Unbeaten and top-ranked Alabama will play the Big Eight champion -- Nebraska or Oklahoma -- in the Orange Bowl, Jan. 1, if Georgia defeats Auburn Saturday, according to informed sources.

A Georgia victory would clinch a tie for the Southeastern Conference championship with Alabama and send the Bulldogs, now 5-4, to the Sugar Bowl. Because Alabama, the 1978 SEC winner, played in the Sugar Bowl last year, Georgia would go this time if it ties the Crimson Tide for the title.

That would leave Alabama free to go to the Orange Bowl, which reportedly has guaranteed Coach Bear Bryant's team a bid even if it loses to Auburn, Dec. 1. Alabama would be paired against unbeaten Nebraska, if the Cornhuskers whip Oklahoma, setting up what could be a match for the national title.

Georgia (5-0 in the SEC) will meet either Texas or Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, whichever team does not represent the Southwest Conference in the Cotton Bowl. The SWC champion -- probably Arkansas -- will face Florida State in the Cotton Bowl, unless Georgia is beaten at home Saturday.

If Georgia loses, Alabama will go to the Sugar Bowl and Florida State to the Orange Bowl.

The closest thing to a set match is the Rose Bowl where the Ohio State Michigan winner will face Southern California, unless the Trojans are upset by UCLA. That upset would send Washington to Pasadena.

That leaves the remaining 11 bowls scrambling for position -- and the lineup was changing almost hourly yesterday. As best could be determinded, the following is the way it stacks up, with fevered negotiations still going on:

Fiesta -- Trying to get Oklahoma, if the Sooners lose to Nebraska, for a possible match with Michigan. Washington still in the picture.

Gator -- Wide open. Saturday's Clemson-Notre Dame winner could get one bid with Michigan, Pittsburgh or Tulane getting the other.

Liberty -- Supposedly set with Pittsburgh, if it does not defect to the Gator, against Tulane. Clemson still interested too, if it loses Saturday. g

Peach -- Trying to get Clemson, if it loses to Notre Dame; also interested in Baylor, and South Carolina-Wake Forest winner.

Tangerine -- Reportedly committed to the South Carolina-Wake Forest winner against any number of teams, including perhaps the Maryland-Virginia winner (if both win Saturday) with Navy still a longshot, as is Syracuse.

Bluebonnet -- Reportedly set with Tennessee and Purdue.

Sun -- Houston definite, trying to get Washington, although Brigham Young a possibility if it loses conference championship and does not go to Holiday. Indiana also is in the picture here.

Holiday -- Western Athletic winner, either Brigham Young or San Diego State, against Penn State or Baylor; Navy on the extreme outside.

Hall of Fame -- Interested in several teams, including North Carolina State, North Carolia, Tulane and Clemson. Wide open. Waiting to see what other people do.

Garden State -- Probably Temple, unless it is blown out by Penn State, in which case Rutgers will step in against North Carolina State, Indiana or perhaps, Maryland-Virginia winner.

"The picture's more confusing now than it was on Monday," one athletic director said. "The problem is there are a lot of schools holding out, backing away from deals because they see a chance to move up a notch, to get a game on network TV or with more money." Bowl revenues range from nearly $2 million for the Rose down to $300,000 for several small bowls.

The prime examples of the dickering, according to several sources, are Washington, which had a deal with the Sun but now is holding out to see what the Fiesta is doing; Clemson which can almost choose its spot because it sells so many tickets, and Pittsburgh, which according to some is absolutely committed to the Liberty, while others say it may end up in the Gator.

"Tickets talk," one source said. "Clemson sells tickets. They could be 7-4 (they're now 7-2) and they'd still be one of the hottest teams around."

The four Big Ten teams also hold the key for many Bowls. Purdue appears wrapped up for the Bluebonnet but there is keen interest in Indiana because many expect them to upset Purdue Saturday, because they score a lot of points and because Coach Lee Corso is a colorful, popular figure. Six different bowls are expected to be at the Indiana-Purdue game.

"Usually it's all firm by now," one athletic director said. "But I've been on the phone all day and no one seems to know what's going on. There haven't been very many firm deals struck."

Which is good news for the ACC schools. With the exception of Clemson, they all appeared to be on the fringe early in the week. The uncertainty has increased their chances, or so they seem to think.

"I think everyone in the conference is encouraged," said one ACC athletic director.

"it's one of those years," said another source. "I don't think everything will be firm until 6 p.m. Saturday. And people will probably still be bargaining at that point."