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Updated bowl projections, Week 15: NIU could wreck everything, Alabama-Notre Dame title set

We'll never have a bigger brand name BCS National Championship than Notre Dame vs. Alabama, but who'll play in the Sugar, Fiesta and Orange? Full projections for all 35 bowls right here for Selection Sunday, updated December 2.

Dave Reginek

Notre Dame claims 11 national championships; Alabama claims anywhere from 14 to untold thousands. One of them will get to count even higher very soon. The Irish will play Alabama for the national title, and with Stanford, Wisconsin, Florida State, Kansas State and Louisville winning AQ spots, we know how just about the entire BCS will shake out.

The big question: can No. 20 Boise State or No. 21 Northern Illinois rise to that No. 16 spot in Sunday night's BCS rankings, which would guarantee one of them a cut and likely squeeze out Oklahoma? After losses by No. 16 UCLA, No. 17 Kent State, and No. 18 Texas plus a humiliating loss by No. 12 Nebraska, it's going to be very close. Very close.

UPDATE: Northern Illinois is reportedly in the Orange Bowl.

BCS ranking projections, Dec. 2 edition || The updated bowl bids tracker

Projections for all 35 2012-2013 bowl games, with bold teams already in and asterisks for teams claiming the spots of conferences that couldn't fill theirs:

Bowl Team Team Date Matchup

BCS National Championship (Miami) Notre Dame Alabama 1/7/2013 BCS 1 vs. BCS 2

Fiesta (Glendale, AZ) Kansas State Oregon 1/3/2013 Big 12 1 vs. At-large 1

Sugar (New Orleans) Florida Louisville 1/2/2013 SEC 1 vs. At-large 2

Orange (Miami) Florida State NIU 1/1/2013 ACC 1 vs. At-large 3

Rose (Pasadena) Stanford Wisconsin 1/1/2013 Pac-12 1 vs. Big Ten 1

GoDaddy (Mobile, AL) Toledo Arkansas State 1/6/2013 MAC 2 vs. Sun Belt 2

BBVA Compass (B'ham) Ole Miss Pitt 1/5/2013 SEC 8/9 vs. Big East 5/C-USA

Cotton (Arlington) Oklahoma LSU 1/4/2013 Big 12 2 vs. SEC

Heart of Dallas Purdue Baylor 1/1/2013 Big Ten 7 vs. Big 12

Outback (Tampa) Michigan South Carolina 1/1/2013 Big Ten 3 vs. SEC

Gator (Jacksonville) Northwestern Mississippi State 1/1/2013 Big Ten 4/5 vs. SEC 6

Capital One (Orlando) Nebraska Georgia 1/1/2013 Big Ten 2 vs. SEC 2

Sun (El Paso) USC Georgia Tech 12/31/2012 ACC 4 vs. Pac-12 4

Music City (Nashville) Vanderbilt N.C. State 12/31/2012 ACC 6 vs. SEC 7

Liberty (Memphis) Tulsa Louisiana Tech* 12/31/2012 C-USA 1 vs. Big East/SEC 8/9

Chick-fil-A (Atlanta) Clemson Texas A&M 12/31/2012 ACC 2 vs. SEC 5

Pinstripe (New York) West Virginia Syracuse 12/29/2012 Big 12 7 vs. Big East 4

Kraft (San Francisco) Arizona State Navy 12/29/2012 Pac-12 6 vs. Navy/ACC 9

Buffalo Wild Wings (PHX) Oklahoma State Michigan State 12/29/2012 Big 12 4 vs. Big Ten 4/5

