UPDATE: The New Mexico Bowl announced Sunday afternoon that Nevada has accepted a bid, so the Wolf Pack will play in Albuquerque no matter what happens with its game vs. Boise this Saturday. The MAACO Las Vegas announced that it will invite either Boise State or Fresno State.
The results of Saturday’s games brought some clarity to the Pac-12 postseason, but the projections remain murky for the Arizona Wildcats and the teams further down the pecking order.
Here’s what is known: The winner of the Pac-12 title game (UCLA at Stanford) will go to the Rose Bowl.
Here’s your basic lock: Oregon, at 11-1 overall and wildly entertaining, will go to the Fiesta Bowl as a BCS at-large team.
After that? Let’s start projecting.
Alamo Bowl, San Antonio, Dec. 29 — It would be easy to say the Alamo would simply take the loser of the Pac-12 title game. But, if that’s UCLA, then the Bruins would be coming off two consecutive losses, which isn’t very attractive. Oregon State, at 6-3 in the Pac-12 with a fan base more apt to travel, could be the pick. My prediction: Stanford to the Rose, UCLA to Alamo.
Holiday Bowl, San Diego, Dec. 27 — This would be Oregon State if the Beavers don’t land in the Alamo. In any case, Stanford, Oregon, UCLA and Oregon State are the first four teams off the board.
Sun Bowl, El Paso, Dec. 31 — Now, it starts to get interesting. The bowl can take any of the remaining four bowl eligible teams — Washington, Arizona State and USC are each 5-4 in the league; Arizona is at 4-5. Remember, a bowl isn’t bound to pick strictly by the standings; it can take any team within one game of the best remaining record. Despite their disastrous season, the Trojans are still a brand name with TV appeal. I have a hard time seeing the Sun passing that up.
MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, Dec. 22 — ASU was in this bowl last season, which doesn’t work in its favor, especially if Boise State fills out the other side of the matchup. The Broncos routed ASU in this game last year, and there’s little clamor for a rematch. Washington, despite their horrible loss to Washington State to end the regular season, has never played in the Vegas bowl and would be an attractive option.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, San Francisco, Dec. 29 — Well, it’s Arizona or Arizona State. The Sun Devils won the head-to-head matchup. Let’s put them here vs. Navy, which already has accepted a bid.
New Mexico Bowl, Albuquerque, Dec. 15 — This looks like the landing spot for the Wildcats. Not ideal, because this is the first bowl game of the season, which hardly gives coach Rich Rodriguez the extra practice time he covets with his young team. Dec. 15 is also the date Arizona basketball fans have circled on the non-conference slate, with Florida coming into McKale Center that evening; some fans will have to pick one game or another to attend. Fans parked on their couches won’t complain, though. The New Mexico Bowl kicks off at 11 a.m. MT.
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Here are four more projections for the entire postseason, three of which have Arizona playing Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl. If that comes to pass, there will be one great storyline: The game could match the nation’s top two rushers. Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey is No. 1 at 146.42 yards per game; Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson is No. 2 at 142.18 with a regular-season game left vs. Boise State on Saturday.
(Also keep in mind that we could be waiting until next Sunday, when the BCS bowls make their picks.)
Jon Wilner, San Jose Mercury News: Arizona vs. Nevada, New Mexico Bowl
Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com: Arizona vs. Nevada, New Mexico Bowl
Matt Murschel, Orlando Sentinel: Arizona vs. Nevada, New Mexico Bowl
CollegeFootballNews.com: Arizona vs. Boise State, MAACO Las Vegas