC)
Dec. 21, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
At San Diego
Comment: Boise State, which will go to 11-1 after beating New Mexico on Saturday, is still kicking itself over its late-game field-goal miss against TCU. Louisiana Tech doesn't sound like a sexy opponent, you say? Remember, Louisiana Tech lost a one-pointer against unbeaten Houston (35-34). It also fell narrowly against two other non-conference bowl-bound opponents (Southern Miss 19-17, Mississippi State 26-20 in overtime).
Poinsettia Bowl tickets
BEEF `O' BRADY'S BOWL
Pittsburgh (Big East No. 6) vs. Marshall (C-USA)
Dec. 20, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
At St. Petersburg, Fla.
Comment: We visualize Saturday's meeting between Pittsburgh (5-6) and Syracuse (5-6) as the Beef `O' Brady's Bowl play-in game. Marshall defeated East Carolina to reach 6-6 and earn Conference USA's final bowl slot. A trip to the beach? Not a bad reward.
Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl tickets
NEW ORLEANS BOWL
Louisiana-Lafayette (Sun Belt No. 1) vs. Illinois (replacement for C-USA)
Dec. 17, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
At New Orleans
Comment: Fightning Illini (6-6) take the slot of Conference USA, which could fill all its bids. After Illinois' schizophrenice season - a 6-0 start, followed by six straight losses, followed by the dismissal of Coach Ron Zook - now it experiences a psuedo-road game against the Ragin' Cajuns. At least the Illini will have a normal Christmas.
New Orleans Bowl tickets
FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL
Ohio (MAC No. 3) vs. Utah State (WAC)
Dec. 17, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Boise, Idaho
Comment: After Ohio fell short in the Mid-American Conference championship game, a trip to the blue turf should be in order. The WAC got this slot filled when Utah State reached 6-6 after a victory against Nevada.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl tickets
NEW MEXICO BOWL
San Diego State (Mountain West No. 4/5) vs. Nevada (Pac-12 No. 7/WAC)
Dec. 17, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Albuquerque, N.M.
Comment: Brady Hoke's old ballclub - and the current team of former New Mexico coach Rocky Long - earns its second consecutive bowl bid. The Pac-12 couldn't fill this slot, but the Nevada Wolf Pack, from the Western Athletic Conference, is an attractive fill-in.
New Mexico Bowl tickets