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Tulsa could CASH in or WRECK Houston this bowl season

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Ask any school who has gone through realignment rumors lately and they'll tell you that college sports is about money just as much, if not more so than it is, about the on-field pursuits. Cash makes the NCAA world go round.

That's especially relevant when it comes to this year's bowl season for a few Conference USA teams. Houston, Tulsa and Southern Miss are set to decide the league's champion in the next three weeks. USM leads the eastern division while Houston and Tulsa will battle for the western division title in the regular season finale, November 25 at H.A. Chapman Stadium.

In addition to the standings, these final three weeks will also leave an impact on the school's bank accounts. Bowl games pay the participating teams for playing in the games. Basically, the bigger the game, the bigger the payout.

Many bowl projections have the Cougars in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama in New Orleans. That's assuming that Houston wins out and remains undefeated. The payout for that game is $17 million. That's SIGNIFICANTLY more money coming the school's way than a normal bowl season for a C-USA team.

Conference USA has a couple of bowl tie-ins that it is responsible for filling. The first place team goes to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. The only way that isn't the case is if there are special circumstances like Houston has this year where the Cougars could receive the BCS bid given to the highest ranked non-automatic qualifying team in the nation that also happens to win its conference championship. The payout for the Liberty Bowl is $1.7 million. That's a $15.3 million difference between the Liberty and Sugar bowls.

Conference USA's second and third place teams end up in one of two bowls. They go to the Hawaii Bowl, which pays $750,000 to the teams, or the Armed Forces Bowl in Ft. Worth, TX, which pays out $600,000. While those are good pay days for any school, the $1.7 million dangling in front of them at the Liberty Bowl is much larger.

The postseason has big financial implications for these three teams this season. If Houston wants the big pay day, they HAVE to beat SMU, Tulsa and then Southern Miss in the C-USA championship game.

HERE ARE SOME OF THE EARLY BOWL PREDICTIONS FOR TULSA:

USA TODAY: Beef O'Brady's Bowl vs SYRACUSE, December 20th in St. Petersburg, FL

ESPN.com: Beef O'Brady's Bowl vs SYRACUSE, December 20th in St. Petersburg, FL

CBSSports: TickeyCity Bowl vs IOWA, January 2nd in Dallas, TX

Bleacher Report: Military Bowl vs NORTH CAROLINA, December 28th in Washington, D.C.

Scout.com: Armed Forces Bowl vs BYU, December 30th in Ft. Worth, TX

My pick: It all depends on the game against Houston. If Tulsa wins that, they're headed to the Liberty Bowl, most likely. They would still have to beat Southern Miss in the Conference USA championship game. If Tulsa loses that title game, they could end up anywhere. The Beef O'Brady's Bowl could be an option against former head coach Todd Graham and the Pitt Panthers. The Armed Forces Bowl is most likely. At this point, I think Tulsa is just as good if not better than Houston. I'll take Tulsa in the Liberty Bowl on December 31st in Memphis, TN.

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