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Here’s What It’s (Realistically) Going to Take for BYU to Make a New Year's Six Bowl Game

The odds aren't necessarily in BYU's favor, but by the slimmest of margins, the Cougars could very well make the cut and qualify for an NY6 bowl game.

With BYU currently sitting at 7-2 and ranked at the start of November, many Cougar fans are asking similar questions to what they were asking last year — does BYU actually have a chance to make a New Year’s Six (NY6) Bowl Game?

After all, this year’s resume is quite a step up from 2020, when the cobbled-together schedule meant the College Football Playoff committee could knock the Cougars’ strength of schedule.

As if you need reminding, BYU has gone 5-1 against Power 5 opponents this year. Even with losses to Baylor and Boise State, the upgraded level of competition certainly seems to have helped the Cougars maintain respect with voters in the AP and Coaches’ polls.

But when it comes to making a New Year’s Six game, the CFP standings are all that matters. And while there’s still a shot that this could happen, BYU is going to need some help to make early season predictions of a more exciting bowl come to pass.

First Things First: New Year’s Six Bowl Options

As part of the College Football Playoff format, the New Year’s Six games host the College Football Playoff semifinals on a rotating basis. This year, the Cotton Bowl Classic and the Orange Bowl fulfill this role. Obviously, these two bowls are out of contention for most teams with a loss, unless you’re named Alabama or Ohio State.

Here’s what the rest of the NY6 schedule looks like, with their respective tie-ins:

  • Dec. 30, Peach Bowl: At-large vs. At-large (expected to include ACC champ)
  • Jan. 1, Fiesta Bowl: At-large vs. At-large
  • Jan. 1, Rose Bowl: Big Ten vs. Pac-12
  • Jan. 1, Sugar Bowl: Big 12 vs. SEC

With the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl’s conference tie-ins, they clearly aren’t options for BYU. That leaves the Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl as potential NY6 destinations if everything fell into BYU’s favor.

Stating the Obvious: the Cougars Need to Win Out

Time for the “well, duh” moment — BYU can’t afford any missteps like it had against Boise State. Not even against USC. With only three games left in the regular season (and with other teams still potentially playing in conference championship games against more highly-regarded opponents), the Cougars don’t have any room for error.

No disrespect to Idaho State and Georgia Southern, but those two games don’t provide much cause for concern. As an FCS school, Idaho State has only gone 1-7 on the year. Georgia Southern has a similarly abysmal record at 2-6, with its only wins against 1-7 Arkansas State and a nail-biter against 3-5 FCS foe Gardner-Webb.

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ESPN’s FPI gives BYU a 99 percent chance to win against Idaho State, and an 87.9 percent chance against Georgia Southern. While the Cougars need to be careful to avoid a letdown, these games should be where the team earns some “style points.”

USC is a slightly different matter. Even with their mediocre 4-4 record (including a loss to Utah), FPI still favors the Trojans. As the biggest game left on the schedule, BYU will need to be ready for an always dangerous squad that may still be fighting for bowl eligibility. Dominating wins are a must if BYU wants any chance of landing in the Top 12, where NY6 access becomes a possibility.

Chaos Ahead … (But Not Necessarily at the Top)

Of course, the reality is that most of BYU’s New Year’s Six chances lie with what happens to the teams ranked in front of them. And this is where things get interesting. Generally speaking, Cougar fans should be rooting for a lot of chaos in the coming weeks — but not necessarily right at the top.

For starters, if Cincinnati wins out and finds itself in the playoff, that opens up an at-large spot that would otherwise go to the top-ranked G5 champion. It also helps BYU if Oklahoma wins out against Oklahoma State and Baylor, as giving those two additional losses late in the season increases BYU’s odds of jumping them in the rankings.

Similarly, BYU fans should root for Wake Forest to win out in the ACC and for Oregon to win the Pac-12, since these schools could still get an at-large spot if they lose their conference championship.

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The SEC still has plenty of ranked vs. ranked matchups. Texas A&M faces both Ole Miss and Auburn. Auburn also has Alabama left on its schedule. Multiple losses by any of the teams not named Alabama will certainly help the Cougars. An extra loss by Kentucky would help, too.

In the Big Ten, Ohio State plays both Michigan and Michigan State before the conference championship game. For BYU’s interests, it’s probably best that Ohio State loses both these games, rather than splitting them.

Otherwise, Cougar fans will have to hope that Michigan suffers an unexpected setback against a lesser opponent. At this point in the season, BYU is unlikely to jump any of these teams if they finish with just one or two losses.

Much like last year, Cougar fans shouldn’t count on the College Football Playoff committee doing the team any favors. The most likely scenario is that BYU finds itself ranked in the final standings — but not high enough to garner a NY6 bid.

Still, there’s nothing wrong with a little hope! Few predicted BYU would be 7-2 at this point of the season. There’s certainly still a chance for a bigger bowl game, making the next few weeks well worth following.