Ryan Teeples: New college bowl system drastically alters BYU, Utah, USU bowl prospects

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 8 2014 1:00 p.m. MST

Brigham Young Cougars defense stop Washington Huskies running back Bishop Sankey (25) during the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco Friday, Dec. 27, 2013.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The 2013 college football season is now behind us. It was a year of ups and downs for every major team in the state. From season-ending injuries in September to coaching changes in December, the year brought drama that culminated in bowl games for BYU and Utah State.

But as it is wont to do, the conclusion of this year's football season already has us peeking forward to 2014.

With the implementation of a new postseason playoff format and a filing cabinet full of newly inked contracts between conferences and bowls, many Cougar, Ute and Aggie fans are wondering what next year’s postseason bowl options may be.

For the University of Utah, each new season comes with the possibility of an automatic bid to a major bowl. Due to new selection rules, Utah State could also find itself competing for a high-profile game slot, should it take care of its business. BYU, on the other hand, has no contractual tie-in for a major bowl and would have to have a historically great season and earn its way in at-large.

But those are the best-case — and frankly unlikely — outcomes for each team’s postseason. Beyond that there are a number of factors that will determine where BYU, Utah and USU would play their postseason bowl games should they be eligible.

The University of Utah

Utah probably needs to get into a postseason bowl in 2014 or the team may find itself looking for a new head coach. With former Wyoming coach Dave Christensen coming in to run the offense, the team will look to put together more wins than the past two seasons and secure themselves a spot above the .500 line.

So where would the bowl-bound Utes end up?

Winning the Pac-12 is a very tall task for anyone in 2014, as the league is one of the best in the nation. And it’s likely next year the winner of the Pac-12 championship gets selected by the committee into the four-team playoff bracket, though not guaranteed.

While the pinnacle of achievement for Utah would be a berth in the playoffs, I’m confident Kyle Whittingham isn’t putting that up on the bulletin board.

But let’s assume another Pac-12 team does get into the four-team playoff.

The Rose Bowl is hosting a semifinal playoff game next season — along with the Sugar Bowl — so it won’t be taking the next Pac-12 team. By process, the Orange, Chick-fil-A, Fiesta and Cotton Bowl will take turns taking conference champions and making at-large selections.

After that field is set, the other bowls begin picking teams for their games. For the Pac-12, those bowls are the Alamo, Holiday, Sun, Buffalo Wild Wings, Fight Hunger and Las Vegas bowls.

So if Utah were to have an amazing turnaround, it could end up in a major bowl we used to call “BCS games.” It would require a monumental improvement over 2013 and is unlikely, to be sure. But don’t forget, Auburn was 3-9 last season and nearly won the national title this week.

Dream turnarounds aside, should the Utes become bowl eligible, they would find themselves somewhere in Texas, California or Nevada come the 2014 holiday season.

Utah State University

For the Aggies, the upcoming season offers a level of optimism not seen in Logan since, well, 2013. But prior to that it was long ago.

With Chuckie Keeton back from knee surgery, hopes are high for USU as it capped an 8-4 regular season off with a near win against Fresno State in the MWC Championship Game and a victory over Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl.

In 2014, its second year in the MWC, Utah State no doubt expects to be even better. So what are the Aggies’ bowl prospects?

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