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Mid-American Conference Bowl Outlook: Final Weekend

The complete bowl schedule will be known to all in fewer than 36 hours, but there are some mysteries about the picture yet to be solved. Let's take a look at where the MAC stands after last night's momentous upset.

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor

Bowling Green's astounding 47-27 win over Northern Illinois last night in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game earned the Falcons their first MAC championship in 21 years.  However, facts are facts, and that win also cost their conference (and potentially one or two of their conference brethren) some coin and exposure.

Northern Illinois will not be going to a Bowl Championship Series game now, so instead of the "non-BCS" conferences splitting up over $28 million, they'll split just over $14 million.  For each MAC school, it stands to be a loss of close to a half-million dollars.  NIU's loss also drops the Huskies back into the mix for the MAC's bowl games.  As we know by now, the MAC has three "primary" bowl tie-ins -- the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, the Bowl, and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.  It also has four "secondary" bowl tie-ins, which means that if the bowl's primary conference cannot fulfill its obligation, the MAC gets the spot.  Those four games are the BBVA Compass Bowl, the Beef 'O'Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl, the SDCCU Poinsettia Bowl, and the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.

Right now, we know that the Mountain West is able to fill its spots in the Poinsettia and New Mexico Bowls.  We know that the Pac 12 will fill its spot in the New Mexico Bowl.  We also know that the SEC will fill its spot in the BBVA Compass Bowl and that Conference USA will fill its spot in the Beef 'O'Brady's Bowl.

That leaves three possible landing spots for "extra" MAC teams -- the Poinsettia, the Beef 'O'Brady's, and the BBVA Compass Bowls.

Army is not eligible, so the Poinsettia will take a MAC team.  However, the other two are still up in the air, even on this final day of the season.  Right now, both of those spots are obligated to the American Athletic Conference.  The AAC currently has four eligible teams for its six bowls -- with two more who could become eligible today.

Southern Methodist hosts Central Florida at noon, while Rutgers hosts South Florida at 7:30 p.m. ET.  If one (or both) win, they'll become eligible and fill one (or both) of those two available spots.  In other words, depending on what happens in those two games, the MAC will have either four, five or six bowl teams.

Unfortunately, Rutgers is playing a terrible South Florida team.  While the Scarlet Knights are no great team themselves, they should win today.  The real problem for the MAC comes in the other game.  Central Florida, until Thursday night, had a BCS berth to play for today.  However, when Louisville defeated Cincinnati on Thursday, UCF clinched their spot in the BCS -- so they have nothing to play for today.  This, in my opinion, significantly improves SMU's chance for victory.

With all that in mind, here are my "final Saturday morning" projections:

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl -- Bowling Green (vs. Pittsburgh*) Bowl -- Ball State (vs. ARKANSAS STATE)
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl -- Buffalo (vs. Colorado State)
Poinsettia Bowl -- Northern Illinois (vs. Fresno State)
* -- Substitute for Big Ten team
Eligible teams with no bowl: Toledo, Ohio, Central Michigan

Yes, I believe that SMU will defeat Central Florida and that Rutgers will beat South Florida today.  If both of those results happen, Toledo is the team that gets the boot from the bowl picture because of Northern Illinois' loss.

I keep BGSU in Detroit based on proximity and fan response in Detroit last night.  One has to imagine the LCP Bowl folks had to be impressed with an attendance over 21,000.  And, quite frankly, the Falcons look like a very dynamic, exciting team right now.

Ball State is very desirable, though, and the Bowl would take them in a heartbeat.  As for NIU, I love the possibility of the matchup I have projected and really, really, really hope it happens.  Maybe it's a pipe dream, but it would be an awesome game.

I'll review these and update later today as the AAC games play out (unless, of course, the MAC announces their bowl lineup).  When the MAC does announce, we'll have complete analysis.

Meanwhile, below are our complete bowl projections for all 35 games:

Bowl Team 1 Team 2
Las Vegas Bowl Utah State Southern Cal
New Mexico Bowl Nevada-Las Vegas Arizona
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Buffalo (MAC)
Colorado State
Beef 'O'Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl Southern Methodist Florida Atlantic
Hawaii Bowl Rice San Diego State
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Bowling Green (MAC)
Poinsettia Bowl Northern Illinois (MAC)
Fresno State
Military Bowl Maryland East Carolina
Texas Bowl Minnesota Syracuse
Fight Hunger Bowl BRIGHAM YOUNG Washington
Belk Bowl CINCINNATI Georgia Tech
Russell Athletic Bowl LOUISVILLE Miami (Fla.)
Pinstripe Bowl NOTRE DAME
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl Michigan Texas Tech
Holiday Bowl Kansas State
Armed Forces Bowl NAVY Boise State
Alamo Bowl Oklahoma Oregon
Music City Bowl North Carolina Vanderbilt
Independence Bowl Boston College Washington State
Sun Bowl Virginia Tech Ucla
Liberty Bowl Marshall Mississippi
Chick-fil-A Bowl Duke Texas A&M
Gator Bowl Nebraska Georgia
Heart of Dallas Bowl North Texas Oregon State
Outback Bowl Iowa Missouri
Capital One Bowl Wisconsin South Carolina
Rose Bowl (BCS) Michigan State Arizona State
Fiesta Bowl (BCS) Oklahoma State
Central Florida
Sugar Bowl (BCS) Auburn Baylor
Orange Bowl (BCS) Clemson Alabama
Cotton Bowl Texas Louisiana State
BBVA Compass Bowl Houston Mississippi State Bowl ARKANSAS STATE
Ball State (MAC)
BCS National Championship Florida State Ohio State