In BYU’s final year of independence, the Cougars’ bowl destination is unclear just days before all the matchups will be finalized.

The only thing we know right now is that BYU is contracted to play in an ESPN-owned bowl, but that leaves a range of possibilities, with a matchup against a Group of Five opponent most likely.

Where do national experts predict the Cougars will be playing in the postseason?

Bowl projections for BYU football after Week 13

The final week of projections gives no clear indication where BYU might be headed.

Of the 10 national projections used for this roundup, there are eight different destinations predicted for BYU.

What bowl could BYU play in this postseason?

There are 16 ESPN-owned FBS bowls this year, and College Football News broke down the bowl tie-ins for each conference.

Power Five opponent possibilities

The Big 12 has eight bowl-eligible teams. With its bowl tie-ins, assuming TCU makes the College Football Playoff, one Big 12 bowl-eligible team will play in either the Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 22) or First Responder Bowl (Dec. 27), both of which are ESPN-owned bowls.

The American Athletic Conference is contracted to fill one of the two bowl spots for the Armed Forces Bowl this year. If that final bowl-eligible Big 12 team ends up in the First Responder Bowl and not the Armed Forces Bowl, that could open the possibility for BYU to face a team from its future conference.

Two major publications, CBS Sports and USA Today, have BYU (7-5) playing Kansas (6-6) in the First Responder Bowl. 

Two other ESPN bowls, the Gasparilla Bowl (Dec. 23) and Birmingham Bowl (Dec. 27), have partnerships with the SEC and ACC, as well as the AAC and Conference USA. Because of geography — both are played in the southeast part of the country — it’s less likely BYU would earn an invite to either of these bowls.

The most likely option: a Group of Five opponent

There are six ESPN-owned bowls that draw from a Group of Five pool of candidates that could be BYU’s destination.

They include the Cure Bowl (Dec. 16), New Mexico Bowl (Dec. 17), Frisco Bowl (Dec. 17), Myrtle Beach Bowl (Dec. 19), Boca Raton Bowl (Dec. 20) and Camellia Bowl (Dec. 27).

The Mountain West Conference is partnered to fill one spot in the New Mexico Bowl, and two bowl projections — from Action Network and Sporting News — have BYU playing a MWC team in Albuquerque.

ESPN-owned bowls BYU cannot play in

There are two ESPN bowls in which the matchup is already set — the Bahamas Bowl (Dec. 16), which features Miami (Ohio) against UAB, and the Hawaii Bowl (Dec. 24), where San Diego State will play Middle Tennessee.

Four other ESPN-owned bowls are out for BYU because of conference tie-ins: the Fenway Bowl (Dec. 17) — ACC vs. AAC; the Las Vegas Bowl (Dec. 17) — Pac-12 vs. SEC; the Idaho Potato Bowl (Dec. 20) — MWC vs. MAC; and the Texas Bowl (Dec. 28) — Big 12 vs. SEC. 

What about one more option?

While the Quick Lane Bowl (Dec. 26) is not an ESPN-owned bowl, the Big Ten Conference (which has nine bowl-eligible teams) is unlikely to fill its slot in this bowl because it appears likely the conference will have three teams in New Year’s Six games.

That would open up a spot in the Quick Lane Bowl, where the MAC is the other bowl tie-in.