The Pac-12 and New Mexico Bowl are hooking up a year earlier than originally planned.
The conference's No. 7 team will play a Mountain West team on Dec. 17, in the first bowl game of the 2012 season. Kickoff will be at 2 p.m. ET at University Stadium in Albuquerque. The game will be broadcast by ESPN.
The Pac-12 was supposed to pick up the New Mexico Bowl in 2012, but the bowl dropped its WAC affiliation, opening the door for an earlier marriage.
In the first four New Mexico Bowls, the Mountain West and WAC squared off, with the MWC winning three of four. In the fifth annual game, the bowl welcomed UTEP, a Conference USA member, which fell to departing MWC-member BYU.
What this means for the Pac-12 is that it's almost certain any team that is at least 6-6 will be able to play in a bowl game (keep in mind that USC isn't eligible for the postseason).
Here's the Pac-12 bowl lineup for 2011-12.
No. 1 : Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO, Jan. 2 (Jan. 1, the bowl's traditional date, falls on a Sunday, when no bowl game will be played this year) OR Allstate BCS National Championship, Jan. 9
No. 2: Valero Alamo Bowl vs. Big 12 No. 3, Dec. 29.
No. 3: Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl vs. Big 12 No. 5, Dec. 28.
No. 4: Hyundai Sun Bowl vs. ACC No. 4, Dec. 31.
No. 5: MAACO Las Vegas vs. Mountain West No. 1, Dec. 22
No. 6: Kraft Fight Hunger vs. Army (if eligible), Dec. 31.
No. 7: New Mexico Bowl vs. Mountain West, Dec. 17