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BYU Football's Las Vegas Bowl Scenarios

BYU will play Washington State, California, or Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl. Find out how each potential opponent lands in Sin City. Plus, a guide on who to root for in the Pac-12 Championship game.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we know that BYU is heading to the Las Vegas Bowl. Cougar fans naturally have wondered who their opponent will be in the bowl game. So let's look at the Pac-12 bowl selection process and see if have a clearer view of who the potential BYU opponents could and will be.

Pac-12's Bowl Agreements

Selection Date Game Site Affiliation

1

Jan. 1, 2016 Rose Bowl Pasadena, California Big Ten #1
2 Jan. 2, 2016 Alamo Bowl San Antonio, Texas Big 12 #2
3 Dec 30, 2015 Holiday Bowl San Diego, California Big Ten - Tier #1
4 Dec 26, 2015 Foster Farms Bowl Santa Clara, California Big Ten - Tier #2
5 Dec 26, 2015 Sun Bowl El Paso, Texas ACC - Tier #1
6 Dec 19, 2015 Las Vegas Bowl Las Vegas, Nevada Brigham Young University
7 Jan. 2, 2016 Cactus Bowl Phoenix, Arizona Big 12 #6

Simple enough, right? Wrong. There are a few rules about the selection process that we should know and a potential wrinkle that changes everything for predictors.

The College Football Playoff

First, the Rose Bowl isn't being used as a site for one of the games in the National Football Playoff. The semifinal games are being held in the Cotton Bowl and the Orange Bowl.

We also know that Stanford is playing USC Saturday in the Pac-12 Championship game. Stanford, which has two losses, is currently ranked #7 by the College Football Playoff Committee. The Cardinal are very unlikely to get in the playoff. Stanford would need the following to happen:

  • Clemson loses to North Carolina in the ACC Championship game.
  • Alabama loses to Florida in the SEC Championship game.
  • Michigan State and Iowa look shaky in the Big 10 Championship game.
  • Stanford demolishes USC.
  • The Committee breaks out some confusing magic that leaves a handful of one-loss teams out and the two-loss Cardinal in.

So, assuming all of the above doesn't happen. The winner of the Pac-12 Championship game will play New Year's Day at the Rose Bowl.

New Year's Six

The rules of the College Football Playoff's "New Year's Six" games may come into play in the Pac-12 Bowl Selection process. This includes six bowl games (Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and Peach Bowl) played on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

The highest ranked team from the "Group of 5" (essentially non-Power 5 conference teams) will play in the New Year's Six bowl games. Meaning that the Top 11 ranked Power 5 + Notre Dame teams and the best Group of 5 team will be featured in the New Year's Six bowl games.

This is an important consideration and potentiality for the Pac-12 Bowl Selection process. Currently, the Pac-12 has 4 teams in the College Football Playoff Rankings. #7 Stanford, #16 Oregon, #20 USC, and #24 Utah.

If Stanford were to lose to USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game, it is possible that the Cardinal could still be ranked in the Top 11, even with 3 losses. (Last year teams ranked #9, #10, and #11 had 3 losses before their bowl games.) If that happens to the Cardinal, it'll likely change every potential Pac-12 bowl game selection.

Other rules to consider

The winner and loser of the Pac-12 Championship game will be considered #1 and #2 in the final Pac-12 standings. After that, divisions do not matter. Secondly, the order of the standings will be by Pac-12 record, then overall record. So here's how the Pac-12 standing will be looked at by the boards of the bowl games.

The Pac-12 has 10 bowl eligible teams. Sorry Oregon State and Colorado.

Place Team Pac-12 Record Overall Record
1 Stanford/USC 8-1/6-3 10-2/8-4
2 Stanford/USC 8-1/6-3 10-2/8-4
3 Oregon 7-2 9-3
4 Utah 6-3 9-3
5 Washington State 6-3 8-4
6 UCLA 5-4 8-4
7 California 4-5 7-5
8 Arizona State 4-5 6-6
Washington 4-5 6-6
10 Arizona 3-6 6-6

Teams aren't selected necessarily by their finish in the standings. Rather, think of the process as a draft where bowl games select the team that gives the best game, sells the most tickets, and drives the highest ratings.

The final rule to be mindful of applies to the Alamo Bowl (2nd selection), Holiday (3rd selection), and Foster Farms Bowl (4th selection). Each of these bowls must select from among the team(s) with the best remaining record(s) and team(s) within one loss of those team(s).

The Sun Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl, and Cactus Bowl may select any remaining team of their prerogative.

With all that laid out, let's take a look at the three possible scenarios.

1. Stanford beats USC.

2. USC beats Stanford, Cardinal ranked #11 or higher by College Football Playoff selection committee.

3. USC beats Stanford, Cardinal ranked #12 or lower by College Football Playoff selection committee.

Scenario #1 - Stanford beats USC.

Lets try it out!

