BYU football is expected to face a stiff learning curve as it enters the Big 12 Conference this year.

The Cougars will do so with a new starting quarterback under center and a new defensive coordinator in 2023, adding to the difficulty of jumping from independence to a Power Five conference.

That has some early predictions surmising BYU will be battling just for bowl eligibility this year.

A set of post-spring bowl projections, though, should give Cougar fans hope.

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Here’s what each of these bowl projections has to say about the postseason hopes for BYU, Utah and Utah State heading into the summer months.

Why BYU may not be done yet with the Independence Bowl

Action Network’s Brett McMurphy

  • BYU’s bowl projection: Independence Bowl vs. Washington State.
    Over the weekend, McMurphy reported that the Independence Bowl will feature the Big 12 vs. the Pac-12 this year, filling a contractual agreement BYU had with the bowl dating back to its independence days.
  • Utah’s bowl projection: Las Vegas Bowl vs. Nebraska.
    Utah hasn’t played in the Las Vegas Bowl since 2015 — it went back-to-back years in 2014 and 2015, with wins over Colorado State and BYU, respectively.
  • Utah State’s bowl projection: None.
    This is the only post-spring bowl projection that didn’t include Utah State, who played in the First Responder Bowl last season.
  • McMurphy has Washington playing in the Sugar Bowl, one of two College Football Playoff semifinal games. That would snap the Pac-12’s playoff drought that dates back to the 2016 season, when the Huskies played in the CFP.
  • Oregon is also projected to the Fiesta Bowl, as eight Pac-12 teams are projected to make a bowl game.
  • McMurphy has 10 Big 12 teams earning a spot in the postseason — there will be 14 conference teams in 2023, with the addition of BYU, Houston, Cincinnati and UCF, before Oklahoma and Texas leave for the SEC in 2024.
  • Texas Tech is predicted to be the lone Big 12 team to make a New Year’s Six game, in the Cotton Bowl.
  • In the CFP semifinals, McMurphy projects Michigan to play Florida State (Rose Bowl) and Georgia to take on Washington (Sugar Bowl), with Georgia and Michigan playing for the national championship.

247 Sports’ Brad Crawford

  • BYU’s bowl projection: Independence Bowl vs. Washington State.
    BYU’s only other appearance in the Independence Bowl came in 2021, when the Cougars lost to UAB.
  • Utah’s bowl projection: Holiday Bowl vs. NC State.
    The Utes have just one previous appearance in the Holiday Bowl — a loss to Northwestern in 2018.
  • Utah State’s bowl projection: Hawaii Bowl vs. UTSA.
    Utah State has never played in the Hawaii Bowl, but it has faced UTSA, beating the Roadrunners in 2012 in their lone matchup.
  • Crawford calls for 11 Big 12 teams to earn a bowl invitation, led by Texas, who he predicts will play in the Rose Bowl in one of the CFP semifinals.
  • Crawford has Washington (Fiesta Bowl) and USC (Cotton Bowl) both making New Year’s Six bowls, and he predicts eight Pac-12 teams will be in the postseason.
  • In the CFP semifinals, Crawford is predicting Georgia to play Michigan (Sugar Bowl) and Texas to face Ohio State (Rose Bowl), with Georgia and Ohio State meeting in the national championship.

College Football News

  • BYU’s bowl projection: Frisco Bowl vs. SMU.
    This would be a rematch of last year’s New Mexico Bowl, when the Cougars beat SMU after stopping a two-point conversion attempt with eight seconds remaining to win 24-23.
  • Utah’s bowl projection: Alamo Bowl vs. Oklahoma.
    Utah, one of the media darlings last summer to be a CFP semifinal dark horse, are not being mentioned in New Year’s Six talk as much this year, though a matchup against Oklahoma, in its final year in the Big 12, is intriguing. 
  • Utah State’s bowl projection: Hawaii Bowl vs. UAB.
    The Aggies have never faced the Blazers before — UAB is headed into its first season being coached by former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer.
  • College Football News predicts eight Pac-12 teams will make a bowl game, and projects both Washington (Fiesta Bowl) and Oregon (Cotton Bowl) to make a New Year’s Six contest.
  • Like Crawford, College Football News predicts that 11 Big 12 teams will make the postseason, with Texas headed to a CFP semifinal.
  • In the CFP semifinals, College Football News is predicting Alabama to play Ohio State (Rose Bowl) and Texas to face Georgia (Sugar Bowl), with Georgia and Ohio State meeting in the national championship.

Which Pac-12 and Big 12 teams don’t appear in the bowl projections?

  • In the three post-spring bowl projections, there were four Pac-12 teams who were never projected to make a bowl game: California, Arizona State, Stanford and Colorado.
  • In two of the three post-spring bowl projections, three Big 12 teams — Houston, West Virginia and Iowa State — were not predicted to make a bowl game, while Cincinnati was not included in McMurphy’s projections.
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