BYU has never played in a BCS or New Year’s Six bowl in program history. The Cougars have had several chances but have fallen short to this point. 2001, 2008 2009, and 2020 are seasons where BYU had a legitimate chance to make it and were either snubbed or suffered a gut-punching loss.
Now, in 2021, they are at it again. With many assuming the Cougars would drop off the map after the departure of second overall pick Zach Wilson, the Cougars have done the opposite. They stand at 8-2 including five victories over Power 5 programs. They were rewarded with a favorable slot in the College Football Playoff rankings. They started at No. 15 in the initial polls but rose to 14th this week.
Can this finally be the year BYU breaks through? Yes, the Boise State loss stands out as a sore spot. However, most programs in contention for New Year’s Six bowls outside of Georgia also have a black eye or two on the resume. Oregon lost to what is now a completely hapless Stanford team. Baylor lost to an unranked TCU team that just fired their head coach of two decades. It took everything Oklahoma had in the tank to avoid a colossal upset by Tulane at home to open the season.
College football happens.
Quite simply, BYU has a chance to get invited this year. First, they need to finish in the top 12 of the CFP rankings, just two slots from where they are now.
Selection Sunday is December 5th.
BYU needs to also control what they can control, which is continue to win football games. The Cougars need to win handily against Georgia Southern and win a tough road game at USC.
This entire discussion is moot if BYU loses another game. That will eliminate them from any NY6 considerations.
Above BYU in the rankings, several teams are still slated to play each other. This could lead to the attrition necessary for the Cougars to keep climbing.
Georgia and Alabama are on a collision course for the SEC title game. Frankly, that will likely not impact BYU’s NY6 chances. One of those teams is a lock for the playoff, the other will almost surely go to the Sugar Bowl if not the playoff themselves.
No. 4 Ohio State still needs to play both No. 6 Michigan and No. 7 Michigan State, along with a tough opponent in the Big 10 title game. It’s guaranteed one of these three teams loses and likely, multiple times.
No. 8 Oklahoma is facing No. 13 Baylor this week. This is an intriguing one, as Baylor is one spot directly ahead of BYU and also owns the head-to-head advantage. As weird as it might seem, BYU fans should root for Oklahoma to roll over Baylor and make the Bears plummet below the Cougars. Elsewhere in the Big 12, No. 10 Oklahoma State still needs to play Oklahoma as well. They may even play twice, again in the Big 12 title game.
No. 12 Wake Forest is playing a tough opponent in No. 16 NC State. This one is tricky for BYU, because if NC State beats Wake Forest convincingly, they could leapfrog BYU. It might be best for the Cougars if Wake Forest keeps NC State below BYU.
Another wrinkle is No. 5 Cincinnati. Cougar fans should be rooting for them to make it into the College Football Playoff final four. If Cincy gets the big invite, that will satisfy the automatic bid a Group of 5 team has in the New Year’s Six, thus creating an extra at-large bid for the other NY6 bowls.
Even if they reach the top 12, it is not guaranteed they will get the invite. There are currently three at-large bids available in the New Year’s Six, both slots of the Fiesta Bowl and one in the Peach Bowl. If the Bearcats of Cincinnati make the CFP, then both Peach Bowl slots are open to at-large teams.
BYU basically needs to be one of the four best teams among those considered for at-large spots. Cougar fans should root for Cincinnati to make the playoff and for utter chaos to rain down on teams ahead of them, along with beating Georgia Southern and USC.
Needless to say, there is a lot of potential chaos ahead of BYU at No. 14 over the next few weeks. As long as BYU takes care of business, they should find themselves in the top 12 come Selection Sunday with a chance at the coveted invitation.