4 potential opponents to face BYU in the Poinsettia Bowl

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PROVO — Being bowl eligible for the 12th straight season, BYU football is waiting through championship weekend to hear what team it will be facing in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 21.

Here are the top four candidates from the Mountain West Conference, the league contracted to play BYU in this year's bowl game.

New Mexico

Regular-season record: 8-4

The Lobos started the year going 2-3 in their first five games, with just one win over an FBS school. They came on strong to finish the season, however, winning six of their last seven contests, including a 56-35 dismantling of Wyoming in the team’s final matchup. New Mexico finished the 2016 campaign eight wins, nearly half the total of the Lobos' 18 games wins from 2008-2014.

There is some intrigue if the Cougars were to play the Lobos in the Poinsettia Bowl. New Mexico is one of the hottest teams in the Mountain West and would be a tough game for the Cougs. Also, New Mexico is one of the original Western Athletic Conference schools from BYU's days in the conference, and joined them in the new MWC.

However, the Lobos do not play exciting football. Their game plan is essentially to hand it off on every down. The leading passer for UNM has only thrown for 654 yards in coach Bob Davie's triple option.

This matchup seems unlikely. Mark Schlabach and Brett McMuphy of ESPN both foresee the Lobos playing in the New Mexico Bowl.

San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey (19) carries the ball against Utah State defensive back Dallin Leavitt (2) during an NCAA college football game Friday, Oct. 28, 2016, in Logan, Utah. (Photo: Eli Lucero, Logan Herald Journal via AP)
San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey (19) carries the ball against Utah State defensive back Dallin Leavitt (2) during an NCAA college football game Friday, Oct. 28, 2016, in Logan, Utah. (Photo: Eli Lucero, Logan Herald Journal via AP)

San Diego State

Regular-season record: 9-3

The Aztecs are the exact opposite of Wyoming when it comes to how their season has played out. San Diego State jumped out to a 3-0 record and was ranked in the AP Top 25. In its fourth game, the team inexplicably got blown out at South Alabama. They rebounded to win six-straight and crept back into the top 25 before losing to Wyoming in one of the wackiest college football games of 2016.

Then, the Aztecs got blown out by a mediocre Colorado State team to finish the regular season 9-3. Due to playing in the awful Mountain West-West division, SDSU will play in the conference championship game while seeking revenge on the Cowboys this weekend.

San Diego State would be a fun matchup for the Cougars. Despite faltering at the end, the Aztecs are a good team. As they often do, they have an explosive offense with a running back who should (barring injury) rush for over 2,000 yards this season. The home crowd would make for a fun atmosphere at the game, as well.

Boise State

Regular-season record: 10-2

Another season, another double-digit win total for the Broncos. Boise State has become one of college football’s most consistently great programs over the years, and it did not disappoint in 2016. The Broncos finished the regular season going 10-2, including a 28-27 victory over the Cougars on the smurf turf. They have an incredibly balanced offense with quarterback Brett Rypien throwing for 3,341 yards and 23 touchdowns, and running back Jeremy McNichols rushing for 1,663 yards and 23 scores on the ground.

Many in Cougar nation would love another crack at Boise State. The Y’s defense created five turnovers in the matchup between the two teams, but the offense did nothing with the fortuitous potentially game-changing plays. To beat the Broncos in a bowl game would be a big win for first-year head coach Kalani Sitake, as well.

However, bowl officials generally do not favor to have rematches from the regular season, and this matchup seems unlikely.


Regular-season record: 8-4

It has been a strange season in Laramie, Wyoming. The Cowboys have had some good wins and some really bad losses. It is hard to fully gauge how good of a team they are.

On a good note, Wyoming has knocked off both Boise State and SDSU. On a bad note, they lost 52-17 at Nebraska, 27-24 at an Eastern Michigan that became bowl-eligible for the first time since 1988, lost 69-66 in overtime at UNLV, and got dismantled 56-35 at New Mexico in their final regular-season game.

Despite losing its last conference game by 21 points, Wyoming is gong to represent the MWC’s Mountain Division in the conference championship. Interestingly, both Schlabach and McMurphy have BYU playing Wyoming in the Poinsettia Bowl.

Dylan Cannon is a regular KSL.com contributor and can be reached at DylanCannon86@gmail.com or via twitter @DylanCannon11.

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