If it’s possible to have an exhausting bye week, the BYU Cougars did it over the Thanksgiving break. From the Washington Huskies scheduling hullaballoo to the insulting College Football Playoff rankings, the Cougars were a hot topic this week, for better or for worse. Several major pundits still have BYU in a New Year’s Six slot but others were greatly deterred by the disappointing ranking.
New Mexico Bowl vs. Fresno State (ESPN)
First of all, yuck. Imagine a (hopefully) 10-0 BYU squad having to play in New Mexico as their reward for one of the best seasons in school history. No thanks. Fresno State does not stir up much excitement either, despite the two teams having met 11 times, with the Bulldogs possessing a slight 6-5 edge. Fresno State has won three straight to get to 3-1 and have just two games remaining. This would be an utter disappointment after such a special season.
Birmingham Bowl vs. Tulsa (247 Sports)
Ditto goes for this bowl. Tulsa is a slightly more intriguing matchup than Fresno, given the fact they are currently ranked at No. 25 in the CFP rankings. They have beaten two ranked teams in UCF and SMU and played No. 11 Oklahoma State close to open the season. The Golden Hurricane would be a stern test despite the lackluster bowl slot.
Lending Tree Bowl vs. Coastal Carolina (CBS)
This is in a similar category to Tulsa-a mediocre bowl slot against a Group of 5 team that is making waves. The Chanticleers have yet to lose a game and are at 9-0, along with BYU. They are ranked 20th in the current CFP rankings. Don’t be fooled by their lack of history as they own a win against Power 5 Kansas on the road and beat a ranked Louisiana team, also on the road. This would be another stiff test from down in the Group of 5.
Fiesta Bowl vs. Washington (ESPN)
Now for the fun part. Plenty of writers still have BYU getting a NY6 slot despite the rankings. Whether that is counting on the committee righting the wrong (yeah, right) or teams ahead of them losing, it can still happen. Washington looks impressive after storming back from down 21-0 to beat the Utes in Seattle last Saturday. They sit at 3-0 and have a serious chance at a PAC-12 title. This slot will likely be given to the PAC-12 champion now that that conference has virtually no chance at a playoff slot. BYU and UW certainly have a history, as recently as last week when UW released info that they offered to play BYU and made a stink about the Cougars counteroffering and eventually turning it down. This would be an epic way to settle it on the gridiron.
Fiesta Bowl vs. USC (College Football News and Sporting News)
Two sites have the Cougars and Trojans squaring off. USC has flirted with losing plenty this year but is yet to seal the deal and currently is 3-0, including a win in Salt Lake against Utah, which is never easy. This would be a revenge spot for USC after they were upset in Provo at the hands of Zach Wilson last year. The Fiesta Bowl is the prize of an undefeated season and BYU would be thrilled to get this selection against a national brand like USC.
Fiesta Bowl vs. Oregon (Athlon Sports)
The third possible opponent in the Fiesta Bowl are the Ducks. They just took a brutal loss at the hands of their rivals, Oregon State, but their hopes of a conference title, and ensuing New Year’s Six berth, are far from extinguished. Certainly, they are flawed but this team has the talent to bounce back and win the conference and face the Cougars in Glendale. Either way, BYU fans would be doing cartwheels if they got this matchup. The last time these two teams met was in the 2006 Las Vegas Bowl, with BYU winning handily 38-8.
Gasparilla Bowl vs. Virginia (my pick)
My personal pick is a small dose of reality for Cougar Nation. This is not to say I don’t believe in the 2020 Cougars, because I absolutely do. This is more to do with the unfortunate circumstances outside of their control such as their stellar, original schedule getting dashed by COVID and the CFP committee criminally under-ranking the Cougars at No. 14. Without adding another game, BYU’s NY6 hopes are slim. This is not to say ESPN themselves wouldn’t reward BYU with a solid bowl opponent after an assumed undefeated season. The storylines would be dripping with content as current Virginia Cavaliers head coach Bronco Mendenhall would be facing the team he himself led for 11 years from 2005-2015. The former Cougars’ head man has done well for himself in Charlottesville, earning at least eight wins in each of the last two years and getting Virginia to an unprecedented ACC title game and then a New Year’s Six slot in the Orange Bowl last season. This game has all sorts of appeal as BYU might not be getting the top notch bowl but a quality Power 5 team would be a nice consolation. Bring on the “Bronco Bowl.”