  1. Rose Bowl: Stanford (not in the College Football Playoff)
  2. Alamo Bowl: Oregon, USC, Utah, or Washington State are all potential selections. However, I would bet that the Ducks would be the choice here. They are the highest ranked, next best Pac-12 record, travel well, and played red hot to close out the season.
  3. Holiday Bowl: USC, Utah, Washington State or UCLA are all possibilities for the Holiday Bowl, if the Ducks are selected by the Alamo Bowl. (If Oregon isn't taken by the Alamo Bowl, then UCLA isn't a possibility for the Holiday Bowl.) Given that the game is in San Diego, I would think that the Holiday Bowl would be thrilled to take the Pac-12 runner-up USC Trojans for the 2nd year in a row.
  4. Foster Farms Bowl: Utah, Washington State or UCLA. This bowl game showed last year that they were willing to take a team with a worse record if they have a regional tie. This bowl game is played in Santa Clara, California. Given the recent history, I could see the Foster Farms Bowl selecting UCLA as they would prefer a team from California. Having the Los Angeles market more tuned into your bowl game is always nice. Lastly, there are reports that Foster Farms is most inclined toward UCLA.
  5. Sun Bowl: Utah, Washington State, California, Arizona State, Washington or Arizona. Its hard to imagine the Sun Bowl passing on the Utes here. Utah will likely be included in the Top 25 rankings and has the best record. If they were to pass on the Utes, it would likely be for Washington State and maybe it would be a friendly nod to the Las Vegas Bowl who would certainly love to host the Holy War.
  6. Las Vegas Bowl: Washington State, California, Arizona State, Washington or Arizona. Washington State has had the better year, even with losing to FCS's Portland State in their season opener. But, California brings with it the Bay Area. Still, I think Mike Leach's team would be chosen. A lot of excitement in Pullman about a return to a bowl game. Again, you can be assured, the Las Vegas Bowl is hoping that Utah is still around by their 6th selection. If they are, it will be the Holy War Bowl.
  7. Cactus Bowl: California, Arizona State, Washington or Arizona. California is the pick unless they want the team in nearby Tempe.

Scenario #2 - USC beats Stanford, Cardinal ranked in the top 11

  1. Rose Bowl: USC
  2. New Year's Six Bowl at-large: Stanford
  3. Alamo Bowl: Oregon, Utah, or Washington State. Lets predict Oregon is selected.
  4. Holiday Bowl: Utah, Washington State, or UCLA. Holiday Bowl would be happy to have the Chosen Rosen. San Diego's proximity to LA, the UCLA brand, plus the exciting freshman QB. UCLA.
  5. Foster Farms: Utah or Washington State. Utah had the better season and is higher ranked.
  6. Sun Bowl: Washington State, California, Arizona State, Washington, or Arizona. I believe the Sun Bowl would take the best record here. Wazzu to El Paso.
  7. Las Vegas Bowl: California, Arizona State, Washington, or Arizona. California would be the selection. Though I wonder if Arizona State would be discussed in a preference for closer proximity.
  8. Cactus Bowl: Arizona State, Washington, or Arizona. Arizona State plays in (essentially) their home town.

Scenario #3 - USC beats Stanford, Cardinal ranked below the top 11

  1. Rose Bowl: USC
  2. Alamo Bowl: Stanford or Oregon. Stanford is the selection here as they are higher ranked and have the incredible Christian McCaffrey. Though Oregon did defeat Stanford in Palo Alto this season. If the Alamo Bowl were to take the Ducks, the Holiday Bowl would be forced to select the Cardinal. But, I would expect the Cardinal in San Antonio in this scenario.
  3. Holiday Bowl: Oregon, Utah, or Washington State. Oregon.
  4. Foster Farms Bowl: Utah, Washington State, or UCLA. Again, the game is in Santa Clara, CA. they would prefer UCLA.
  5. Sun Bowl: Utah, Washington State, California, Arizona State, Washington, or Arizona. I guessed above Utah.
  6. Las Vegas Bowl: Washington State, California, Arizona State, Washington, or Arizona. Washington State.
  7. Cactus Bowl: California, Arizona State, Washington, or Arizona. California or Arizona State. Probably Cal.

Who will BYU play?

For BYU, it looks likely to be a Cougar showdown with Washington State if Stanford wins. If USC wins, its most likely the Cougars will play California.

Now, if you are hoping to see the Holy War in Sin City, and who am I kidding -- you are, then you need to cheer for Stanford to win the Pac-12 Championship game AND the Sun Bowl to pass on the Utes in favor of another team. This is when the Bill Simmons idea of Sports Tsar is perfect. Certainly it is best for college football to have this game. A Sports Tsar would edict the Sun Bowl to pass on the University of Utah.

If USC were to win Saturday, then the Holy War is probably not going to happen. But it wouldn't be impossible. Should USC win, Cougar fans will be tuned into the college football playoff ranking show, but not to see who the four-game playoff teams are, but to see if Stanford dropped their ranking to #12 or worse. Because if Stanford qualifies for a New Year's Six bowl game, then there is no chance Utah will be bowl-ing in Vegas. If the Cardinal dropped out of the New Year's Six, BYU fans are back to hoping the Sun Bowl passes on the Utes.

If you want the Holy War, cheer for Stanford. Then all BYU fans should email the Sun Bowl board assuring them that you'll take your family to El Paso over Spring Break instead of another trip to Disneyland. For bonus persuasion, attach to the email a hotel reservation.

Regardless, this is the order of most likely to least likely Las Vegas Bowl opponent.

  1. Washington State
  2. California
  3. Utah