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Non-BCS and Independents bowl predictions

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

We're about three weeks away from bowl game announcements, so I thought I'd take a stab at predicting where each of the non-BCS bowl eligible teams will end up this season.

This is not going to be easy with several conference races still in flux, including the WAC, C-USA and Sun Belt. All three of those conferences are either looking to determine a conference winner or the teams that fall behind it.

I'm going to give my predictions for bowl games per conference.

MOUNTAIN WEST

Utah
The Utes have one more obstacle to overcome to finish an undefeated regular season and earn a BCS bowl bid for the second time since 2004. Unfortunately, that obstacle in the Utes heated rival BYU, which has beaten them each of the past two seasons.
Possibilities: Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, Poinsettia Bowl, Armed Forces Bowl
Prediction: Sugar Bowl

BYU
Even though many wrote the Cougars off after their loss to TCU on Oct. 16, they only have one loss and have an outside chance of being the first one-loss non-BCS team to get a BCS bowl bid. They'll have to get through Utah first.
Possibilities: Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, Poinsettia Bowl, Armed Forces Bowl
Prediction: Poinsettia Bowl

TCU
The Horned Frogs need to beat Air Force and have Utah lose to share the Mountain West Conference title with the Utes and BYU. Not sure that's going to happen, but with a win over BYU earlier in the season, the Horned Frogs will still probably be the best option for the best Mountain West bowl.
Possibilities: Las Vegas Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, Poinsettia Bowl, Armed Forces Bowl
Prediction: Las Vegas Bowl

Air Force
The Falcons have had a much better season than many anticipated and they'll be rewarded for it with their second consecutive bowl berth.
Possibilities: Las Vegas Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, Poinsettia Bowl, Armed Forces Bowl
Prediction: Armed Forces Bowl

Still up for grabs: New Mexico Bowl
Contenders: Colorado State and UNLV
Prediction: UNLV

SUN BELT

There is still quite a bit up for grabs in the Sun Belt right now, including the conference championship. Fortunately for the Sun Belt, it looks as though the SEC will have two teams in the BCS, giving the conference two more bowl options if it can get two more bowl eligible teams.

Troy
The Trojans weren't picked to win the conference, but they've been the most consistent through conference play this year. Other teams have challenged, but the Trojans will secure the title.
Possibilities: New Orleans Bowl, Papajohns.com Bowl, Independence Bowl
Prediction: New Orleans Bowl

Still up for grabs: Papajohns.com Bowl, Independence Bowl
Contenders: Louisiana-Lafayette, Florida Atlantic, Florida International -- None of these three teams are bowl eligible yet, but ULL and FAU are a win away while FIU is two wins away with three to play.
Prediction: Louisiana-Lafayette (Independence Bowl), FAU (Papajohns.com Bowl)

INDEPENDENTS

The Independents are probably the easiest group to predict because both bowl eligible teams have ties to specific bowls (if they're not BCS eligible in the case of Notre Dame).

Navy
The Midshipmen have had a bowl game locked up for a couple weeks and since they are locked into the EagleBank Bowl this season, this is a no-brainer.
Possibilities: EagleBank Bowl
Prediction: EagleBank Bowl

Notre Dame
The Irish gained bowl eligibility by beating Navy last weekend and should lock up their seventh win at home against Syracuse this weekend.
Possibilities: Konica Minolta Gator, Brut Sun Bowl
Prediction: Konica Minolta Gator

MAC

The MAC race will get a lot clearer by the end of this week, but it looks as though all of the deserving MAC bowl teams will find themselves in the bowl picture. There is no specific order that teams must be taken. The only caveat is that the losing team in the conference championship is guaranteed a bowl spot should it finish above .500.

Ball State
The MAC is Ball State's for the taking. There are a couple tough games here at the end of the season against Central Michigan and Western Michigan, but I think the Cardinals pull through as they have all season.
Possibilities: Motor City Bowl, International Bowl, GMAC Bowl, at-large
Prediction: GMAC Bowl

Central Michigan
The Chippewas have won the conference title twice and gone to the Motor City Bowl two consecutive seasons. Let's make it a third.
Possibilities: Motor City Bowl, International Bowl, GMAC Bowl, at-large
Prediction: Motor City Bowl

Western Michigan
It looked like Western Michigan might be the odd team out, but the Pac-10 might have helped clear that up. If that Pac-10 doesn't fill all its bowl spots or has two BCS teams (more likely), that leaves a Pac-10 spot open for the MAC.
Possibilities: Motor City Bowl, International Bowl, GMAC Bowl, at-large
Prediction: International Bowl

Buffalo
As the winner of the MAC East, Buffalo will be guaranteed a bowl spot. It will win one of its last two games, lose in the conference championship and still end up above .500. Since it will have the lowest win total of all the bowl eligible teams, it will get an at-large bid.
Possibilities: Motor City Bowl, International Bowl, GMAC Bowl, at-large
Prediction: Sheraton Hawaii Bowl

WAC

There are five WAC bowl eligible teams and there probably will be six when it's all said and done. That's tough for a conference that only has three guaranteed tie-ins. Like other conferences, the WAC is going to get a little help from the Pac-10 and Big 12, which will either not fulfill their bowl spots or have a couple BCS teams.

