One of, if not the biggest downside to being Independent for BYU Football has been the bowl game situation.
Last year following a 10-2 campaign that included a 6-1 record against P5 teams, BYU Football was selected to play in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana. If you’ve been following my articles for awhile, you probably remember my reaction to that, and how I truly believe BYU didn’t care about that game. The team had no business in Shreveport, yet there they were playing the third place CUSA team, UAB.
Independence has been for the most part however, a bunch of bowl games that BYU had no business being in, either for better or worse.
In 2020, the Cougars played in the Boca Raton Bowl. The only thing that saved fans from really complaining here was the opponent, UCF – although it was the fourth place AAC team (6-3 at the time). If that was this year it would have been East Carolina…oof.
On the flip side, there have been years such as in 2013 when the Cougars probably weren’t quite at the level of Washington and the final score showed.
The list could go on and on, but the point is, during Independence, for the most part, bowl games have been an upsetting matchup for BYU fans.
In 2022/23, the Cougars are tied to only an ESPN bowl. While on the surface that sounds great, it really isn’t because most of the ESPN bowls are tied to a certain conference. So no, it isn’t very likely that if BYU is ranked in the Top 20 that they will take up a big bowl game because ESPN isn’t going to knock out the Big Ten 3rd slot or SEC 4th spot for BYU.
Although it is still very early, the first projections were released by 247 Sports and it has the Cougars playing in….drum roll…. The Hawaii Bowl against Western Kentucky.
Obviously if BYU goes 6-6, then sure this is a good fit. But the Cougars are a preseason Top 25 team and projected to go somewhere in the 8-4 to 10-2 range. In fact, in their own projections 247 Sports has BYU ranked 15th (higher than most). In other words, 247 believes BYU is a good team that will likely head to a bad bowl game.
Part of me, albeit a very small part, wants BYU to play in this kind of bowl game just so that the Big 12 will be that much sweeter. BYU as a 6-6 team in the Big 12 would go to a bowl game either against another 6-6 P5 team or the second or third best team in a G5 conference.
In other words, a 6-6 (4-6 vs P5’s) Big 12 BYU gets a better bowl than a 10-2 (6-1 vs P5’s) Independent BYU.
Obviously most of me, and hopefully all of you hope BYU gets a fair deal this year for the seniors and players who intend to leave for the NFL following this season. ESPN has that power, it is just a question as to how hard they will push to get a good bowl for BYU at the expense of a P5 team moving down a spot.
Don’t hold your breath.