Armed Forces (Ft. Worth) Air Force Rice 12/29/2012 MWC 3 vs. C-USA 2

Alamo (San Antonio) Texas Oregon State 12/29/2012 Big 12 3 vs. Pac-12 2

Russell Athletic (Orlando) Rutgers Virginia Tech 12/28/2012 Big East 2 vs. ACC 3

Meineke (Houston) TCU Minnesota 12/28/2012 Big 12 6 vs. Big Ten 6

Independence (Shreve.) Iowa State* ULM* 12/28/2012 SEC 10 vs. ACC 7

Military (D.C.) Ohio* San Jose State* 12/27/2012 ACC 8/MAC 4 vs. Army/C-USA 5

Holiday (San Diego) UCLA Texas Tech 12/27/2012 Pac-12 3 vs. Big 12 5

Belk (Charlotte) Cincinnati Duke 12/27/2012 Big East 3 vs. ACC 5

Little Caesars (Detroit) Kent State MTSU* 12/26/2012 MAC 1 vs. Big Ten 8

Hawaii (Honolulu) Fresno State SMU 12/24/2012 MWC 4 vs. C-USA

New Orleans ULL ECU 12/22/2012 Sun Belt 1 vs. C-USA 4

Las Vegas Boise State Washington 12/22/2012 MWC 1 vs. Pac-12 5

Beef O'Brady's (St. Pete.) Bowling Green* UCF 12/21/2012 Big East 6 vs. C-USA 3

Poinsettia (San Diego) San Diego State BYU 12/20/2012 MWC 2 vs. BYU

New Mexico (ABQ) Nevada Arizona 12/15/2012 MWC 5 vs. Pac-12 7

Idaho Potato (Boise) Ball State Utah State 12/15/2012 MAC 3 vs. WAC 1

Bowl Team Team Date Matchup

NIU vs. Oklahoma

If voters filled out their ballots in a bubble, unaware of the significance of that No. 16 spot, I think Northern Illinois would make it. Their one loss was forever ago, very close and away from home; they blasted their way through most of their schedule; and they have maybe the second most exciting player in the country in Jordan Lynch.

But voters know full well what they're doing if they put the Huskies, a team that just gave up its head coach to N.C. State, at No. 16. Putting direct matchmaking power in the hands of humans could mean Nebraska somehow doesn't fall past 16 despite getting shanked by Wisconsin. It could mean Michigan hangs on in the way despite not even playing. It could mean something even dumber happens. But even though the computers already like NIU (No. 23 last week) and will like them even more Sunday night (they beat computer No. 18 Kent State), the humans have the two-thirds majority.

I think they'll go brand name, even though I don't think they should. Oklahoma's probably the better team, and I don't know if NIU's deserving of a spot in the BCS, but it deserves to be ranked No. 16, along with all the things that come with being ranked No. 16. And speaking of, if they do go mid-major, I think they'll go brand-name there and give an extremely undeserving Boise State team the spot.

Sugar Bowl pick No. 1: Can Georgia steal?

The Sugar gets first pick, due to having lost SEC champ Alabama to the title game. Florida looked to be a lock for a BCS spot, with a No. 3 ranking, but now we have to wonder whether Georgia hangs on and swipes the BCS spot from its archrival, a team it's beaten. Only two teams per conference can go, so if the Dawgs do stay ahead, it's no BCS for Florida.

Florida has the better list of wins, but that Florida State win looks a little less impressive now that Georgia Tech took the 'Noles to the limit and we all just saw the Dawgs come within five yards of a national title shot. The Gators will still have the computer edge, but this will be much closer than we'd thought.

Either way, there's almost no chance the Sugar discards its SEC tie, especially not with future playoff partner Mike Slive to keep happy.

Fiesta Bowl: Easy choice

The Fiesta goes second, and needs only someone to pair with Big 12 champion Kansas State. Oregon should be ranked in the top five, is a national presence, is a west-coast team, offers the possibility of Chip Kelly's last college game and, you know, uniforms and offense. Having four of the top five teams in two bowls also teases the coming playoff setup.

Sugar Bowl pick No. 2: The point of controversy

Next is the Sugar again, which will be free to take Oklahoma as long as Northern Illinois or Boise State doesn't finish No. 16 or better.

Orange Bowl: Poor Orange Bowl

This would leave the Orange with Florida State vs. Big East champion Louisville, and no choice in the matter.

Rose Bowl: It's the Rose Bowl

Oh, and the Rose Bowl, which is as set as set can be.

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