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Where will Notre Dame, NIU, NU-Illinois winner go bowling?

CHAMPAIGN — For the next few minutes, let the rest of the world worry about sizing up the College Football Playoff field. Let’s talk here instead about the glut — a glut, I tell you — of local teams that are jockeying for positions in the college postseason.

Notre Dame is doing everything it can to ruin its season, but not even the Irish — 7-4 after losing three straight — can erase themselves from the bowl picture. The estimable Jerry Palm of CBS Sports penciled the Irish into the Dec. 30 Belk Bowl against Tennessee in Charlotte. The Volunteers are 5-6 but should be able to knock around an especially bad Vanderbilt team on Saturday.

Palm has Northern Illinois (9-2) in the Jan. 4 GoDaddy Bowl against Louisiana-Lafayette in Mobile, Ala. The Huskies must win the Mid-American Conference title in order to get the automatic GoDaddy bid.

Northwestern and Illinois, both 5-6, have bowl hopes, too, but only one of them will make it happen. The Wildcats host the Illini on Saturday in a rivalry game with ramifications that’ll be felt from coast to co … excuse me, from Evanston all the way to Champaign. The winner, according to most bowl projections, will end up in the Quick Lane Bowl (huh?) in Detroit on Dec. 26. The opponent in that first-year bowl will come from deep in the ACC standings, possibly Virginia.

If the Illini — who opened as nine-point underdogs — win one more for ol’ Tim Beckman, they could play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl against a Conference-USA opponent on Dec. 26.

“We’re not where we need to be at yet,” Beckman said following a 16-14 defeat of Penn State that kept his team in the hunt. “Our goal is to win that sixth football game. It would be a great opportunity for these seniors to walk off the field in 2014 with a chance to have six victories. We’re excited about it.”

The Final Four

Well, this sure has gotten kind of boring. No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon and No. 4 Mississippi State all are coming off blowout victories — over super-soft touches Western Carolina, Colorado and Vandy, but whatever — so they’ll remain in playoff position when the new rankings are released on Tuesday. No. 3 Florida State won ugly again, 20-17 over Boston College, but there’s zero chance the unbeaten Seminoles will fall below the fourth spot.

Like I said, kind of boring.

My Heisman top three

1. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin. With 2,109 yards and 25 touchdowns on the ground, he has blown past former Badgers star Ron Dayne’s 1999 Heisman-winning numbers. And put Gordon’s season ahead of Montee Ball’s 2011 (1923 yards, 39 total touchdowns) as well. Why? Ball had Russell Wilson at quarterback and multiple NFL receivers in his offense. Gordon has a serious wall of beef in front of him, but his fellow skill guys are run-of-the-mill.

2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon. The numbers — 3,700 total yards, 41 total touchdowns, two interceptions — are up there with any quarterback’s ever. It helps to play in that Ducks offense, but one could say the same about a Wisconsin running back.

3. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State. I’m keeping him here — barely — over some great fellow QBs including TCU’s Trevone Boykin, UCLA’s Brett Hundley and Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson.

One more thing

Gary Pinkel won’t win national coach of the year honors this season. He didn’t last year, either. But dang it if he doesn’t have Missouri one win away from back-to-back titles in the Southeastern Conference’s East division anyway. The Tigers (9-2) have won 10 consecutive true road games, eight of them in SEC play.

Next time someone tells you it’s impossible to have sustained success at a school such as, oh, I don’t know, Illinois, point to Pinkel, who in 14 seasons has turned a basketball school into a legit football power.


Twitter: @slgreenberg