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Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck (12) greets Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas after their NCAA college football game in Stanford, Calif. , on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011. Oregon defeated Stanford 53-30. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

We're days from the 114th Big Game, and both participants have locked up postseason bids.

That's not as common as it may seem: It's only the second time in the past 20 years, in fact, that Cal and Stanford are assured of bowling regardless of the outcome.

Where they'll spend the holidays, however, could take 114 years to explain.

The possibilities range from the Rose Bowl all the way down to the New Mexico Bowl, which joined the Pac-12's lineup this year.

It's not nearly as simple as each team having one option if it wins Saturday and one option if it loses.

But their fates are, to a certain extent, intertwined: If Stanford jumps into the Bowl Championship Series, the Bears' options improve.

Let's start at the top, with Stanford's prospects to reach the BCS for the second consecutive year.

There are two options for the No. 9 (BCS) Cardinal; both are contingent upon beating Cal and Notre Dame and finishing 11-1:

  • If No. 4 Oregon jumps into the national championship game, a spot in the Rose Bowl would open for Stanford.

    (For that to happen, Oregon must beat USC and Oregon State and its opponent in the Pac-12 title game. And Oklahoma State must lose to Oklahoma. And the Ducks must cross their fingers and hope for the best from BCS circuitry.)

  • If Oregon winds up in the Rose, then the Cardinal's best BCS bet is the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma.

    The Fiesta has the first pick in the BCS draft and would seriously consider an 11-win team that's ranked in the top 10 and has Andrew Luck.

    You'd have to think that the Fiesta, its reputations freshly sullied from scandal, would love to trot Stanford's student athletes in front of the cameras and the community.

    And it surely won't hurt Stanford's case that Fiesta Bowl executive director Robert Shelton is an alumnus (class of 1970).

    But there's at least one potential obstacle, and it's this: The Fiesta could opt instead to match Oklahoma against its former archrival, Nebraska, which is completing its first season in the Big Ten.

    The Cornhuskers must beat Iowa and Michigan to climb into the BCS at-large pool. If they do, the Fiesta may be tempted.

    (And if one-loss Stanford gets squeezed out of the BCS by two-loss Nebraska, you'll see the smoke billowing from Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott's nostrils.) If the Cardinal doesn't reach the BCS, then it's headed to the Letdown -- err, Alamo Bowl.

    Cal's situation is murkier, with twice as many possible destinations.

    The Pac-12 has seven bowl tie-ins this season, and the only one off the table for the Bears is the one they want most of all, the Rose.

    Their options can best be summed up this way:

  • If they lose to Stanford and Arizona State, the Bears are probably headed to the New Mexico Bowl or the Kraft Fight Hunger in San Francisco.

  • If the Bears split their last two games, then the Kraft, Las Vegas and Sun are in play. (The Sun might jump at the chance to pick Cal, the only member of the former Pac-10 that has never participated in the 76-year-old bowl.) And if the Bears beat both Stanford and Arizona State -- stranger things have happened, supposedly -- then they could climb as high as the Alamo.

    Yes, it's convoluted, confusing and potentially chaotic. This is college football, after all.

    While the picture for Cal and Stanford will come into focus Saturday night, it might not be resolved until Dec. 4, when the final BCS standings are released and bowl bids officially extended.

    For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at jwilner@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5716.