PROVO — BYU clinched bowl eligibility more than a week ago and now that the regular season is over, the waiting game begins.
The Cougars, who finished 6-6 after losing a 35-27 heartbreaker at Utah last Saturday, are looking forward to playing one more time.
“We have a bowl game to get ready for. I asked our guys to empty the tank (against the Utes) and I think they did,” said coach Kalani Sitake. “We’ll rest and find out what bowl game we go to next week. Then we’ll start preparing and utilizing all the time that we can … We have another game to prepare for. We’ll learn as much as we can from this … A bowl game is important to our program and it’s important for our youth and our depth.”
Yet with more bowl-eligible teams out there than bowl spots available, there’s a chance BYU could stay home for the holidays.
Most bowl prognosticators project the Cougars in a bowl game.
Fortunately for BYU, it has ESPN in its corner. The Cougars have had a broadcasting deal with the sports network since 2011 when they became independent. ESPN, which partners with BYU to help schedule games and broker bowl deals, owns 13 bowl games and is always looking for attractive matchups to televise.
ESPN and ABC will televise 35 of the 40 bowl games this season.
BYU associate athletic director Duff Tittle said Monday that the Cougars will find out their postseason fate Sunday.
“We were told this summer that we likely wouldn’t find out until Selection Sunday, like everyone else,” Tittle said.
Here’s a look at the latest bowl projections involving BYU:
ESPN: BYU vs. Wake Forest in the Gasparilla Bowl on Dec. 20 in Tampa, Florida; BYU vs. Middle Tennessee in the First Responder Bowl on Dec. 26 in Dallas.
CBS Sports: BYU vs. Houston in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 19 in Dallas.
SB Nation: BYU vs. North Texas in the First Responder Bowl.
Sporting News: BYU vs. Missouri in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 27 in Shreveport, Louisiana.
NBC Sports: BYU vs. Army in the First Responder Bowl.
Sports Illustrated: BYU vs. TCU in the Cheez-It Bowl on Dec. 26 in Phoenix.
Orlando Sentinel: BYU vs. North Texas in the First Responder Bowl.
Athlon Sports: BYU vs. North Texas in the First Responder Bowl.
College Football News: BYU vs. Boston College in the Independence Bowl.
BYU had its 12-year bowl streak snapped a year ago after last season’s 4-9 season.
For a young team like the Cougars, going to a bowl game is “giant, enormous,” offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes said recently. “You can’t underestimate the value of going to a bowl game, for the practical purpose of getting more practices but also what it does to springboard in terms of confidence moving forward.”
“We want to finish out the season the right way,” said wide receiver Micah Simon. “To be able to improve from last year and be in a bowl game and win out would be great.”
Years ago, BYU was locked in to play in the Poinsettia Bowl this year if it became bowl-eligible. However, the Poinsettia Bowl went out of business after the 2016 game, which saw the Cougars defeat Wyoming.
During Education Week last August, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said that the Cougars would get into a bowl game if they were to win at least six games.47 comments on this story
“People are going, ‘We’re not very good. People aren’t going to like us. ESPN is going to dump us. Bowls aren’t going to want us.’ People — BYU has a great reputation still to this day,” Holmoe said. “Last year, with a 4-9 team, our (TV) numbers were up. People watch our games. The amazing thing is, so many people who aren’t part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints watch the games. They like BYU.”
In 2015, BYU announced that it would play in either the Hawaii Bowl or the Las Vegas Bowl in 2015, with the provision that whichever bowl game the Cougars did not play in in 2015 would be the destination for BYU in 2019.
Because the Cougars played Utah in the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl, they are contracted to play in the Hawaii Bowl in 2019 as long as they are bowl-eligible.
For now, BYU is watching and waiting to see where it will be headed this December.