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The Season's First BCS Bowl Forecast

With five weeks still to go in the regular season, and seven teams still remain unbeaten, the BCS bowl picture is far from clear. But there's enough to at least take a stab at. So here it is:

BCS National Championship Game

Florida/Alabama winner vs. Texas

Other contenders (in order of likelihood): Iowa, TCU, Cincinnati, LSU, Boise State, Oregon.

Comment: Florida and Alabama are on a collision course for the conference title game. If neither team stumbles, the winner of that game will be representing the SEC in the BCS title game for the fourth straight season. Texas has a clear sailing toward the Big 12 title game, as it's expected to be a double-digit favorite for all of the remaining games.

Rose Bowl

Ohio State vs. Oregon

Other contenders: Iowa, Penn State; Arizona.

Comment: Ohio State controls its own destiny. Wins over Penn State and Iowa will send the Buckeyes to Pasadena. Penn State needs to beat Ohio State and also Iowa to lose twice. Arizona, believe it or not, still controls its own destiny as well, though it has Oregon, Cal and USC on the schedule. But if the Wildcats run the table, they will be making the school's first-ever Rose Bowl appearance.

Sugar Bowl

Florida/Alabama loser vs. TCU

Other contenders: Boise State, Utah.

Comment: The Sugar Bowl has to take the SEC runner-up with the first pick, or risk losing it to the Orange Bowl. By BCS's rotation rules, it will have the last pick. So that means it'll end up with the top-ranked Coalition team, either TCU or Boise State, or even Utah, which needs to knock off TCU and a Boise State upset loss for a return trip to New Orleans.

Fiesta Bowl

USC vs. Pittsburgh/Cincinnati winner

Other contenders: Notre Dame, Big Ten runner-up, Boise State, Arizona.

Comment: If the Trojans remain unbeaten the rest of the season, expect the Fiesta to snag them with the second pick. If they lose, then a 10-2 Notre Dame team will go here. If both teams lose somewhere along the way, then the Big Ten runner-up will get the nod. If the Fiesta ends up with the Big Ten runner-up, then it might decide to use its second pick on Boise State, even if it doesn't get the Coalition automatic bid.

Orange Bowl

Iowa vs. Georgia Tech (ACC champion)

Other contenders: Penn State, Cincinnati/Pittsburgh winner; Miami.

Comment: Most likely, the Orange will use its pick to take the Big Ten runner-up to go with the ACC champion. If neither USC nor Notre Dame qualified and the Fiesta decides to take the Big Ten's runner-up, then the Orange will go ahead and grab the Big East winner. A scenario also exists for a 10-2 Miami team to claim this spot.

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Now comes the caveat: All the bowl talk could all vaporize if a few games don't go according to plan. But fear not, with the SEC and Big Ten refs carrying Blackberries to receive instant messages from their respective league offices, the "better" teams will find a way to win at the end.

Trust me.

★★★★★ GAME OF THE WEEK: LSU at Alabama, 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS). The past of LSU meets its present. Nick Saban and Les Miles each led the Bayou Tigers to a BCS title, and this game may determine who gets to go for a second ring. For all the talk about a Florida-Alabama SEC title game, LSU still controls its own destiny as a victory puts it on course to win the SEC West. Also a subplot: Alabama's Mark Ingram has a chance to burnish his Heisman credentials.

★★★★ FOUR-STAR GAME: Ohio State at Penn State, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC). The Buckeyes are playing for a Rose Bowl berth and the Nittany Lions are playing for a BCS bowl berth. Those plans, unfortunately, are mutually exclusive. One team's BCS hopes will be squashed in Beaver Stadium. Terrelle Pryor will find out just how country Happy Valley is.

★★★ THREE-STAR GAME: Oregon at Stanford, 3:30 p.m. ET (FSN). The Ducks owned USC like the Trojans have never been owned before. But will they suffer a letdown in the aftermath? The Cardinal need one more win to be bowl eligible, but with Oregon, USC, Cal and Notre Dame still remaining (25-7 combined), they'll take that victory anywhere they can get it.

★★ TWO-STAR GAME: Northwestern at Iowa, noon ET (ESPN). Every week could be the week that Iowa's bubble gets burst. The Hawkeyes needed near miracles to pull out victories the past two weeks and they go to Ohio State for a make-or-break game next week. Will they get caught looking ahead or will their luck finally run out?

★ ONE-STAR GAME: Connecticut at Cincinnati, 8 p.m. ET (ABC). The grieving Huskies are still looking for their first victory after two heart-breaking losses (by an identical score of 28-24). The Bearcats have quite a gauntlet to finish the season, with West Virginia and Pittsburgh still on the schedule. They cannot afford to overlook anybody.

(Cross-post at BCS Guru)

Samuel Chi is Editor of RealClearSports. He may be reached at sam@realclearsports.com.

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