BYU is 3-0 and on a roll, ranked 15th in the AP Poll. As such, the national hype train is full steam ahead and that includes a few bold bowl projections.
Armed Forces Bowl vs. Cincinnati (CBS)
This would be BYU’s second trip to this particular bowl. In 2011, the Cougars beat Tulsa behind quarterback Riley Nelson. Cincinnati is currently higher than BYU in the polls at No. 11, thus this could be a sneaky good matchup. The Cougars and Bearcats have met twice, with BYU taking both matchups. Among Group of 5 teams, Cincy is about as solid as they come with back-to-back 11-win seasons heading into this year and they appeared in back-to-back BCS bowls in 2008 and 2009. Make no mistake, this would be a great matchup of two teams always competing for respect in the Power 5 world.
First Responder Bowl vs. Tulsa (ESPN)
With one projection having BYU playing in the same bowl as the 2011 squad, this one pins that year’s opponent in Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane do not have the same history of success as fellow American Athletic Conference squad Cincinnati. They haven’t had a winning season since 2016. Tulsa and the Cougars have met eight times with BYU winning seven of those contests, including the 2011 Armed Forces Bowl. However, Tulsa is feeling good right now after knocking off mighty UCF on the road.
Gasparilla Bowl vs. Baylor (Sporting News)
The more BYU wins, the more often they will be paired with Power 5 teams in these projections. In the past decade, Baylor has seen their program completely overhauled, torn down and built back up again, much of that their own doing. Since 2011, they have five double digit-win seasons and last year, they won 11 games and appeared in the Sugar Bowl. The Bears and Cougars have met twice and split the meetings, but have not played since that special year of 1984 for BYU. The two teams are also slated to meet in Waco next season.
For the second week in a row, BYU is slotted in the Cotton Bowl, but against OSU instead of Oklahoma. Either way, this would be a huge opportunity for the Cougars, who have never played in a BCS/NY6 bowl. For the more seasoned BYU fans, Oklahoma State should sound familiar during bowl season as BYU played their first two ever bowls in school history against the Cowboys. OSU won both matchups, first in the 1974 Fiesta Bowl and then also in 1976 in the Tangerine Bowl. This could be a chance for BYU to right some wrongs in their school’s long, storied history. Oklahoma State is currently 309 and No. 10 in the nation. It’s worth noting that two separate sources paired these two schools in the Cotton Bowl this week.
Fiesta Bowl vs. Oregon (USA Today)
This projection might excite BYU fans the most. A prized bowl against a premier, west coast opponent. The Fiesta Bowl has long been the bowl that houses the Cinderella team of the year, including Utah (2004), Boise State (2006, 2009, 2014), TCU (2009), UCONN (2010), and UCF (2014 and 2018). This could be BYU’s turn to crash the party in the New Year’s Six era and against a storied, successful school no less. The Ducks are on BYU’s schedule for 2022. Oregon is fresh off of a PAC-12 title and Rose Bowl win. BYU has played Oregon in the 2006 Las Vegas Bowl, with the Cougars winning 38-8.
My pick: Fiesta Bowl vs. USC
I am buying into the hype and drinking the royal blue Kool-Aid that BYU is legit and may finally reach new heights in the modern era of their program with their first major bowl in decades. The PAC-12 is displaced from their normal NY6 slot in the Rose Bowl this year, since it is hosting a College Football Playoff semifinal. Plus, the PAC-12 is playing a limited schedule which could hinder their playoff chances. Oregon and USC seem to be the favorites in each division. If Oregon runs the table, they have a legit shot at the CFP but either way, they both could find their way to a NY6 bowl win or lose. Of course, BYU upset a ranked USC team in Provo last season. BYU would get one of the more recognizable brands in all of college football in a big bowl. The Trojans would see this as an opportunity for revenge on a big stage.