Cal Football: Final Bowl Projections -- Redbox Most Likely, but Las Vegas Bowl Possible

Illinois quarterback Matt Robinson and his Illini teammates may face Cal in Santa ClaraPhoto by Patrick Gorski - USA TODAY Sports

Jake Curtis

When Utah lost to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game, it was assumed Cal would be headed to the Redbox Bowl in nearby Santa Clara. And although that’s still the Bears’ most likely destination, apparently it’s not a slam dunk.

Five of the eight expert sites that provided final bowl projections late Saturday night predict that the Golden Bears will wind up in the Redbox Bowl, where they will face Illinois. But the other three sites project Cal to land in the Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State.

We won’t know for sure until bowl pairings are announced Sunday around midday, soon after the final College Football Playoff rankings are announced at 9 a.m. Sunday.

Here’s what they projected:

USA Today, Cal vs. Illinois, Redbox Bowl (Sant Clara), Dec. 30

Sporting News, Cal vs. Illinois, Redbox Bowl (Santa Clara), Dec. 30

College Football News: Cal vs. Illinois, Redbox Bowl, Dec. 30

ESPN (Kyle Bonagura): Cal vs. Illinois, Redbox Bowl, Dec. 30

ESPN (Mark Schlabach): Cal vs. Illinois, Redbox Bowl, Dec. 30

Bleacher Report: Cal vs. Boise State, Las Vegas Bowl, Dec. 21

CBS Sports: Cal vs. Boise State, Las Vegas Bowl, Dec. 21 

247 Sports: Cal vs. Boise State, Las Vegas Bowl, Dec. 21

It still seems like the Bears would be the logical choice for the Redbox Bowl, which will have the fourth selection of a Pac-12 team. Of course, that assumes Utah will drop far enough in the CFP standings that it won’t qualify for a New Year’s Six Bowl, and all bets are off if the Utes somehow land in the Cotton Bowl.

But let’s assume – as most experts assume – that Utah will drop to the Alamo Bowl, after Oregon assumes its spot in the Rose Bowl. The third choice after the Rose and Alamo belongs to the Holiday Bowl, and it is expected to take USC.

The Redbox Bowl is next, and it could choose from among Cal, Arizona State and Washington, all at 7-5. You would think the Santa Clara bowl would take the team that is in the Bay Area. But the Idaho Statesman reported Saturday night that it’s possible the Redbox Bowl will take Washington.

Here's an excerpt from that Statesman story:

“Redbox (Santa Clara, California) could take Cal, the local team, to help draw fans. Or it could take Washington and its national brand, and perhaps capitalize on the attention created by [Chris] Petersen’s last game with the Huskies. He announced earlier this month that he’s stepping down after the bowl game.”

It concludes that Boise State will be paired against either Washington or Cal in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Boise State (12-1) was ranked No. 19 in Tuesday’s CFP rankings and could rise after its 31-10 victory over Hawaii in the Mountain West championship game Saturday. The Broncos’ only loss was a 28-25 defeat at BYU, and Boise State beat Florida State on the road 36-31 and knocked off Air Force 30-19 in Boise. The Broncos average 37.3 points per game, 13th-best in the country, and Boise State defensive end Curtis Weaver was Mountain West defensive player of the year.

Illinois, Cal’s likely Redbox Bowl foe, finished 6-6 overall and 4-5 in the Big Ten under head coach Lovie Smith. The Illini’s best win without question was a 24-23 victory over Wisconsin in Champaign, Ill., on Oct. 19. The Badgers were 6-0 and ranked No. 6 at the time, but Illinois won that game on James McCourt’s 39-yard field goal as time expired. However, Illinois also suffered a 34-31 loss to Eastern Michigan, which finished 3-5 in the Mid-American Conference. Illini running back Reggie Corbin was named a third-team all-conference selection. Illinois is 12th in the 14-team Big Ten in total offense and 11th in total defense.

Here is the pecking order of the Pac-12's bowl tie-ins:

1. College Football Playoff -- Any Pac-12 team that finishes in the top four of the final College Football Playoff rankings on Dec. 8 will participate in the national-championship playoff. No Pac-12 team

1A. Rose Bowl (Pasadena) -- The Pac-12 champion or the highest ranked Pac-12 team if the conference champion is in the College Football Playoff will play in the Rose Bowl, probably against a Big Ten team. Oregon is assured this spot.

1B. New Year’s Six Bowl – If a second Pac-12 team is ranked high enough in the final CFP rankings, it might go to a New Year’s Six Bowl, which in this case would be the Cotton Bowl (Arlington, Texas). Utah has an outside shot at this berth

2. Alamo Bowl (San Antonio) -- The No. 2 Pac-12 team would play the Big 12 No. 2 team. Probably Utah

3. Holiday Bowl (San Diego) --The No. 3 Pac-12 team would play a Big Ten team. Probably USC

4. Redbox Bowl (Levi Stadium, Santa Clara) --The No. 4 Pac-12 team would play a Big Ten team. Probably Cal

5. Sun Bowl (El Paso) --The No. 5 Pac-12 team would play an ACC team. Perhaps Arizona State

6. Las Vegas Bowl -- The No. 6 Pac-12 team would play a Mountain West team. Perhaps Washington.

7. Cheez-It Bowl (Phoenix) --The No. 7 Pac-12 team would play the Big 12 No. 6 team.

In the latter part of the video below, Cal wide receiver Nikko Remigio talks about the possibility of playing in the Redbox Bowl: