Invitations to college bowl games cannot be extended until Saturday, and bowl scouts say they will need every bit of that time to decide who will go where after losses by No. 3-ranked Arizona State and No. 6 Louisiana State over the weekend.
But a number of situations are fairly clear now, primarily the five nationally televised New Year's Day games that will feature the nation's top 10 teams.
Sugar Bowl: This matchup appears fairly certain. Top-ranked Georgia, the Southeastern Conference champion, will make its third straight appearance. Georgia's opponent on Jan. 1 in New Orleans is likely to be fifth-ranked Penn State, regardless of the outcome of the Nov. 26 game between Penn State and No. 8 Pittsburgh.
Unless Georgia loses at Georgia Tech on Nov. 27, it will be the third time in the last four years that the Sugar Bowl will decide the national championship.
Orange Bowl: Nebraska will play at home against Oklahoma for the Big Eight Conference championship Nov. 26, with the winner automatically qualifying for the Orange. The opponent will be No. 9 Florida State, if the Seminoles can win at Louisiana State Saturday. Should FSU lose, the Orange may invite Pittsburgh. Orange Bowl officials will meet several times this week, though, to consider the risk in inviting Pitt, which could back into the game after a loss to Penn State. The Orange is also considering Notre Dame. The Nebraska-Oklahoma loser could wind up in the Cotton or Gator.
Clemson won the national championship at last year's Orange Bowl and probably will win the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 9-1-1 record this year. But many bowl officials have said they are leery of negative publicity that would follow Clemson to their game. The Post last week reported that Clemson would be placed on NCAA and ACC probation.
Rose Bowl: Michigan has won the Big Ten and will play in this bowl New Year's Day. Washington will be the Pacific-10 representative, if the No. 7 Huskies can defeat visiting Washington State Saturday. If Washington loses, Arizona State probably would go to the Rose.
Cotton Bowl: Southern Methodist, the only undefeated team in the nation besides Georgia, will play Arkansas Saturday for the Southwest Conference championsip. The winner will play in the Cotton. Pittsburgh, or the loser of Nebraska-Oklahoma, is a likely opponent. LSU is a longshot. The loser of SMU-Arkansas could play in the Fiesta.
Fiesta Bowl: The fifth New Year's Day bowl still has to wait to see which teams don't go to the Sugar, Orange, Rose and Cotton. Assuming Arizona State doesn't go to the Rose Bowl, ASU will play host to the SMU-Arkansas loser or Pitt. The Fiesta, played in Tempe, Ariz., likes western and southwestern teams. Notre Dame hasn't been dismissed, but the Fiesta committee realizes the Irish could be 7-3-1 after a visit to Southern Cal on Nov. 27.
Others: Maryland, with a victory Saturday at Virginia, is likely to play UCLA in the Aloha Bowl on Christmas Day. If the Terrapins lose, they could go to the Tangerine Bowl to play Auburn.
Many of the bowl committees met last night and one informed source said there was a lot of confusion and shuffling. The specifics surrounding the less prestigious bowls are even more unsettled.
But here are other possible matchups, based on reports from scouts from seven of the 16 bowl games:
Notre Dame versus the Nebraska-Oklahoma loser in the Gator Bowl; Illinois against Alabama in the Liberty; Vanderbilt against Boston College in the Hall of Fame; Auburn facing Clemson or Florida State in the Tangerine; North Carolina versus Florida in the Peach; Brigham Young taking on Tennessee or Arizona in the Holiday; Texas vying against West Virginia in the Sun; LSU against Ohio State in the Bluebonnet.