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Exploring BYU’s Potential Hawaii Bowl Opponents Entering Final Week

Brigham Young Cougars running back Lopini Katoa (4) tries to stiff-arm Hawaii Warriors defensive lineman Kaimana Padello (96) as BYU and Hawaii play at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU football has known they were going to the Hawaii Bowl this season for the past four years. But who the Cougars will face on Christmas Eve is still not known heading into the final week of the college football season.

Here’s what we know right now. With a 7-5 record BYU is bowl eligible and will face a team from the Mountain West Conference or the American Athletic Conference. That according to ESPN VP of College Programming Pete Derzis.

Prior to the beginning of this season, BYU was expected to play a team from the AAC. But now that the American Athletic Conference has the potential to send a team to the New Year’s Six, the conference might not have enough teams to fill all of their bowl spots. Which leaves the door open for a Mountain West team to face BYU instead.

College Football Insider Brett McMurphy from Watch Stadium joined me on Cougar Tracks to discuss potential bowl scenarios for who BYU could face later this month. Currently, McMurphy projects BYU to play the home team, Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. But there are still a lot of moving pieces in play before Sunday when the bowls are all officially announced.

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

Most bowl projections right now have BYU projected to play the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. But that’s not set in stone at the moment.

Hawaii will play in the Mountain West Conference Championship this Saturday against Boise State and the winner of the game will play in the Las Vegas Bowl. Historically, when bowl eligible, Hawaii plays on the islands in the hometown Hawaii Bowl. But if they win their conference title, they will go to the Las Vegas Bowl.

If the Rainbow Warriors lose in the MWC title game and an AAC team goes to the New Year’s Six, the AAC would not have enough teams to fill their bowl spots. So ESPN would keep the Warriors at home to go up against an old WAC rival.

Keep an eye on the AAC Championship Game

The Championship Game of the American Athletic Conference will have an impact on who BYU faces in the Hawaii Bowl. No. 17 Memphis will host No. 20 Cincinnati on Saturday. If Memphis wins, the Tigers are headed to the New Year’s Six as the Group of 5 auto bid. If the Tigers lose, however, No. 19 Boise State could be in a position to go to the New Year’s Six, assuming they defeat Hawaii. But the Broncos could also be leaped by Cincinnati if the Bearcats get a win over a ranked team on the road.

If Boise does end up playing in the New Year’s Six, it means BYU will play an AAC team.

Possible AAC Opponents

If Hawaii wins the MWC or Boise goes to the New Year’s Six, BYU will see an AAC team in the Hawaii Bowl. There would be a host of options for the Cougars to play from that league as the AAC has no pecking order for their bowl tie-ins. The TV execs would be the ultimate decision-maker in determining who goes to Hawaii.

The loser of the AAC Championship, SMU, UCF, would all be in play to face BYU. The one bowl-eligible team from the AAC that might not be in play is Navy. The Midshipmen have a regular-season game on December 14th against rival Army and it’s possible they would prefer a post-Christmas bowl date.

BYU taking on a Memphis or Cincinnati or SMU could be a good TV matchup on ESPN as Santa slides down the chimney on Christmas Eve.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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