2012 bowl projections: Notre Dame positioned to play in national title game, Northwestern in Gator Bowl

Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

A victory over USC next weekend would likely send the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to the BCS National Championship Game for the first time.

The top-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish positioned themselves for a first-ever appearance in the BCS National Championship Game with last weekend's big upsets, as SB Nation's Jason Kirk writes in his latest bowl projections. Kirk sees the Irish taking on the one-loss Alabama Crimson Tide in the title game.

Over the weekend, the BCS saw a major shake-up as No. 1 Kansas State Wildcats and No. 2 Oregon Ducks both had their respective unbeaten seasons end. Those losses have boosted an unbeaten Notre Dame team into the top spot in the country while returning Alabama Crimson Tide into the national title game picture after a loss to Texas A&M earlier this month.

Moving to the Big Ten, the Northwestern Wildcats are projected to play the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day. While Pat Fitzgerald is likely to send his squad to a solid bowl game for the fifth straight season, he's still looking for his first bowl victory as the Wildcats' head coach.

Here are the other bowl games projected by Kirk to include Big Ten teams or teams from Illinois:

  • Little Caesars Bowl, Dec. 26: Northern Illinois vs. Western Kentucky
  • Meineke Car Care Bowl, Dec. 28: Purdue vs. TCU
  • Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Dec. 29: Minnesota vs. Texas Tech
  • Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1: Michigan vs. Georgia
  • Outback Bowl, Jan. 1: Wisconsin vs. Florida
  • Heart of Dallas Bowl, Jan. 1: Michigan State vs. East Carolina
  • Rose Bowl, Jan. 1: Nebraska vs. Stanford

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