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Assuming that TCU defeats New Mexico and locks up its BCS bowl bid next Saturday, the BYU-Utah game becomes a Las Vegas Bowl qualification game, if indeed the bowl officials do as expected and select the winner of the rivalry game for their December 22nd contest at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Seeing as the winner of the BYU-Utah game will end up as the higher-ranked of the two teams, it makes sense for the Las Vegas Bowl to select the best MWC team available, and a team coming off a win in its regular season finale, leaving the loser of the BYU-Utah game to play in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Where things get interesting is in the Pac-10 half of the Las Vegas Bowl/Poinsettia Bowl equation. If Oregon defeats Oregon State in Eugene, the Ducks will nail down first place in the conference and a Rose Bowl bid.
It is conceivable, however, that four teams could finish in a second-place tie in the Pac-10, all at 6-3 in conference play. As the Las Vegas Bowl gets either the 4th or 5th place Pac-10 finisher, in such a scenario the bowl would get one of the 6-3 teams--a team likely to be ranked at the end of the regular season. The Poinsettia Bowl Pac-10 rep is almost certain to be unranked.
Here's a projection based on likely outcomes in the remaining Pac-10 games (bowl-eligible teams only):
1. Oregon (win v. Oregon State, finishes 8-1/10-2)
2. USC (wins v. UCLA and Arizona, finishes 6-3/9-3)
2. Oregon State (loss @ Oregon, finishes 6-3/8-4)
2. California (win @ Washington, finishes 6-3/9-3)
2. Stanford (win v. Notre Dame, finishes 6-3/8-4)
6. Arizona (win @ Arizona State, loss @ USC, finishes 5-4/7-5)
7. UCLA (loss @ USC, finishes 3-6/6-6)
*Note: In the event of a tie for any position in the standings other than the championship, the selecting bowl may choose its participant from among the tied teams.
FYI, the projected tied teams above would have head-to-head records against one another as follows:
Oregon State: 2-1
The Pac-10's bowl ties are as follows:
Rose Bowl: Pac-10 #1 v. Big Ten
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl: Pac-10 #2 v. Big 12
Brut Sun Bowl: Pac-10 #3 v. Big 12/Big East/ND
Emerald Bowl: Pac-10 #4 or 5 v. ACC
MAACO Bowl Las Vegas: Pac-10 #4 or 5 v. Mountain West #1
San Diego CCU Poinsettia Bowl: Pac-10 #6 v. Mountain West #2
*Note: MWC #1 represents first choice after projected champion TCU is selected for a BCS bowl)
Based on the above projections, I foresee:
Rose Bowl: Oregon
Holiday Bowl: USC
Sun Bowl: California
Emerald Bowl: Stanford
Las Vegas Bowl: Oregon State
Poinsettia Bowl: Arizona
I took into consideration the following:
California has never appeared in a Sun Bowl; Oregon State has appeared in two of the last three. Cal would be on a three-game win streak and ostensibly in the Top 20; Oregon State would be coming off a loss, and might have dropped below Cal in the rankings, depending on the severity of a projected loss in Eugene.
The Emerald Bowl would be inclined to select the remaining Bay Area team for ticket sales.
Assuming a BYU win versus Utah, the Las Vegas Bowl would be pitting Bronco Mendenhall versus his alma mater.
It's possible the Emerald Bowl could select Oregon State, leaving Stanford for the Las Vegas Bowl. Oregon State will likely be ranked ahead of the Cardinal at selection time, and the Las Vegas Bowl has already had Oregon State (in 2003), while Stanford has never appeared in Las Vegas.