BYU has contracted with bowls every year since going independent in 2011. The Cougars also have bowl agreements for 2018 (Poinsettia Bowl) and 2019 (Hawaii Bowl). With every bowl already having an agreement with conferences, BYU is guaranteed a bowl spot this way.
BYU is still without a 2017 partner for its bowl game, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
With the increasing amount of bowl games (there are 40 now), bowls are forced to pick from a handful of 5-7 teams every year; P5 leagues often don’t have enough bowl eligible teams to fill all of their bowl slots. This year, 76 teams were bowl eligible, forcing bowls to pick 4 teams that were bowl ineligible.
This is where BYU being a “free agent” comes in.
What could have replaced this year’s Poinsettia Bowl? Baylor was scheduled to play a game versus the Pac 12 in this year’s Cactus bowl; the Pac 12 didn’t have enough bowl-eligible teams, so the Cactus Bowl picked Boise State instead for that slot. If BYU didn’t have an obligation to play in the Poinsettia Bowl, there is a strong likelihood BYU would be playing Baylor, and Boise State would fill one the MWC’s bowl slots.
2015 worked out with BYU playing Utah, but they could have played in the Foster Farms Bowl versus a Pac 12 team instead of a 5-7 Nebraska team that was selected.
So, what are BYU’s best options for 2017? Here’s my take of the top 3:
1. Secure an agreement vs a P5 conference
BYU has successfully done this in the past. BYU played Utah in 2015 and Washington in 2013. If BYU is able to secure a bowl agreement with a bowl versus a P5 opponent, this would be optimal. With the lack of time until the 2017 season, however, the likelihood of this happening is becoming increasingly unlikely.
2. Be a bowl “free agent”
This situation was already outlined above. Risk is involved, (i.e., having 80 bowl eligible teams for the 2017 season), but the small chance of this happening, coupled with the potential reward of playing a P5 team at season’s end, would provide more excitement for players and fans.
3. Secure an agreement vs a G5 conference
BYU may end up doing this, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. They would be guaranteed a bowl bid if they finished with a winning record, and could play a solid team. However, playing another middle-of-the-pack MWC or AAC team seems “meh” in comparison to playing someone like Baylor.
Maybe BYU will go with the absolute best option and go to the playoff in 2017! When that doesn’t happen, however, being a “free agent” seems like a fun option for the 2017 season.