Bowl Season Hopes Hang In Balance For BYU/Iowa State Game

Nov 9, 2023, 11:58 AM | Updated: 11:59 am

PROVO, Utah – No one will mistake Saturday’s BYU/Iowa State matchup as one of the top games this weekend in college football. But a lot is hanging in the balance for both teams entering this game.

Most notably, the hopes of going to the Bowl Season.

BYU and Iowa State each enter the first-time Big 12 clash at 5-4 overall. They both need one more win to reach the six-win requirement to qualify for the Bowl Season.

BYU/Iowa State: Bowl Elimination Game?

Three games remain for both teams, but this Saturday is the best opportunity for either to come away from a victory. After Saturday, BYU closes the regular season with games against two Top 25 teams in Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

The same goes for Iowa State, who will face a pair of ranked teams after the BYU game.

Iowa State has No. 7 Texas and No. 25 Kansas State after a late-night trip to Provo, their first since 1973.

“It’s huge,” said BYU linebacker AJ Vongphachanh on what it would mean to reach the postseason. “We’ve been to a bowl game every year that I’ve played except for that COVID year [at Utah State]. We didn’t have a good year that season. It’s definitely a huge difference between making a bowl game and not making a bowl game. So it’s huge for us. You know, we’re one win away and we’re just eager to get that sixth win this week.”

BYU is navigating its first year as a Big 12 football program. Reaching the postseason would be an accomplishment to be proud of after what has been a rocky introduction to the weekly grind in Power Five football.

Iowa State has been a surprise in the Big 12

Iowa State is looking to avoid its second consecutive season without a bowl game. Due to a young roster, the Cyclones looked like a bottom dweller in the Big 12 in the preseason. Then, the gambling scandal that rocked Iowa State left the Cyclones without QB Hunter Dekkers and RB Jirhel Brock.

Early in the season, they suffered a devastating loss at Ohio. No, not the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Bobcats of Ohio University. It had the makings to be a lost season for head coach Matt Campbell. But the Cyclones have turned it around and are 4-2 in league play.

Last week, Iowa State had a hard-fought loss against a veteran Kansas team near the top of the Big 12 standings. On the opposite sideline, BYU comes into Saturday’s game looking for any fix they can find to get right.

BYU has only scored one touchdown in the last two games. In last week’s 37-7 loss at West Virginia, BYU was dominated in all phases of the game. For the fifth consecutive week, BYU enters a game as an underdog. That’s life for a Big 12 newcomer as they continue to try and find their identity.

But the struggles have been far more severe than anyone expected coming into the Big 12. It’s one thing to lose. BYU is getting outclassed weekly in its new conference home.

BYU looking to bounce back from embarrassing performances

The good news for the struggling Cougars is that they are returning home. BYU is 4-0 this season at LaVell Edwards Stadium and the crowd should have 60,000+ fans on hand to cheer them on.

“We’re both sitting at 5-4. So someone’s trying to get bowl eligible,” said BYU head coach Kalani Sitake. “There’s a lot to play for in this game and in this matchup. We didn’t perform well last week. And so it’s a chance for us to answer at home and then find a way to get back to our old selves because that was embarrassing last week.”

Backup quarterback Jake Retzlaff will get the start again this week for BYU as Kedon Slovis continues to recover from various injuries.

Retzlaff will look to provide a spark to an offense with little production as the injury list piles up.

Whoever wins Saturday night will become the seventh team from the Big 12 to qualify for the postseason. The seventh selection in the Big 12’s bowl pecking order is the Independence Bowl. A game that joined the Big 12’s bowl options as BYU joined the league.

Independence Bowl officials were in Morgantown last week to watch BYU/West Virginia.

BYU wasn’t thrilled going to Shreveport two years ago as a nationally-ranked team. This year, a trip to Shreveport to face a Pac-12 team would be a welcome sight after BYU’s struggles this season.

They need to get one more win to make it happen.

BYU vs. Iowa State

Date: Saturday, November 11, 2023

Location: LaVell Edwards Stadium

Kickoff: 8:15 p.m. (MT)


Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM) — Extended pregame coverage begins at 6 p.m.

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

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Bowl Season Hopes Hang In Balance For BYU/Iowa State Game