With BYU out of New Year’s 6 Bowl consideration, many have lamented that BYU will be relegated to the Independence Bowl versus a Conference USA team. While BYU is contracted to play in that bowl this year and it is certainly a possibility, BYU also has a contracted option with ESPN to potentially play in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl versus a Big 10 or Big 12 Team.
BYU’s new ESPN/Bowl agreement contract they signed in 2020 details this stipulation. Note that the Cheez-it Bowl noted below now has a new sponsor and is now the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
“Under the terms of the new Independence Bowl agreement, the Cougars are slated to appear in Shreveport in 2021 and 2025 versus an opponent from Conference USA...As part of both BYU bowl agreements, the Cougars also have an option to potentially participate in the Cheez-It Bowl in Arizona should its conference tie-ins (Big Ten and Big 12) be unable to provide an opponent. If applicable, that option can be exercised in lieu of one Independence Bowl and one ESPN Events bowl game. The Cheez-It Bowl airs on an ESPN network.”
The Guaranteed Rate Bowl is December 28 on ESPN in the Arizona Diamondbacks stadium. It has been played since 1989 under various names. BYU played in the bowl in 1994 when it was known as the Copper Bowl and beat Oklahoma 31-6.
As it stands now, there is a chance that at least one of those conferences won’t be able to fill each of those bowl spots with enough bowl eligible teams (teams need to finish 6-6 to be bowl eligible). BYU’s odds dramatically increase if at least one of those leagues place multiple teams in the CFP/NY6.
Big 10’s Odds
The Big 10 is likely to place at least two teams there, as they have 4 teams ranked in the top 9 of the AP Poll. If the Big 10 placed 3 teams in the CFP/NY6, BYU would have a great chance to take the Big 10’s spot in the Guaranteed Rate bowl. If they get two teams in the CFP/NY6, then 7 of the remaining 12 teams would need to be bowl eligible to fill all the Big 10’s slots. Indiana is 2-5 and likely won’t be bowl eligible, and 3-5 Nebraska and Illinois both seem unlikely to finish with 6 wins. 3-4 Northwestern and Rutgers are both on the fence. 4-3 Purdue seems likely to finish with 6 wins, so BYU would need 4-3 Maryland to win just one more game to get the Big 10’s spot if they placed two teams in the CFP/NY6.
Big 12’s Odds
Oklahoma is currently slotted to play in the CFP and Baylor and Oklahoma State are one-loss teams in the top 16. If Oklahoma was upset in the Big 12 title game, they would likely get an at-large NY6 bid and their opponent would get the automatic Sugar Bowl bid, which would open up a slot for one of the Big 12’s bowl tie ins. Kansas won’t go bowling, and TCU and West Virginia have uphill battles at 3-4. Texas Tech is 5-3, but head coach Matt Wells just got fired and each of their last 4 opponents are ranked. If the Big 12 placed two teams in NY6 bowls and those 3 of those 4 teams are not bowl eligible, BYU would take the Big 12’s Guaranteed Rate Bowl spot. If only one teams gets in the NY6, BYU would need all 4 of those teams to finish with under 6 wins.
We still have a month left of the season and a lot can happen, but BYU fans should root for the Big 10 and Big 12 to get multiple teams in the CFP/NY6 and for the bottom feeders of those conferences to lose. If that happens then BYU has a really good shot to play a Big 10 or Big 12 team in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
One other things to note is that ESPN owns the tv rights for virutally every bowl and hand picks many of the matchups. If BYU is 9-3 or 10-2 and the Guaranteed Rate Bowl isn’t a possibility, ESPN could move things around to get BYU a better matchup in a bowl game. If BYU does play in the Independence Bowl, UTSA would be the best matchup. They are currently 8-0 and 23 in the AP Poll.