Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — For the only the second time in history and the first time in 18 years, Utah's three major-college football teams will be going to postseason bowl games the same year.
With its upset victory over Nevada last Saturday, Utah State joined BYU and Utah as a bowl-eligible team with six victories. On Monday, the Aggies — who wrap up their regular-season schedule on Saturday at New Mexico State — accepted a bid to play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
The only other time all three schools went bowling during the same season was in 1993, when the Aggies defeated Bowling Green 42-33 in the Las Vegas Bowl. Both BYU and Utah lost by 28-21 scores that year, the Cougars to Ohio State in the Holiday Bowl and Utah to USC in the Freedom Bowl.
Here's a look at the three schools and their bowl possibilities, which will be determined on Sunday evening:
BYU's bowl destination has been solidified since Oct. 22, the day the Cougars reached six victories with a win over Idaho State. The Cougars have been locked into the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas ever since last summer as long as they won six games or didn't go undefeated, in which case they might have earned a BCS bowl berth.
The Armed Forces Bowl is usually played in Fort Worth at TCU's Amon Carter Stadium, but because it is under renovation, the game will be played at Ford Stadium in Dallas on Dec. 30. Kickoff is set for 10 a.m. MST.
The opponent for the Cougars will be the No. 3 team from Conference USA. Most bowl projections have Tulsa being the choice, but other possibilities include Southern Miss (10-2), SMU (7-5) and Marshall (6-6).
Tulsa has an 8-4 record and finished 7-1 in league play this year, with its only loss coming in the season finale against highly ranked Houston 48-16. Before that, the Hurricane had won seven straight games. Tulsa's early-season losses all came to other Top 10 teams — Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Boise State.
The Utes are still in the running for five different bowl games, but the most likely destination is the Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 31.
Until losing to Colorado last Saturday, the Utes had a good chance at landing in either the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio or the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. The Utes would have had the third-best record of Pac-12 eligible teams and would've been on a five-game winning streak.
Now, however, at 7-5, the Utes have the same record as Cal and Washington and because those two teams both defeated Utah this year, they are likely to be taken ahead of the Utes by the Alamo and Holiday bowls.
The next pick after those two is the Sun Bowl and the Utes would be more attractive than either Arizona State or UCLA, assuming the Bruins lose to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game. Both schools just fired their coaches and ASU is on a four-game losing streak, while UCLA would finish 6-7 with another loss and would have to petition the NCAA to get an exception to play in a bowl game. The Las Vegas and Kraft Hunger bowls would be stuck with those two.
This would mark Utes' first appearance in the Sun Bowl since 1939 when they defeated New Mexico 26-6. This year's game will kick off at noon, MST.
The Sun Bowl opponent is the ACC No. 4, which could be one of several teams with Georgia Tech (8-4), Virginia (8-4) or North Carolina State (7-5), the most likely.
The Aggies have only been to six bowl games in their 114-season history, with just two bowl appearances in the past 50 seasons — both in the 1990s.
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