PROVO — After staying home for the holidays a year ago, BYU is going bowling again — to the familiar confines of Albertsons Stadium.
While the Cougars are making their first appearance in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, they played on the blue turf just a month ago in a 21-16 loss to the Boise State Broncos.
On Dec. 21 (2 p.m. MST, ESPN), BYU faces the Western Michigan Broncos of the Mid-American Conference in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
"We are excited to have been selected to play in a bowl game and for the opportunity to face a good Western Michigan team in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl," coach Kalani Sitake said in a statement. "Western Michigan is a well-coached team, and we are looking forward to the challenge of preparing for the game and making a return trip to Boise.”
It was widely speculated and projected the past few weeks that BYU would end up in the First Responder Bowl in Dallas on Dec. 26. Instead, Boise State will play there against Boston College.
The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl pits a Mountain West Conference team against a Mid-American Conference team. BYU, an independent, filled the Mountain West’s spot in the game. Hometown Boise State of the Mountain West was considered a candidate to play in this year's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
While Boise State (10-3) is going to Dallas, Wyoming (6-6), also from the Mountain West, did not receive a bowl invitation. The Cowboys beat Central Michigan in the Potato Bowl last season.
Because of BYU’s broadcasting deal with ESPN, the network worked to help get the Cougars into a bowl despite not having an automatic tie-in this season. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl is one of 13 bowls owned by ESPN, which has considerable power when it comes to setting up games that are favorable to the network.
“BYU is a team a lot of bowls want,” said Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Executive Director Kevin McDonald. “For them to be in Boise, we’re excited.”
The Cougars are 0-5 all-time at Albertsons Stadium, with all five losses coming at the hands of Boise State.
BYU (6-6) and Western Michigan (7-5) have played one common opponent this season — MAC champion Northern Illinois. The Cougars fell at home to the Huskies, 7-6, on Oct. 27. The Broncos defeated NIU on Nov. 28, 28-21.
“We are extremely excited to be invited and accept an invitation to play in the 2018 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl,” said Western Michigan coach Tim Lester. “We know it is a first-class event and are gratified for the opportunity to play on the famous blue turf.”
Western Michigan played in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in 2014, when it lost to Air Force 38-24.
“We’re excited to host BYU for the first time and welcome back a Western Michigan program that was a great participant a few years ago,” said McDonald, the bowl’s executive director. “This is a fantastic matchup for our community with two teams they will really be able to get behind, along with two young quarterbacks and two up-and-coming coaches.”
Western Michigan has played in bowl games in four of the last five seasons, including an appearance in the Cotton Bowl Classic at the end of the 2016 season, when the Broncos fell to Wisconsin.
This year, Western Michigan boasts a running back, LeVante Bellamy, who has 190 carries for 1,172 yards and six touchdowns. Jamarui Bogan has rushed 156 times for 702 yards and 15 TDs.
The Broncos average 33.17 points per game while surrendering 33.33 per game.
BYU and Western Michigan have played five times before, but this will be their first meeting in decades.
The Cougars lead the all-time series 3-2, with the Broncos winning the first meeting in 1962, 28-20, and the most recent game, in 1970, 35-17. BYU beat Western Michigan in 1964, 1967 and 1968.
The two teams have never met on a neutral field.
For BYU, this marks its 36 all-time bowl appearance dating back to the 1974 Fiesta Bowl. The Cougars have played in 18 different bowl games in 11 different states.120 comments on this story
BYU’s most recent bowl appearance was in the 2016 Poinsettia Bowl, where it beat Wyoming, 24-21. That was part of a streak of 12 consecutive bowl games for the Cougars.
BYU has a bowl record of 14-20-1.
Tickets for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl are on sale at BYUtickets.com or by calling 801-422-2981.
In the BYU section, seats under cover, rows M through V, cost $60. The remaining sideline seats are $50, with tickets for groups of 10 or more available for $45 and pricing for groups of 20 or more $40. Corner seats are $30 and $25 for groups of 10 and $20 for groups of 20 or more. End zone tickets are $20 ($15 for groups of 10 or more).