After losses to Liberty and East Carolina, things were looking bleak for BYU making a bowl game in 2022. With an assumed win over Utah Tech next week, they still needed to beat either Boise State on the blue turf or win on the road at Stanford.
Now, with BYU’s upset win in Boise, and sitting at 5-5 ahead of Utah Tech, the conversation shifts to “where will BYU play their bowl game?”
Let’s take a look around the various sites that have bowl projections and see where BYU lands.
LendingTree Bowl vs. Troy
Troy is certainly no slouch this year. They are 7-2, with their only losses coming on the road to ranked Ole Miss and Appalachian State. They are 52nd in ESPN’s SP+ rankings, while BYU checks in at 72nd. The only meeting between the two programs was in 2020, when BYU won 48-7.
New Mexico Bowl vs. San Jose State
BYU has plenty of history with the Spartans. The two schools have met 18 times over 76 years. San Jose State owns the series 10 games to eight, however BYU has won the last two and five of the last six. They have played four times since BYU went independent ahead of the 2011 season. San Jose State is 6-2, with their only losses coming at Auburn and Fresno State. BYU last played in the New Mexico Bowl in 2010, defeating UTEP.
Armed Forces Bowl vs. SMU
If there is a bowl game that involves BYU and SMU, the college football historians would be ecstatic. When BYU fans see SMU, one thing immediately comes to mind- The Miracle Bowl of 1980. Even if you are like me and were not alive to see that happen, you know about it. You’ve heard the stories, seen the highlights, and re-lived it with your older friends and family who claimed they were there. BYU has won all three meetings with the most recent being a 19-16 victory in 1997. BYU defeated Tulsa in the 2011 Armed Forces Bowl.
Independence Bowl vs. Cincinnati
BYU fans may see “Independence Bowl” and run for the hills. Understandably so, after last year’s debacle in that game against UAB. However, Cincinnati is a much more attractive opponent, just one year removed from an appearance in the College Football Playoff. They are also a future Big 12 conference mate. The Bearcats are 7-2 and currently have their sights set on a bigger prize than a date with the Cougars. They still have a chance at earning the Group of Five’s automatic bid to a New Year’s Six Bowl. BYU is 2-0 against Cincy, winning in back-to-back years in 2015 and 2016.
First Responder Bowl vs. UNLV
The game formerly known as the Heart of Dallas Bowl would be a nice fit for BYU. However, the opponent here is lackluster. The UNLV Rebels are a former Mountain West conference rival with BYU, and the two have played 20 times, with BYU holding a commanding 17-3 edge. The Rebels are currently 4-5 and have some work to do before they are bowl eligible.
First Responder Bowl vs. Iowa State
This is one of the more exciting possibilities for BYU fans. First, it’s in a big, exciting city, in Dallas. It would be against a Power 5 opponent. BYU has not played a Power 5 opponent in a bowl game since the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl against Utah. Also, it’s against a future conference foe from the Big 12 in Iowa State. The Cougars would get an early look at a team they will play very often starting next season. The Cyclones are 4-5, needing two more wins in three games. That may be tough, considering they are against Oklahoma State and TCU on the road and a home game against Texas Tech. BYU and Iowa State have played four times, but not since 1974.
Birmingham Bowl vs. Duke
Birmingham is not the most exciting bowl destination. However, getting to play an ACC team like Duke would make it worth it. The Cougars and Blue Devils have never squared off on the gridiron. There is some added tension between the two universities, given the events and media coverage of an alleged racial controversy at a women’s volleyball game between the two schools in August.
My own projection
Boca Raton Bowl vs. Houston
Playing a bowl in Florida before Christmas would be an optimal spot. The Boca Raton Bowl might have both of their spots open, given that they have no specific conference tie-in and Army may struggle to reach bowl eligibility. Houston is an ideal opponent, given these two programs will be Big 12 mates soon. Plus, they have played three times in the independence era, with the Cougars from BYU winning all three.