Boise State
Any other year the Broncos would be a shoe-in for a BCS bowl with an undefeated record, but with Utah ranked ahead of it in the current BCS standings and several BCS conferences bidding for two BCS bowl teams, it's going to be difficult to get selected over one of those teams.
Possibilities: Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, Roady's Humanitarian Bowl, at-large
Projection: Roady's Humanitarian Bowl

Nevada
The Wolf Pack has come on strong during the last half of the season and look to be the best challenger to Boise State. Even if the Wolf Pack lose to Boise State this weekend,
they'll have a chance to notch their seventh win against Louisiana Tech.
Possibilities: New Mexico Bowl, Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, Roady's Humanitarian Bowl, Poinsettia Bowl, at-large
Prediction: Poinsettia Bowl

Louisiana Tech
The Bulldogs have come out of nowhere to gain bowl eligibility and will be rewarded for it with a trip that's within driving distance of their campus. That will ensure a strong fan turnout for Tech's first bowl game since 2005.
Possibilities: New Mexico Bowl, Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, Roady's Humanitarian Bowl, Texas Bowl, at-large
Prediction: Texas Bowl

San Jose State
The Spartans are slipping here at the end and really it's going to be them or Fresno State for bowl eligibility. Fresno State has been spotty all season and San Jose State has a solid defense that's been asleep the past couple weeks. If it wakes up, the Spartans go bowling.
Possibilities: New Mexico Bowl, Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, Roady's Humanitarian Bowl, at-large
Prediction: New Mexico Bowl

Hawaii
If bowls have to choose between Hawaii or Fresno State, a team Hawaii beat earlier this year, it's going to be a no-brainer. The Warriors haven't been great this year, but at times they've shown a little more promise than Fresno State this season.
Possibilities: New Mexico Bowl, Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, Roady's Humanitarian Bowl, at-large
Prediction: Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl

C-USA

There are quite a few questions remaining in Conference USA, including who will be the divisional winners thanks to both Tulsa and East Carolina struggling last week. There also are three teams with five wins and bowl hopes. If all of those teams get the necessary six wins, I think only six teams will make bowls, leaving one out of the loop.

Tulsa
The Golden Hurricane haven't exactly been the model of consistency the past couple games, but I think they get it together to finish the year strong. That combined with help from Rice gives Tulsa the C-USA West and there's not a team in the East than can stick with them.
Possibilities: AutoZone Liberty Bowl, St. Petersburg Bowl, R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Texas Bowl, Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, GMAC Bowl
Projection: Liberty Bowl

Rice
The Owls are in prime position for their first C-USA title, but they'll have to win out and get some help from Tulane and Marshall, Tulsa's final two opponents. The Owls are still well on their way to their highest win total since they won eight games in 2001 (they won seven in 2006).
Possibilities: AutoZone Liberty Bowl, St. Petersburg Bowl, R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Texas Bowl, Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, GMAC Bowl
Projection: Texas Bowl

Houston
The Cougars have made a late push into the C-USA West title race behind first-year head coach Kevin Sumlin. Houston can win the C-USA West if it wins out, but that means knocking off a tough Rice team.
Possibilities: AutoZone Liberty Bowl, St. Petersburg Bowl, R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Texas Bowl, Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, GMAC Bowl
Projection: GMAC

East Carolina
Well, it's not the dream season it started out to be with wins over ranked teams, but the Pirates still have a chance to win their first C-USA East division title and play for the conference title. Plus, they'll be rewarded with their third-consecutive bowl berth.
Possibilities: AutoZone Liberty Bowl, St. Petersburg Bowl, R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Texas Bowl, Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, GMAC Bowl
Projection: Bell Armed Forces Bowl

Still up for grabs: St. Petersburg Bowl, R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Contenders: UTEP, Memphis, Southern Miss. All three have five wins. Southern Miss has one game to play and UTEP and Memphis have two.
Predictions: Memphis (R + L Carries New Orleans Bowl), Southern Miss (St. Petersburg Bowl)