COUGAR TRACKS

Exploring Bowl Game Possibilities For BYU Football

Nov 28, 2022, 10:53 PM

BYU Football, Hinckley Ropati...

BYU football will be placed into one of the ESPN Event bowl games. (Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo)

(Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – For only the third time in the Independence era for BYU football, the Cougars are a bowl free agent. The idea of bowl free agency always sounded more glamorous than the reality.

“It’s gonna be open, [ESPN] has a number of bowls that are open,” said BYU AD Tom Holmoe on June 22. “Through the season, we’ll have conversations with them and you’ll see, depending on how we’re doing and how the season plays out, they’ll give us feedback, and we’ll start to narrow it down. We’ve got to be ready to take any bowl they give us and hopefully, it’s a great one.”

Great one? Unless ESPN pulls some strings to get a Power Five opponent, it’s hard to picture BYU’s bowl setup being deemed a “great one,” as Holmoe hoped.

BYU football will play in an ESPN Events bowl game

BYU enters the postseason with a 7-5 record overall. As a result, ESPN will slot BYU into one of the 16 bowl games they own. Those fall under the ESPN Events umbrella of bowl games. But within those 16, some games already have matchups designated, such as the Hawaii Bowl, which will have San Diego State take on Middle Tennessee. Then there are ESPN Event games like the Las Vegas Bowl with specific conference tie-ins (SEC vs. Pac-12).

So what are the current possibilities?

During an interview on the Coordinators Corner on Monday, BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said that he has heard BYU’s bowl date is three Saturdays from now, which would be December 17. But he followed that up by saying, “we’ll see.”

Here’s a roadmap of what possibilities could be in front of BYU football for the Bowl Season.

New Mexico Bowl

A visit to the Land of Enchantment to close out Independence? BYU closed out the Mountain West era in Albuquerque. So why not close out Independence there as well?

The New Mexico Bowl isn’t glamorous but could deliver a prime television spot to BYU.

ESPN announced on November 28 that they are ready to flex the times of the New Mexico Bowl and the Las Vegas Bowl, if necessary, for the December 17 games.

Currently, the Las Vegas Bowl is in a primetime 5:30 p.m. (MT) spot on ABC. The New Mexico Bowl is at 12:30 p.m. (MT) on ESPN. The potential kick time switch is due to the NFL and the Las Vegas Raiders.

Both the Las Vegas Bowl and the Raiders play at Allegiant Stadium. The Raiders are scheduled to play the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football on NBC, one day after the Las Vegas Bowl on December 18. But there’s a chance the NFL flexes that game to an earlier 2:25 p.m. (MT) kick because the Raiders and Patriots are average teams this season. In addition, workers at Allegiant Stadium need more time to flip the field and decor from a bowl game to an NFL set up the next day.

So if you’re ESPN and you run the risk of the New Mexico Bowl going into network TV primetime, BYU is far and away the best television property available to the New Mexico Bowl. Honestly, it makes a lot of sense.

Right now, the New Mexico Bowl tie-ins are Mountain West versus a team from the AAC, Conference-USA, MAC, or Sun Belt.

Frisco Bowl

The Frisco Bowl played in Texas would also fit Roderick’s commentary about a potential December 17 bowl date. Like the New Mexico Bowl, it has a lot of options in the bowl tie-ins.

Frisco Bowl execs can pull from the AAC, Conference-USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt, or BYU.

The game is also played in primetime on ESPN at 7:15 p.m.

One of the downsides to a possible early bowl date without knowing the destination and opponent is that it becomes difficult to get the 15 bowl practices worked in. That’s why Kalani Sitake urgently wants to know his bowl destination officially.

LendingTree Bowl

The LendingTree Bowl is located in Mobile, Alabama. Of all the options, this would feel like Independence Bowl 2.0.

Potential conference tie-ins for this one include the MAC, Sun Belt, and Conference USA.

Myrtle Beach Bowl

Remember the Miami Beach Bowl back in 2014? It had that weird kickoff time at Noon on a workday. Yeah, that’s the Myrtle Beach Bowl now. Played on the teal field at Brooks Stadium, home of the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, the Myrtle Beach Bowl has three different conference tie-ins. Its kickoff date is Monday, December 19, at 12:30 p.m. (MT).

If that isn’t a perfect way to cap off the Independence era, I don’t know what to tell you.

The options in the Myrtle Beach Bowl include the American, MAC, and Sun Belt.

Gasparilla Bowl

If you want BYU to get the best possible opponent, the Gasparilla Bowl might be the one you should be cheering for.

In 2018, Zach Wilson and BYU players made a social media push called “#BYUtoTampa” to get the Cougars in this bowl game. ESPN didn’t flinch at the social media movement sending BYU to the Potato Bowl that season.

There’s a lot to like about this Gasparilla Bowl game. One the date. It’s before Christmas on December 23. It lands on Signing Day, which isn’t ideal, but it’s nice for the current team to get their full 15 practices in, and they will be home for Christmas.

Two, the location. Tampa is a nice spot. BYU was there in week one for the USF game, but this would take on a more festive vibe with a whole leading up to the game in Florida.

Three, the potential conference tie-ins. The ACC and SEC could field a team in this bowl. Other tie-ins include the American Athletic Conference.

First Responder Bowl

This game would not be ideal. It could be a matchup against a future Big 12 opponent. But the downside is that the team would spend Christmas in Dallas. So fans would likely travel on December 26 and not get to enjoy the whole bowl week.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s BYU football coverage on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Exploring Bowl Game Possibilities For BYU Football