It’s time for bowl projections.
BYU bounced back with a big win over Texas Tech to remain unbeaten at home. The Cougars improved to 5-2 on the year and 4-0 at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
The Utes took a big step forward to defending its Pac-12 title with a last-second 34-32 win over rival USC on the road. The 13th ranked Utes now face No. 8 Oregon at home in what should be another classic finish.
Utah State wasn’t so lucky as the Aggies were blown out against San Jose State on the road.
With all three schools now past the midway point of the season, where could the Cougars, Utes, and Aggies go bowling? Let’s find out.
Returning home certainly helped the Cougars this past week, as they put a blowout loss behind them to notch a 27-14 victory over Texas Tech.
While the offense was pedestrian versus the Red Raiders, the defense led the charge to put BYU back in the win column.
The defense allowed just 14 points – the second least it has allowed all season – and forced five turnovers (three interceptions, two fumbles) as the Cougars moved to 5-2 on the year.
And while the offense wasn’t very impressive on the passing side, the running game did turn in its best performance of the season. Led by 93 yards on 10 carries from LJ Martin, BYU posted a season-high 150 yards on the ground.
At 5-2 (2-2 Big 12), the Cougars face a tough road matchup against No. 7 Texas next. The potential good news for BYU? The Longhorns will be without starting quarterback Quinn Ewers for the battle in Austin.
Projection: Guaranteed Rate Bowl
Date: Tuesday, December 26
Location: Chase Field – Phoenix, AZ
Time and channel: 7 p.m. MT, ESPN
No. 13 Utah
Facing the reigning Heisman Trophy winner on the road, the Utes once again owned the USC Trojans in a 34-32 victory.
The win was the fourth straight for Utah against USC and kept the 6-1 Utes (3-1 Pac-12) in the hunt for another trip to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Utah continues its year-long trend of overachieving despite a number of injuries – most notably to Cam Rising – and is now bowl-eligible for the ninth straight full season (excluding the 2020 COVID year).
The defense was once again solid, not allowing USC quarterback Caleb Williams to throw a touchdown. Bryson Barnes had his best game for the Utes at QB, accounting for 292 yards of offense (235 passing, 57 rushing) and four scores (three passing, one rushing) while throwing just one interception.
Utah won’t have long to celebrate its win over the Trojans, though. Alongside College GameDay, No. 8 Oregon travels to Salt Lake City next Saturday for a Top 15 battle. The Utes will again need to find a way to win shorthanded to keep its Pac-12 title hopes alive.
Projection: Valero Alamo Bowl
Opponent: Oklahoma State
Date: Thursday, December 28
Location: Alamodome – San Antonio, TX
Time and channel: 7:15 p.m. MT, ESPN
For the first time this season, I do not have the Aggies reaching the postseason in my weekly projections.
In what was arguably its worst performance of the campaign, Utah State was embarrassed by San Jose State on the road, losing 42-21 against a then two-win team.
USU continued its alarming trend of falling in an early hole and again lost the turnover battle in McCae Hillstead’s return to the starting quarterback position.
The Aggies are now 3-5 overall and 1-3 in the Mountain West, sitting only ahead of Hawai’i at the bottom of the conference standings.
There is still a chance USU can reach a bowl game, with three of their four final games against teams with losing records. Assuming they don’t beat Boise State (they never do), then they’d have to be perfect, which seems highly unlikely given how poor they’ve been this season.