BYU exits the Coliseum tunnel before playing USC on Nov. 27. (BYU Photo)

BYU football set for Independence Bowl with Alabama-Birmingham Blazers

Cougar Nation may not be as stoked on the Independence Bowl Game as BYU defensive lineman Lopa Leiataua gets over away-game hotel cereal, but there are many things to look forward to on Dec. 18 against the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

With BYU coming in at No. 13, hopes and dreams of a New Year’s Six bowl game were just a few yards out of reach. A few high-ranked upsets in the last two weeks of the season had BYU fans sitting on the edge of their seats, wondering if BYU could climb high enough in the College Football Playoff rankings to make a difference. 

Despite high hopes, and pummeling Utah earlier in the season – who ended the season at No. 11 – upsets weren’t substantial enough to propel BYU into a top-10 position. BYU football’s social media accounts announced on Sunday that they were “ready to go bowling” and had accepted an invitation to play in the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana. 

While Cougar fans may be upset at the outcome after a stellar season, BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe said on BYU Sports Nation there are many reasons why this bowl game will still be a great matchup, despite UAB’s lack of ranking. 

“I’ve actually had a chance to see them. I’m a bit of a football junkie so I’ve seen them play this year,” Holmoe said. “They’re very athletic. It’ll be a challenge for us to play against a really good defense.”

In the NCAA’s final rankings for the 2021 season, the Blazers come in at No. 15 in the nation for defense, with BYU falling a lot further behind at No. 75. Coastal Carolina, who BYU played in the infamous “Mullets vs. Mormons” battle last year, ranked No. 17 for defense in the 2021 season. With UAB being ranked even higher than Coastal, BYU may just have another tough fight ahead of them, scrambling to the very last yard and second.

The bowl game in Shreveport will be one of three times the Cougars have ever played a football game in Louisiana and their first bowl game in the state. As BYU’s era of independence comes to a close, this game could possibly be the last the Cougars play under such circumstances, before joining the Big 12 in 2023.

“College football has been, and is, and probably always will be, about conferences,” Holmoe said. “When we went independent we took a giant step. It was a huge risk. There were a lot of downs and ups, but we took that step to get us into a big conference, so we don’t have to deal with this stuff in the future. Unfortunately, we have to deal with it this year.”

While Holmoe hoped for a New Year’s Six bowl game as well, he shared some imparting words to Cougar Nation as BYU prepares for the bowl game on Dec. 18. “We have to look forward to this game in the Independence Bowl against UAB and have a great game. Punch us forward, move us forward, give us growth, give us development, put us forward to moving into the Big 12. That’s what it’s all about right now.”

Tickets to the Independence Bowl game are available at BYU Tickets, and the game can be watched live on ABC and WatchESPN.

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