BYU Football is all but guaranteed to make a bowl game at this point, but their opponent could be from a large range of candidates that range from struggling 6-6 Group of Five teams to NY6 bubble teams.
Three weeks ago, had you told me that BYU would be playing Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl, I would have thought that it would be a good opponent given how much the Cougars were struggling. In fact, I would have been happy just to know that the Cougars were going to make it to a bowl game.
Now, after taking down Boise State and Utah State in consecutive games, the Cougars are all but guaranteed to be in the Hawaii Bowl, but the potential opponents make things very interesting. The teams realistically are ranging from great games, to games that I am not sure I could convince my wife to let me watch on Christmas Eve.
Here is a list of the current projections of teams that BYU could play as well as my thoughts on each one.
Hawaii: CBS Sports, Schlabach (ESPN), USA Today, Athlon
This is the worst (well close anyways) case scenario for a match up for BYU. It is also at least at this point, appearing to be the most likely. Hawaii is worse than they were last year, and the Cougars are better than last year. Remember, this was one of the few convincing wins BYU had in 2018 taking down the Rainbow Warriors 49-23 in Zach Wilson's first start. Heck, Joe Critchlow even beat them in 2017 when BYU wasn't winning any games. This season, the Rainbow Warriors lost to Boise State 59-37, a team BYU beat. This would be a blowout game for BYU, and if it is not, perhaps you don't want to see it anyway.
Boston College: Bonagura (ESPN)
This is an odd choice given the fact that the AAC and MWC are the conferences that actually have rights to the bowl game, but if teams get selected to other games, it opens up spots like this one. Boston College is kind of like BYU. They have great wins against teams like Virginia Tech and Syracuse, but they also have head scratching blowout losses to Kansas and Louisville. This would be an interesting game and it would measure up how BYU can do against an average P5 team from the East Coast.
Cincinnati: Bleacher Report
Now this would be a great game. Cincinnati has shown that they can compete and take down pretty good teams including UCF and a better than expected UCLA team. However, they also got blanked by Ohio State. The Bearcats sort of control their own destiny in making it to a NY6 game. If they can continue to go undefeated, and finish with a 12-1 record, it would be tough to put in Boise State from the MWC given the strength of the AAC this year. If Cincinnati does lose a few games between now and then, this would still be a very intriguing match up up BYU.
Other AAC Schools: Smaller projections
The AAC sort of reminds me of the Pac 12 and Big 12. They are very top heavy and are going to have teams that knock each other out of the NY6 discussion. However, some kind of combination of UCF, Memphis, Tulane, SMU, Temple and Navy is going to cause there to be quite a few teams between 8-4 and 9-3. One of these teams may find themselves in a spot that would put them in Hawaii to play BYU. Considering that all of those teams are or have been ranked, this would be a great bowl game to watch.
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If the AAC gets a team in a NY6 game, then it would slide every team up one spot in their game allotments. Currently there only appear to be seven teams on track to make a bowl game from that conference but with a NY6game in play it would open eight spots. The Hawaii Bowl gets the fifth pick or in this case the sixth pick.
It is unlikely that the Hawaii Bowl would choose the sixth best team in the AAC (probably Tulane or Temple) over Hawaii which would sell more tickets. If the AAC doesn't get a NY6 game, then suddenly a team like Navy, UCF or SMU could fill up that spot. A UCF or SMU would be more attractive than Hawaii in that case. In other words, if the AAC gets into a NY6 game, expect BYU to play Hawaii. If not, then it is anyone's guess.