Number crunching. Schedule examining. Hoop jumping. A whole heck of a lot of guessing.
A day's worth of research, and this is what has come of it: Your trusty sports dork guessing who will play in which Big 12 Conference bowls this winter:
Rose Bowl (BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2) -- Texas vs. Southern California. With Virginia Tech's loss to Miami on Saturday, this national-championship game is much more likely -- and primed to be a dandy. Texas has to take care of business against Kansas University, Texas A&M; and Colorado in the Big 12 championship game. USC has California, Fresno State and UCLA left on the schedule, but nobody's going to beat the Trojans -- not until January, anyway.
Cotton Bowl (Big 12 No. 2 vs. SEC) -- Texas Tech vs. Georgia. Because the BCS never goes smoothly, Alabama probably will go undefeated. That means SEC East champion Georgia could end up in Dallas against Texas Tech. If Oklahoma can upset the Red Raiders in Lubbock later this month, this could change.
Holiday Bowl (Big 12 No. 3 vs. Pac-10 No. 2) -- Colorado vs. Oregon. UCLA's loss Saturday actually allows Oregon to leapfrog to No. 2 in the Pac-10 behind USC. Colorado, meanwhile, wrapped up a berth in the Big 12 title game Saturday. San Diego will be a nice vacation compared to frigid Boulder in December.
Alamo Bowl (Big 12 No. 4 vs. Big Ten No. 4) -- Oklahoma vs. Michigan. How far they've fallen, Act One. Both teams had gigantic payoffs in BCS bowls last year, with the Sooners playing for the national title. Both teams lost their BCS bowl last year and have struggled since (by their standards). San Antonio will love this matchup, but both of these schools will experience culture shock from actually playing a bowl game in December.
Independence Bowl (Big 12 No. 5 vs. SEC No. 6 or 7) -- Nebraska vs. Tennessee. How far they've fallen, Act Two. Get this -- a rematch of the 1997 national-championship game. The Volunteers are having a down year, while Nebraska is having a fatal identity crisis for two years running. No matter, the Independence Bowl officials would drool over this matchup, because it definitely would sell out the way these two fan bases love their football.
Houston Bowl (Big 12 No. 5 or 6 vs. SEC West) -- Missouri vs. at-large. For the SEC to fill this bowl, which it never does, eight teams in its conference need a winning record. Won't happen. Whichever Big 12 team gets the Houston Bowl berth probably will be facing a random team from a non-BCS conference. I don't even want to guess who.
Champs Sports Bowl (Big 12 No. 7 vs. ACC No. 4 or 5) -- Iowa State vs. Boston College. Probably the most lopsided setup the Big 12 is affiliated with -- especially now that the new-look ACC is loaded. A 6-5 team will get this berth for the Big 12 and likely will face a Top 25 squad from the East Coast. Yikes.
Fort Worth Bowl (Big 12 No. 8 vs. Conference USA No. 4) -- Kansas vs. Houston. The Big 12 has yet to fill this bowl, because it requires eight above-.500 teams in the conference. If Kansas beats Texas on Saturday or Iowa State on Nov. 26, that will change this season -- and would give KU a winnable bowl game and a chance at a winning record for the first time in a decade.