Notre Dame's decision to turn down a potential bowl berth could open the door for a UCLA bowl berth and create a potential headache for the MAC.
Heading into this weekend's games, there is believed to be only one available spot for a 6-6 at-large team, with the Bruins now atop that list. However, should Hawaii beat Wisconsin on Saturday, it would get to seven wins and possibly lock out the Bruins. Possible destinations for UCLA include the Humanitarian Bowl, GMAC Bowl, EagleBank Bowl and Little Caesars Bowl.
The problem is, two of those games (GMAC and Little Caesars) involve teams from the MAC, and that conference will also have two guaranteed at-large teams (7-5 Bowling Green and 7-5 Northern Illinois). Therefore, if UCLA chooses one of the non-MAC bowls, like the Humanitarian (which makes the most geographic sense), either the GMAC or Little Caesars will be stuck with two MAC teams.
Also affecting the current landscape is the fact that we won't know until Dec. 12 whether Army beats Navy to become 6-6 and secure its spot in the EagleBank Bowl. That game has a backup agreement with Conference USA, which means it must wait an extra week to finalize its matchup. However, it's possible other bowls with at-large openings will wait an extra week, as well, to see which teams will comprise the final at-large pool.
For now -- and this is purely an educated guess based on multiple conversations with numerous parties -- I'm placing UCLA in the Humanitarian Bowl, but don't rule out the Bruins for Washington D.C. or Detroit. Mobile seems less likely. If that's the case, the International Bowl is expected to release Temple to play closer to home in EagleBank, taking Northern Illinois instead. That leaves the Little Caesars with a far-from-ideal Ohio-Bowling Green matchup.
• I'm also revising a previous projection that had East Carolina filling Army's spot in the EagleBank Bowl. Based on discussions I've had, it sounds like the D.C. game may not have a choice about taking 6-6 Marshall due to the ripple effect on other C-USA bowls. The Pirates move to New Orleans.
• Finally, it's important to remember that bowls are NOT obligated to choose their teams in exact order of conference standings. For instance, "ACC No. 3" means "third choice of ACC teams" -- not "the ACC's third-place team." Also, a bowl can only select a 6-6 team from a conference if no 7-5 team from that league is still available, and bowls seeking a replacement for a conference without enough eligible teams cannot choose a 6-6 team if there is a 7-5 team available.