Potato Bowl vs. Hawaii (ESPN)
Mark Schlabach from ESPN certainly did not earn any fans in Provo with this projection. He pits BYU’s bowl opponent from last season in Hawaii, whom they lost to on their native soil, in the bowl game BYU played just two years ago. The attractive part of the matchup is the history between the two schools, as they have knocked helmets on 32 occasions in the past, with BYU having a 23-9 advantage. BYU won big in the 2018 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Western Michigan when Zach Wilson went a perfect 18-for-18 and the Cougars won 49-18 on the blue turf in Boise.
Armed Forces Bowl vs. Cincinnati (CBS)
This projection has stood firm for multiple weeks. Jerry Palm has not hopped on to either of these teams’ hype trains thus far, despite both being in the top 11 of the AP poll. Cincinnati is currently No. 7 and is squarely in the driver’s seat for the Group of 5 NY6 bowl bid. BYU played the Armed Forces Bowl in 2011 when they beat Tulsa.
Gasparilla Bowl vs. Liberty (Sporting News)
Sporting News also making very few friends among Cougar faithful with this lackluster projection. This is assuming BYU loses at least one, maybe two games. Liberty is not only far from a premier opponent, but also a team that took BYU down to the wire in 2019 before losing 31-24. However, this season, the Flames have come out strong at 6-0, BYU, including a 17-point win over Syracuse on the road. Liberty would see this as a revenge opportunity while BYU would be lamenting what could’ve been.
Fiesta Bowl vs. Oregon (ESPN and Athlon Sports)
Here comes the big time picks. Both ESPN and Athlon Sports are squarely on the BYU hype train and both pitted them against the Ducks of Oregon in Glendale. The Ducks are favored in the PAC-12 conference in their shortened season. If they run the table, they will have a shot at the College Football Playoff. If they don’t but still win the PAC-12, they will likely get slotted to the Fiesta Bowl. Thus, BYU would be playing a premier opponent in a primetime bowl, exactly what Cougar fans want. They have faced off six times with each program winning three matchups, the last being in the 2006 Las Vegas Bowl when BYU rolled to a 38-8 win.
My pick: Fiesta Bowl vs. Cincinnati
This is a reminder that BYU is not part of the Group of 5 automatic bid formula. There is absolutely a scenario where the Group of 5 nominee and BYU play each other as at-large bids. The Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, is listed as “at-large vs. at-large.” BYU is playing well enough to merit a New Year’s Six bowl invitation and the Fiesta Bowl fits. Obviously, the location would favor the Cougars from Provo since there is a large section of Y fans residing in the southwestern U.S. This certainly is not the sexiest of matchups BYU could play in the New Year’s Six but if BYU actually wants to win the game, this could be a big opportunity. Cincy is no slouch after they trounced previously undefeated and No. 16 SMU. Either way, BYU should be happy to get a NY6 nod, regardless of opponent.