About this time every year, I get asked about a million times which bowl TCU will be invited to and who they'll end up playing in that game. There are obviously a lot of moving pieces that could render any or all of these scenarios more or less likely, but as of now here are my top guesses with explanations:
1. Independence Bowl vs. Wake Forest.
-I believe the most likely scenario is that TCU will beat UNLV on Saturday to win the MWC title outright, but that they'll fall short of a BCS bid...and that Boise State will not be selected for an at-large BCS spot. If that does end up being the case, I believe that the Las Vegas Bowl will pass on the Frogs for a third time (they previously passed on TCU in 2005 and 2008) and select the Broncos instead. The Poinsettia Bowl has the second pick, but the with it's pre-Christmas date and long distance from Fort Worth (in a stadium that the Frogs have played in six times since 2005- including earlier this fall), I fully expect TCU and the Independence Bowl staff to lobby hard against another TCU trip to San Diego. As for the opponent, the folks in Shreveport have the 7th selection from the ACC. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, NC State will most likely head to the Belk Bowl (who has the 5th pick) and Virginia to the Music City Bowl (6th), leaving North Carolina and Wake Forest. You'd think that the 7-5 Tar Heels would be the better choice for the Independence Bowl, but according to Comcast Sportsnet, they will be unable to pick UNC over Wake because the Demon Deacons' 5-3 conference record is two games better than UNC's 3-5 mark.
2. Poinsettia Bowl vs. Louisiana Tech
-Then there's the possibility that all of the above happens...except that the Poinsettia Bowl staff is stubborn and picks TCU with the second MWC selection. Even though they have to know that very few TCU fans would travel out to the game after having spent thousands to travel there in '08, to Phoenix in '09 and Los Angeles last year, they might want a 10-win Frog team as a TV draw. And even though the alternative choices (San Diego State, Air Force or Wyoming) would or could sell more tickets, the allure of a MWC Champ vs. WAC Champ (Louisiana Tech has already accepted an invitation) match up might be too much for them to pass up.
3. Sugar Bowl vs. Michigan
-The Frogs' BCS hopes are still alive, but I wouldn't bet on it. Should everything shake out for them to qualify, though, I think they'd be headed for New Orleans because even with two losses they'd likely be a better choice than whoever wins the Big East. The Wolverines, who are currently #16 in the BCS, will need to slide up to #14 to be considered for an at-large spot. But with Georgia (who plays LSU) and both Big Ten title game participants (so one of them has to lose) right in front of them, it seems reasonable to think that you'll see a lot of pasty-white Michiganders in the French Quarter in early January. If Kansas State beats Iowa State this weekend to get to 10-2, they might also be a candidate here.
4. Las Vegas Bowl vs. Arizona State
-There is also a chance that Boise State could slide into an at-large BCS bid, although I would classify the Broncos' odds as less likely than TCU's own complicated BCS scenario. Were the Fiesta or Sugar Bowl to become smitten with Boise, though, I think the Frogs would end up in Vegas because I don't think the Vegas Bowl people would pass on TCU for any other school than Boise. The Sun Devils, at 6-6 and now without a coach, are likely to be the last available bowl-eligible Pac 12 team.
The odds that the Frogs would play in any game other than these four seems so remote that it makes no sense to continue down this speculative road, but I guess it's worth mentioning that the other MWC-affiliated game is the New Mexico Bowl. And since the MWC has five bowl teams to fill what will likely be four spots, there is always the chance of an at-large bid to another non-BCS bowl. But it seems as if the MWC is going to shop any of it's teams around, it'll likely be Air Force to the Military Bowl.