The final weekend of the college football regular season, usually so dense and chaotic, brings surprising clarity for Stanford and Cal.
The Cardinal is all but assured of a berth in the Fiesta Bowl, while the Bears are most likely bound for the Holiday or Sun bowl.
For both teams, the postseason destinations will become official Sunday at 5:15 p.m. (ESPN), when the final Bowl Championship Series standings are released and invitations extended.
There is a way No. 4 Stanford could get squeezed out of the BCS altogether, but the chances are so remote that it's not worth more than a paragraph:
If fifth-ranked Virginia Tech jumps over Stanford ... and Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma ... and Georgia upsets No. 1 Louisiana State ... and the Fiesta opts for Michigan (10-2) over Stanford (11-1), then the Cardinal would get the Big Squeeze.
At the same time, Stanford could sneak into the national championship game. But the odds of that are equally remote -- for starters, LSU would have to get blown out by Georgia -- and also worth no more than a mention.
Instead, we'll focus on what seems the most likely outcome this weekend for the Cardinal and Bears:
The Cardinal then gets scooped up by the Fiesta and matched against the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State winner on Jan. 2 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
The Sugar Bowl is another option for the Cardinal but would probably favor Michigan and its massive nationwide fan base.
The teams have identical records (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12), but Cal won the head-to-head matchup and finished its season on an uptick while Utah crumbled in its finale.
So pencil Cal into the Holiday on Dec. 28 against a Big 12 opponent. It would be the Bears' fourth bowl game in San Diego since 2004 (after two appearances in the Holiday and one in the Poinsettia).
As for the remainder of the Pac-12 and Bowl Championship Series matchups, here's the best guess:
BCS title game: LSU vs. Alabama.
The Tigers have been so dominant that they might retain the No. 1 ranking even with a loss in the SEC championship game.
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Oregon.
The Big Ten half of the matchup could be filled by Michigan State.
Fiesta Bowl: Stanford vs. Oklahoma State.
The Cardinal could end up facing its 2009 Sun Bowl opponent, Oklahoma.
Sugar Bowl: Michigan vs. Houston.
Unless Georgia upsets LSU, the Sugar will be without an SEC participant.
Orange Bowl: West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech.
With last pick in the bowl draft, the Orange is forced to match the Big East champion against the ACC's best.
And the Pac-12 lineup (excluding the aforementioned Rose Bowl) ...
The Huskies should have been in San Antonio last year, but the bowl goofed and picked Arizona.
Potential opponents include Texas, which knocked the Bears out of the Rose Bowl in 2004.
If the Holiday grabs Utah, the Sun would gladly take Cal, the only member of what was the Pac-10 that has never participated.
Las Vegas: Arizona State.
A month ago, Sun Devils looked like a Rose Bowl contender.
Kraft Fight Hunger: UCLA.
The Bruins (6-7) have received a waiver from the NCAA allowing them to go bowling even though they finished with a losing record.