Bowl projections are always fun (and by fun, I mean maddening), but it is that time of the year. This is a projection of Clemson's likely destination - with a couple of the national outlook's alongside - and not just how it would be if the season ended today.
Here's some factors to keep in mind...
1) Six conferences have an automatic bid to the BCS. Every bowl has a tie-in with at least one of those conferences as follows: Rose (PAC-12 v. Big Ten), Sugar (SEC), Orange (ACC) and Fiesta (Big 12). After that, only one more team from each conference can go to a BCS bowl.
2) If a non-automatic-qualifying (AQ) conference lands a team in the top-12, they earn an automatic bid. Another case, which could very well be a factor this year, is if they get into the top-16 and are ahead of all teams ranked in an AQ conference.
3) There's an order to the selection of the BCS at-larges, which starts with the bowls replacing BCS Championship Game participants. The order this year is: No. 1 team's conference bowl, No. 2 team's conference's bowl, Orange, Sugar then Fiesta.
CBS Sports: Jerry Palm - Clemson v. Alabama
ESPN: Mark Schlabach - Ohio State v. UCF; Brad Edwards - Clemson v. Alabama.
O&W: Brandon Rink - Clemson v. Alabama
Short of an actual football miracle for Duke, Florida State is headed to the national title game, which opens up a slot in the Orange Bowl. By now, you're pretty familiar with that.
Monday, Dan Radakovich put out the call for Tiger fans to contact the Orange bowl committee about Clemson filling that spot, in a likely matchup with Alabama.
Of the teams eligible for selection (BCS top-14), the Tigers are last, but welcome to the bowl system, where politics reign supreme.
The ACC has had a longstanding tie with the south Florida bowl, and that extends into the playoff era starting next season, where a conference team is guaranteed to land there in years it's not hosting the playoffs.
Here's the games that could have an effect on Clemson's chances and the most relevant scenarios...
* Big 12: Texas at No. 9 Baylor; No. 17 Oklahoma at No. 6 Oklahoma State
* PAC-12: No. 7 Stanford at No. 11 Arizona State (Title game)
* Big Ten: No. 2 Ohio State v. No. 10 Michigan State (Neutral site title game).
* One more at-large spot can open up if No. 14 Northern Illinois (12-0) loses to Bowling Green (9-3) Friday in the MAC title game (neutral site).
1) All the favorites win - Oklahoma State is headed to the Fiesta (Big 12 champ) to likely play Northern Illinois, Arizona State will likely meet Michigan State in the Rose and Baylor is Clemson's main competition, as a top-eight team. The Bears haven't been to a major bowl game since the 1980 Cotton, but in this scenario, they could be one of two top-eight teams shut out - along with South Carolina.
2) Just one of the Big 12 favorites lose - Clemson's in the Orange and the Big 12 winner is in the Fiesta.
3) Ohio State loses to Michigan State - This is an interesting one. This shakes up the bowl selection order, as some SEC team will take a BCS title game spot. Michigan State heads to the Rose, while this sets up a Ohio State-Clemson matchup. Why? The Orange would need permission from the Sugar to take the top SEC team and therefore they'd likely go to New Orleans, while the Buckeyes would be ideal for Miami.
4) Stanford beats Arizona State, Texas beats Baylor - Outside of South Carolina, Oregon is likely the highest-ranked two-loss and also a top-10 team in this case. The Alabama-Oregon matchup was talked about much of the season, but that's before the two lost three games in November.
5) Northern Illinois loses - Here how the dominoes could fall on this one... If all of the favorites win, Clemson matches up with Alabama in the Orange, while it could be Baylor v. the SEC champ in the Sugar. UCF heads west to the Fiesta to meet the Big 12 champion. In scenarios 2-4 above, another PAC-12 team stands a good chance of slipping into the Sugar or Fiesta. Anyway you slice it, you're a Bowling Green Falcon to ensure Clemson's BCS bowling.
Other possible bowls...
CBS Sports: Jerry Palm - Duke v. Texas A&M
ESPN: Mark Schlabach - Clemson v. Texas A&M; Brad Edwards - Miami v. Texas A&M.
O&W: Brandon Rink - Duke v. Texas A&M
Russell Athletic Bowl
On the opposite side of the scale, longtime Daily Press ACC writer David Teel is reporting that Duke (yes, Duke) would be selected over Clemson for the Chick-fil-A. And that sends the Tigers to Orlando for a Dec. 28 bowl matchup with the AAC.
CBS Sports: Jerry Palm - Miami v. Louisville
ESPN: Mark Schlabach - Miami v. Louisville; Brad Edwards - Virginia Tech v. Louisville.
O&W: Brandon Rink - Miami v. Cincinnati