The 2012 season will mark the second in which the Cougars will not play for a conference championship. BYU left the Mountain West Conference with four championships during their 12 years as members. During those years, BYU coaches, players and fans would take the time to watch conference foes because we had a horse in the race. Now that BYU is independent, there is no reason to pay attention to the MWC anymore… or is there?
It is well-known that BYU will be playing in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego if they end up bowl eligible, barring an undefeated season that could send the Cougars to a more prestigious venue. This means that BYU will almost certainly be playing the second place team out of the MWC.
Last season, BYU’s bowl opponent was unknown up until the last second. Houston, Southern Miss, and UTEP were all part of the discussion. This year the Cougars could be playing an old conference opponent or matched up against one of their replacements.
Here are some possible matchups for BYU this coming bowl season in order likelihood:
San Diego State
Only one word is needed to describe BYU’s 2010 game against the Aztecs: “Fumblegate”. As much as BYU fans would like to brush away the disputed fumble in the second half of a close game in Provo, San Diego State fans refuse to let it go. Needless to say, Rocky Long and the rest of the Aztec faithful would love a rematch with the Cougars.
San Diego State is coming off of two consecutive bowl games for the first time in program history and it is looking like they might be able to make it back again. Whether they can lock up a bid to their hometown bowl will depend on how well Coach Long can reload his squad. The Aztecs lose virtually all of their offense in quarterback Ryan Lindley (Arizona Cardinals) and Ronnie Hillman (Denver Broncos) and a big chunk of their defense.
What San Diego State has going for them is their quality of transfers, which include quarterback Ryan Katz. BYU fans may remember Katz as the guy who almost played us in Corvallis. Katz was benched a few weeks before the BYU v. Oregon State game. He later transferred to San Diego State.
Former USC wideout Brice Butler should also be a nice addition in San Diego to go along with the already strong core of receivers. While the offense will miss Lindley, they should not struggle too much and will likely be the team to beat behind Boise State.
The potential shot at a revenge game against the Falcons is a definite possibility this offseason. BYU’s last game against Air Force was a nightmare and bore the first sign of weakness in the two-quarterback system that divided the team and fans in 2010.
This year, the Falcons bring back six starters on offense including their senior quarterback, Tim Jefferson. On the other side of the ball, they return eight starters from a defense that was less than stellar last season.
The biggest thing going for the cadets is their schedule. Air Force will dodge a bullet by not having to play Boise State. Add to that home games against Nevada and Hawaii and the Falcons should feel confident going into every conference game outside of San Diego. Since Boise State will likely win the conference, Air Force could lock up the number two slot and a bowl bid against BYU if they can beat the Aztecs.
BYU was embarrassed the last time Nevada came to town. A guy by the name of Colin Kaepernick was too much to handle and the Wolfpack won 27-13.
A very soft out-of-conference schedule should provide some nice padding before conference play. In fact, if Nevada were as fortunate as Air Force and avoided BSU this season, they would have the easiest schedule in the conference by far.
Although their out-of-conference schedule is far from impressive, they do have some in-conference hurdles to jump. The Wolfpack to get San Diego State and Boise State at home, but they have to travel to Air Force and Hawaii. Those four games will make or break Nevada’s chances to play in the Poinsettia Bowl.
The Broncos will likely not play BYU for the second time in 2012 for two reasons 1. They are the heavy favorites to win the MWC and therefore go to the Vegas bowl or better, and 2. If they manage to struggle enough to place second in conference, the Poinsettia Bowl may not take them anyway (See ratings for LSU v. Alabama rematch last season).
The chance that BYU plays a Wyoming or UNLV in a bowl game is slim and for BYU’s sake, let’s hope it doesn’t happen and leave it at that.
The fact is, other than the slim possibility of making it into a major bowl if BYU manages to go undefeated, there really is not a whole lot of reason to be overly excited for this coming postseason. But that should not stop the Cougar faithful from losing hope in something better down the road.