This is not an easy exercise. If it were, any old fan could do it. As it were, it takes a special kind of old fan.
Enter the Gekko.
Armed with no particular insight and no significant powers of divination, I present you with ...
...wait for it ...
... my best guesses.
So, here goes.
1. Rose Bowl (Los Angeles, Jan 1) - USC
As noted earlier today, I'm picking USC to win the PAC 12 Championship. As such, they will not only open the door for the College Football Playoff Selection Committee to create a new excuse to not let Notre Dame into the final four, but they will also claim a spot in their 34th Rose Bowl (34!).
2. Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, Jan 2) - Oregon
The Ducks finished as the hottest team in the PAC upon the return of Vernon Adams to the starting lineup. Though their defense remains one of the worst among bowl-eligible teams, they will almost certainly skip over the loser of the PAC 12 Championship game to claim the San Antonio trip.
3. Holiday Bowl (San Diego, Dec 30) - Stanford
The Holiday Bowl committee, which has been rumored to be looking hard at WSU, wlll get a gift from Heaven as Stanford and Heisman trophy hopeful Christian McCaffrey falls to them. The Cougs get screwed again.
4. Sun Bowl (El Paso, Dec 26) - WSU
A bowl game played in a remote, desolate location where Applebee's is the premiere dining experience and would-be travelers will be buying cockroach insurance as part of their hotel reservations. It's like home away from home for the Pullman boys. Perfect.
5. Foster Farms Bowl (San Francisco, Dec 26) - Utah
I expect that the Sun Bowl would (seriously) pick WSU over Utah. Therefore, Utah at 6-3 would be the default and required choice for the Foster Farms Bowl.
6. Las Vegas Bowl (Las Vegas, Dec 26) - UCLA
This is another one of those "no other choice" situations as the Bruins would be the next best team by PAC 12 standings. For WSU fans who are wondering, this is a possible landing spot in my "USC over Stanford" scenario if the Sun Bowl skips both Utah and WSU to choose UCLA.
7. Cactus Bowl (Tempe, Jan 2) - Arizona State
This is the biggest no-brainer in the history of mankind. ASU essentially would get another home game in this scenario.
8. Independence Bowl (Shreveport, Dec 26) - Washington
I think the Huskies end up in the Independence Bowl, despite rumors swirling about a couple of Dallas bowl games. I don't have any particular insight here, but I do think that UW is going to be one of the most attractive of the available at-large teams out there given how strongly they finished the season and the name brand-recognition of Chris Petersen. The Independence Bowl is likely the most "prestigious" of the bowls looking for Power 5 at-large teams based on payout levels. I expect UW will be high on their invite list.
9. Armed Forces Bowl (Forth Worth, Dec 29) - Cal
We are at the wild-guess portion of the projection. But I think Cal would be the right kind of team for the Armed Forces Bowl officials to match up against (presumably) Air Force.
10. Heart of Dallas (Dallas, Dec 26) - Arizona
RichRod seems like a nice fit to play a game in Dallas assuming, of course, that he's still the head coach of the Wildcats at that point.
Bowl Projection Dots
- I'm pretty convinced that the last three bowl-eligible PAC 12 teams are going to land in the Independence, Armed Forces, and Heart of Dallas bowls. Others such as the Hawaii Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl remain possibilities (with a few others like the Cure Bowl and the St. Pete Bowl presenting as remote possibilities), but all signs are pointing to these three.
- Of the three Bowls noted above, the Independence pays out the most at $1.2 M, the Heart of Dallas at $1.1 M and the Armed Forces at $675k. Those are humble payouts to be sure and most likely will be completely consumed in just funding the logistics to travel to and play in the game. Any leftover proceeds are pooled by the conference and redistributed to the member schools.
- We all know that Stanford can still get into the playoffs. I have to admit that I thought the Cardinal were dead in the water a few weeks ago. But as the pieces have moved around the table, the Cardinal have generated a line of sight to a playoff spot. It depends on them winning handily and Clemson losing convincingly (among other things), but could still happen. If it does, I'd expect Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Ugh.
- If Stanford does make the playoffs, do keep in mind that the Rose Bowl becomes free to invite ANY team it sees fit to fill the PAC 12 spot. This could be an interesting situation if a team like Alabama or Clemson ends up in play.
- The most coveted spot among the bunched up middle of the PAC - including teams like USC, UCLA, WSU, and Utah - is the Holiday Bowl. Teams not selected to go to San Diego could slip all the way down to the Vegas Bowl, which would could be viewed as a big football disappointment (even if the fans rejoice about the preferential destination).