LOS ANGELES -- The USC Trojans will find out at 5:30 p.m. PT Sunday evening, on ESPN's Bowl Selection Show, where they will play their final game of the 2012 season.
The three possible destinations, listed in order of likelihood: the Hyundai Sun Bowl, the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl and the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas.
The fourth-choice Pac-12 team typically goes to the Sun Bowl, held this year at 11 a.m. PT on New Year's Eve in El Paso, Texas. Third place goes to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl, played at 6:45 p.m. PT on Dec. 27, and the fifth-choice team plays in Vegas at 12:30 p.m. PT on Dec. 22. (The Rose Bowl is first and the Alamo Bowl is second.)
But the bowls have the right to pick any team within one conference loss of their slotted squad. And the typical choices will be moved back a slot this season, because the Oregon Ducks will earn a BCS at-large bid and play in the Fiesta Bowl.
Here's how it'll probably look: Oregon will play the Fiesta, and the winner of the Stanford-UCLA Pac-12 championship game Friday will head to the Rose Bowl. The loser will head to the Alamo Bowl.
The Holiday Bowl, then, will be able to pick between soon-to-be 9-3 Oregon State (6-3 in Pac-12 play) and three 7-5 schools with 5-4 conference records: USC, Arizona State and Washington. (The Huskies actually would have made a lot of sense had they topped Washington State in last week's Apple Cup, but they didn't.)
Assuming the Beavers are the choice, USC would then move into Sun Bowl contention with UW and ASU, two teams it beat in the regular season. Although the Sun Devils could travel better -- a six-hour drive gets you from Tempe to El Paso -- it'd be surprising if USC was passed over.
If the Trojans somehow are, though, they'll surely be selected by the Vegas Bowl, which would jump on the opportunity to host a hyped team within a short drive.
The Holiday and Sun paid their participants similar amounts a season ago. Cal and Texas reportedly each received just short of $2.1 million payouts to play the Holiday, while Georgia Tech and Utah reportedly received an even $2 million to play the Sun. (Incidentally, USC has never played the Holiday in the game's 34-year history.)
Bowl practices would also not be expressly affected by which bowl picks USC; Lane Kiffin can have his Trojans practice as many or as few times as he wants, as long as he abides by standard NCAA in-season restrictions.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no rule limiting teams to 15 practices in preparation for a bowl game.
But, because of final exams, USC practiced only 10 times for the last bowl game it played in, the Emerald Bowl in 2009. If the Trojans were to go to Vegas, they would probably practice a similar amount.
After taking this week off, the Trojans are expected to return to practice on a to-be-determined date next week.