Bowl projections: It’s becoming clearer who Utah, BYU could face
A majority of the latest predictions have the Utes facing Baylor in the Alamo Bowl and the Cougars playing UTSA in the Independence Bowl
If the college football season ended today, it would seem pretty obvious who BYU and Utah would face in their bowl games.
That is, if national bowl projections prove to be accurate.
Following Week 9 of the season, the Cougars and Utes both have a near unanimous postseason opponent show up across eight national bowl projections.
Seven of those projections have Utah facing Baylor in the Alamo Bowl, which is second in the Pac-12 bowl pecking order behind only the Rose Bowl.
Six of the projections, meanwhile, have BYU facing UTSA of Conference USA in the Independence Bowl, a bowl the Cougars are virtually locked into at this point.
Those matchups are intriguing for both schools.
The Bears are one of the top teams in the Big 12 — they are 7-1 on the season and ranked No. 14 in the latest Associated Press top 25 rankings — and could catch Oklahoma in the league standings in a Nov. 13 matchup as long as they take care of business against TCU this week.
A Baylor-Utah contest in Texas could match up a pair of ranked Power Five teams whose programs are on the rise, if the way both teams have been playing recently holds true the rest of the season.
The Roadrunners sit atop the Conference USA West Division standings and are a perfect 8-0 on the year, with a program-best No. 16 national ranking right now, one spot above BYU in the AP poll.
UTSA faces two other top C-USA teams in the coming weeks, UTEP and UAB, but could provide the best possible scenario for the Cougars — facing an unbeaten and top-ranked team in a bowl matchup — if BYU can’t fight its way into a New Year’s Six game, a long shot at best with two losses already and USC still on the schedule.
Here’s a look at the latest bowl projections for Utah schools following Week 9 of the college football season:
(5-3, 4-1 in Pac-12)
- Kyle Bonagura, ESPN: Alamo Bowl, vs. Baylor.
- Mark Schlabach, ESPN: Alamo Bowl, vs. Baylor.
- Jerry Palm, CBS Sports: Alamo Bowl, vs. Baylor.
- Brett McMurphy, Action Network: Alamo Bowl, vs. Baylor.
- College Football News: Alamo Bowl, vs. Baylor.
- Brad Crawford, 247 Sports: Sun Bowl, vs. Clemson.
- Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports: Alamo Bowl, vs. Baylor.
- Stewart Mandel, The Athletic: Alamo Bowl, vs. Baylor.
Last week coming off a loss at Oregon State, Utah was a popular choice for a trio of other Pac-12 bowl ties: the Sun Bowl, the Las Vegas Bowl and the Holiday Bowl. After beating UCLA soundly and taking even further control on the Pac-12 South race, though, there’s only one projection that sees Utah finishing outside the top two Pac-12 bowl choices, and that’s 247 Sports’ prediction the Utes will head to the Sun Bowl to face Clemson.
- Kyle Bonagura, ESPN: Independence Bowl, vs. UTSA.
- Mark Schlabach, ESPN: Independence Bowl, vs. UTSA.
- Jerry Palm, CBS Sports: Independence Bowl, vs. UAB.
- Brett McMurphy, Action Network: Independence Bowl, vs. UTSA.
- College Football News: Independence Bowl, vs. UTSA.
- Brad Crawford, 247 Sports: Independence Bowl, vs. Marshall.
- Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports: Independence Bowl, vs. UTSA.
- Stewart Mandel, The Athletic: Independence Bowl, vs. UTSA.
Outside of UTSA, BYU’s latest bowl opponent projections include UAB and Marshall, two teams that sit at 5-3 overall and 3-1 in their own respective Conference USA divisions. Their C-USA rival, the Roadrunners, is still the overwhelming favorite to face BYU, though.
ESPN’s Bonagura wrote of a potential BYU-UTSA matchup: “UTSA has been one of the stories of the season and its 8-0 start made coach Jeff Traylor one of the more attractive coaching candidates for Power 5 schools (hello, Texas Tech) before he signed a contract extension Sunday. The Roadrunners haven’t played a team nearly as good as BYU, though, so this would be a good test to see how they stack up when the stakes are raised.”
Utah State Aggies
(6-2, 4-1 in Mountain West)
- Kyle Bonagura, ESPN: Arizona Bowl, vs. Northern Illinois.
- Mark Schlabach, ESPN: Frisco Bowl, vs. UTEP.
- Jerry Palm, CBS Sports: Arizona Bowl, vs. Kent State.
- Brett McMurphy, Action Network: Hawaii Bowl, vs. UCF.
- College Football News: New Mexico Bowl, vs. UTEP.
- Brad Crawford, 247 Sports: Hawaii Bowl, vs. UCF.
- Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports: New Mexico Bowl, vs. UTEP.
- Stewart Mandel, The Athletic: Arizona Bowl, vs. Miami (Ohio).
The Aggies officially became bowl eligible with their 51-31 win over Hawaii last weekend. Of the three Utah teams, Utah State’s bowl destination is the toughest to pin down, as the Aggies are projected for four different bowls in this week’s predictions.
The most popular destination is the Arizona Bowl, though no national prognosticators could agree on a bowl opponent there. Utah State also has two projected matchups show up twice: vs. UCF in the Hawaii Bowl, and vs. UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl. The UCF projection is most intriguing, as the Big 12-bound Knights have recovered from an early-season slide and are 5-3, having won three of their past four games.