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College football pregame: Independence has ups and downs at BYU

by Berry Tramel Published: December 19, 2012

Brigham Young plays San Diego State in San Diego's Poinsettia Bowl on Thursday night, and unlike most every other college football team, BYU has known most of the season exactly where it's headed in the postseason.

Welcome to independence, BYU. Count it as a cost of freedom.

BYU, without a conference tie-in, has had to work its own bowl deals. So the Cougars are BCS or busted all the way down to whoever BYU can sign up with. Earlier this year, the Cougars signed a contract with the Poinsettia Bowl. Next year, BYU has a contract with the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe says he's working on an agreement for 2014.

Basically, BYU's bowl options are clear. Win all its games, it is headed for the BCS. Win anywhere from six to 11 games – 6-6, 11-1, it's all the same – and the Cougars are headed to their contracted bowl.

“I don‘t have any really ideal preferences,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall told the Salt Lake City Tribune concerning future bowl contracts. “Bowls have already contacted us, saying they would have a sincere interest, because … we travel so well.

“We have kind of been reached out to, over the last couple of years, pretty heavily. It will be interesting to see … where we might end up.”

Independence has had its ups and downs for BYU. The Cougars left the Mountain West Conference primarily because it tired of being the prize television pick for a conference that garnered a lowly contract. BYU signed a contract with ESPN worth $4 million a year.

But BYU's schedule as an independent took a hard hit. While the Cougars had a decent slate of games in September and October (Washington State, Utah, Boise State, Oregon State, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech), the Cougars in November became Team Irrelevant. BYU played Idaho, San Jose State and New Mexico State.

Worse yet, Utah is taking a two-year hiatus from its series with BYU, for no good reason.

There has been talk of BYU, San Diego State and Boise State rejoining the Mountain West – the Aztecs and Broncos are headed to whatever's left of the Big East – and while that certainly would end the Cougars' sudden independence and likely cost them on TV payouts, it also would enhance BYU's post-season possibilities.

UPSET SPECIAL East Carolina over Louisiana-Lafayette

Louisiana-Lafayette has the most impressive victory and the most impressive defeat, compared to East Carolina.

The Ragin' Cajuns, who came to Stillwater in September and were blasted 65-24 after OSU quarterback Wes Lunt was injured on the game's first drive, later went to Florida and had the Gators on the ropes before a late collapse let UF survive 27-20.

Louisiana-Lafayette also won 40-24 at mid-major darling Louisiana-Monroe.

But while the Cajuns made their bowl debut a year ago in the New Orleans Bowl, East Carolina has a solid post-season resume'. The Pirates played Maryland (after the 2010 season), Arkansas (2009), Kentucky (2008), Boise State (2007) and South Florida (2006).

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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