The Cougar football team dominated Wagner College on Oct. 24 to claim its sixth win of the year, making the team bowl eligible for the 11th consecutive season.
BYU has obtained bowl eligibility every year under Bronco Mendenhall since his hire in 2005. Coming into the 2015 season, BYU was one of only 12 schools to earn a bowl invitation over the past 10 seasons. BYU has six post season wins tying them with Georgia, Oregon, Alabama and LSU with a 6-4 bowl record under Mendenhall. Florida State, with seven wins, is the only team with more postseason wins than BYU.
“I know for us as a program we expect (postseason appearances) but it’s hard work and we’re proud of it,” Mendenhall said. “I am lucky to be a part of a program that can go to the postseason every year. We have really high standards and it’s not easy.”
The Cougars will play in either the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 19 or the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24. Whichever bowl the Cougars don’t attend will be the bowl game they will be selected for in 2019. The Las Vegas Bowl would be played against a Pac-12 opponent and the Hawaii Bowl would be played against an opponent from the American Athletic Conference.
ESPN’s Brett McMurphy and Mark Schlabach have BYU playing in either game in their latest bowl projections. McMurphy projects BYU to play against Temple in the Hawaii Bowl. Schlabach sees BYU playing against the other Cougars of the west, Washington State, in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Both bowl games are good opportunities for the Cougars as far as location goes. They have a large fan base in both Hawaii and Las Vegas, which will provide them with ample fan support in either location.
“We are fortunate to have a large fan base in both areas, and it will be great to renew the many longtime friendships we’ve enjoyed in these two cities,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said in a press release in April.
The Cougars have appeared in the Las Vegas Bowl five times in the program’s history from 2005-2009. They’ve had memorable wins at the Las Vegas Bowl such as the last minute field goal block against UCLA in 2007 and the 38-8 domination of Oregon in 2006. They have only played in the Hawaii Bowl once, which was a close loss against Kansas in 1992.
“Even though the bowl game is established, there are still some pretty neat landmarks ahead of us,” Mendenhall said.
There is a small possibility for BYU to play in a New Year’s Six bowl if the leading “Group of Five” teams — those in the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Mountain West, Sun Belt and MAC — underperform the rest of the season. However, chances of this happening are slim. Group of Five conference teams Memphis, Temple, Houston and Toledo are all undefeated after week eight. The highest-ranked program from the Group of Five conferences is guaranteed a spot in one of the New Year’s Six bowls as long as it is not already in the playoff.
The Cougars have a bye this week before they take on San Jose State on Nov. 6, giving the banged up team some much needed rest. If they can stay consistent the rest of the season, they have a chance to finish the season ranked as they head into their bowl game.