Brigham Young University, on the verge of breaking into the Top 20 national rankings, is just about a cinch to go to a bowl for the 11th straight year.
The question is, which one?The Western Athletic Conference champion gets the automatic host berth in the Sea World Holiday Bowl. Wyoming looks like it will get that berth for the second straight year. The 8-0 Cowboys can clinch it by defeating Colorado State this Saturday and UTEP the following week.
Interestingly, should UTEP defeat Wyoming on Nov. 5 and the Miners, Cowboys and Cougars finish in a three-way tie at 7-1 for the WAC crown, BYU would go to the Holiday Bowl. As WAC Commissioner Joe Kearney explained it, in the event of a three-way tie, the team that last went to the Holiday Bowl (in this case, Wyoming) is dropped from consideration, with the team that won the game between the other two schools going. Since BYU defeated UTEP, 31-27, the Cougars would be the ones going to San Diego.
If the Cougars don't go to the Holiday Bowl, they have a shot at their first New Year's bowl - probably their best chance being in the Hall of Fame Bowl in Tampa, Fla. With that bowl moving to New Year's Day (the bowls will be Jan. 2 this coming year, since Jan. 1 is a Sunday), there are now seven New Year's Day bowls - Orange, Sugar, Rose, Cotton, Fiesta, Citrus and Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame Bowl was moved when NBC lost the television contract for the Rose Bowl to ABC. It thus fills the Rose Bowl void for NBC.
Hall of Fame Bowl spokesman Jim McVay said Monday that BYU is high on the list of prospective teams. "We're definitely looking at BYU . . . LaVell Edwards has done a heck of a job."
Of course, there are a lot of other teams high on the Hall of Fame Bowl's list. McVay said since the Hall of Fame Bowl is not affiliated with any conference, it wants the highest-ranked teams it can get plus teams that will attract a television audience. If the bowl is a sellout, the participants would get $1 million each, he said. For the Cougars to go to that bowl they would almost have to be 10-1 going into their regular-season finale against the Miami Hurricanes on Dec. 3.
The Hall of Fame Bowl will be on at the same time as the Cotton Bowl (CBS) and the Citrus Bowl (ABC). Michigan defeated Alabama, 28-24, in last year's Hall of Fame Bowl matchup.
If the Cougars did make it to the Hall of Fame Bowl, the opponent would likely be one of the top Southeastern Conference teams (LSU, Auburn, Alabama or Georgia) or possibly the loser of the Nebraska-Oklahoma game or Oklahoma State, depending on which teams the Cotton and Citrus bowls take to match against their host teams. The Southwest Conference champion gets an automatic Cotton Bowl berth with the Atlantic Coast Conference champion getting a Citrus Bowl slot.
If the Cougars don't make a New Year's Day bowl, the next best opportunity might be the Liberty Bowl, held Dec. 28 in Memphis, Tenn. That bowl also pays out $1 million per team in the event of a sellout, a spokesman said. The Liberty Bowl is very interested in BYU and Air Force, executive director Bud Dudley said. "We'll have someone at the BYU-Air Force game (Nov. 12)." In last year's Liberty Bowl matchup, Georgia defeated Arkansas, 20-17.
Freedom Bowl representatives would be happy to have BYU make a return trip. The Cougars played UCLA there in 1986, losing, 31-10.
"We always like BYU. We hope they keep us in mind," Tom Starr, the Anaheim-based bowl's executive director said Monday. The Freedom Bowl, which pays out around $500,000 per team, is played the same time as the Holiday Bowl - Dec. 30.