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Bowl projections: Why BYU’s next game could impact the New Year’s Six race

Also, is Utah set for a Holiday? The Utes’ postseason picture currently is pointing toward San Diego

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Boise State’s Riley Smith (3) runs the ball behind Mason Randolph (63) during a college football game against Colorado State.

Boise State tight end Riley Smith (3) runs the ball behind offensive linesman Mason Randolph (63) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Colorado State in Boise, Idaho, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022.

Otto Kitsinger, Associated Press

BYU’s chances of making a New Year’s Six bowl are long gone, but perhaps the Cougars could play spoiler in the race for a prestigious bowl bid.

BYU plays at Boise State on Saturday, and that game may have an impact for the Broncos’ NY6 hopes, especially after Cincinnati’s loss to UCF last week.

Now it looks like the race for the Group of Five automatic bid is a bit more open — there’s a real possibility a two-loss team could earn the G5 auto bid this year.

The first College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday, Tulane (7-1) sits in good position to grab the Group of Five auto bid, ranked as the highest G5 team in the initial CFP rankings at No. 19.

UCF (6-2) is the only other Group of Five team in the initial CFP rankings, at No. 25.

Liberty (7-1), which blitzed BYU 41-14 two weeks ago, and Cincinnati (6-2) could also be in the mix.

One national pundit, though, foresees Boise State (6-2) making it back to a New Year’s Six matchup in the bowl projections after Week 9.

USA Today’s Erick Smith projects the Broncos will play in the Cotton Bowl against USC.

“Cincinnati’s loss to Central Florida throws open the chase for the Group of Five championship spot. With the American Athletic race up for grabs now, the door is open for Boise State of the Mountain West to walk through,” Smith wrote.

Can BYU — a loser of four straight — play spoiler against Boise State — a winner of four straight — or are the Cougars more likely to lose big like they did against Liberty?

Either way, this weekend’s game could have an impact on the NY6 race.

Here’s a look at where several national publications predict Utah, BYU and Utah State will play in the postseason following the season’s Week 9.

*-indicates same projection as last week.

Bowl projections for Utah football after Week 9

The reality was Utah’s win over Washington State last week wasn’t going to drastically alter the Utes’ current bowl projections — it was the same way for Oregon, USC and UCLA, who were all favored in their Pac-12 matchups last week.

The overwhelming majority of national publications believe that Utah’s current projection has them headed to the Holiday Bowl, with Notre Dame a popular opponent.

The Utes (6-2) will be the favorite in their next two games, against Arizona and Stanford, before a key road game at Oregon.

If Utah, Oregon, USC and UCLA hold serve over the next couple of weeks, Nov. 19 will be a big day in determining the Pac-12 championship game participants — and subsequent New Year’s Six hopes. That’s the day the Utes visit the Ducks, while the Bruins host the Trojans.

Bowl projections for BYU football after Week 9

Despite BYU (4-5) losing its fourth straight game and falling below .500 for the first time in three years, only one national publication — College Football News — knocked the Cougars out of the bowl picture after their loss to East Carolina.

The Cougars need two wins to become bowl eligible with three games to play, and according to ESPN’s Football Power Index they are the underdogs in their two road games, at Boise State and Stanford.

A loss to the Broncos, who are on a four-game winning streak, this Saturday would ensure that BYU would need to win its final two games, including the home finale against FCS team Utah Tech, to become bowl eligible.

Bowl projections for Utah State football after Week 9

For Utah State (3-5) to keep its bowl eligibility hopes alive, the Aggies will need to win their next two games, when they face two teams with losing records — 2-6 New Mexico and 2-7 Hawaii.

If USU wins both of those, that would set up the Aggies needing one win in their final two weeks to become bowl eligible.

Utah State ends the year with a home game against 5-2 San Jose State, then on the road at 6-2 Boise State.