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Predicting Which Teams Get Added To BYU Football’s 2020 Schedule

Liberty Flames safety Elijah Benton (31) narrowly misses an interception on Brigham Young Cougars tight end Matt Bushman (89) as BYU and Liberty play an NCAA football game in Provo, Utah on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – The build-up to the 2020 BYU football season has been a unique one. Not just because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also because of questions surrounding who the Cougars might play this fall.

Currently, BYU has four opponents on its 2020 schedule. Navy on Labor Day night in Annapolis and then a trio of home games against newly added Troy from the Sun Belt, Houston, and FCS program North Alabama.

Predicting the BYU Football Schedule for 2020

More games are expected to be announced soon. Who could those teams be? Let’s make some predictions.

Week 1: at Navy, Sept. 7th

Confirmed – already on the schedule

This game is already set and looks to be a matchup that is going to happen in Annapolis on Labor Day. The Navy already has a “bubble-like environment” according to Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo. With how the week one schedule of games is evaporating, BYU and Navy is setting up to be one of the biggest games of the opening weekend.

Week 2: BYE

Five-day turnarounds are not uncommon in college football. BYU is used to playing games on a Saturday and then getting ready for a weeknight Thursday game in the past. But during a pandemic, five days of prep after a cross-country flight feels like a tall ask. Let’s throw down a bye week here. If there’s no bye in this spot, maybe an ACC team or a program like UCF could slide in here.

Week 3: at Florida State, Sept. 19th

Here’s the first bold prediction on the schedule. The Seminoles saw their Sept. 19th opponent Samford cancel on them. FSU head coach Mike Norvell said on August 16th, “We’ve got a couple of options that we’re exploring so we’re going to continue on with that throughout this weekend, and hopefully, we’ll have something that we can establish here within the week.”

Have to think BYU would be happy to be one of those options as the Cougars wouldn’t require much in return. It would be ideal for BYU to get a game scheduled against FSU in Provo for a future season. But at this point, you can’t be picky. If you have a chance at a game against a prominent college football brand, you take that.

Also doesn’t hurt that the Seminoles, like BYU, have experienced some mediocre years the past three seasons. Both programs have won a total of 18 games since 2017.

Week 4: Troy, Sept. 26th

Confirmed – already on the schedule

This is a solid add on short notice. The Trojans have some elite wide receivers and they’ve played a winning brand of football in recent years winning more than 10 games in three of their last four seasons.

Week 5: Liberty, Oct. 2nd (Friday)

Liberty’s associate athletic director Mike Hagen emailed Liberty’s booster club stating, “We hope to announce a completed schedule later this week.” The Flames would likely have no problem accommodating BYU’s desire to play on a Friday night leading into General Conference weekend. Unlike BYU, Liberty isn’t on national television often. In fact, last year’s game between the two schools on ESPNU was the first time the Flames made an appearance on a linear ESPN network.

Week 6: at Temple, Oct. 10th

Temple which has zero non-conference games at the moment. Zip. Zilch. Nada. It’s possible the Owls don’t start their season till September 26th against AAC foe Navy.

BYU has faced the Owls two times in its history and both games took place during the glory years of Cougar Football. The Cougars played Temple in the cookie-cutter Veterans Stadium in 1985 and needed a comeback to beat the Owls by a score of 26-24. BYU then defeated Temple the following year in Provo.

The two programs were scheduled to play in 1996 but that was canceled when the WAC expanded to 16-teams.

I’ll go with a road game here because the state of Pennsylvania doesn’t have a travel ban for individuals visiting from the state of Utah so it creates an opportunity for BYU to step in and land a game or two with the AAC’s Owls.

Week 7: Houston, Oct. 16th (Friday)

Confirmed – already on the schedule

The battle of the Cougars has the makings to be a good matchup. Houston has a handful of Power 5 transfers eligible that sat out during Dana Holgorsen’s underwhelming 4-8 debut.

Week 8: Louisiana, Oct. 24th

Louisiana might be the least discussed 11-win team in college football last season. The Ragin Cajuns return 14 starters and are one of the most experienced teams in college football this year. Louisiana has 12 seniors in their top 22, so I have to think they want to test themselves against stiffer competition outside of the Sun Belt Conference. Iowa State is on Louisiana’s schedule this year and BYU would make a lot of sense here.

The question with a program like Louisiana, could BYU avoid having a home-and-home agreement and just make it a one-game series?

Week 9: BYE

Halloween week historically has always been a bye week during the Independence era. We will keep it that way here on this projected schedule.

Week 10: Southern Miss, Nov. 7th

Early during the Independence era, BYU had a home-and-home series scheduled with the Golden Eagles. Maybe that gets revived during this pandemic.

Week 11: BYE

Even without a pandemic, games in November are always tricky to add for Independent BYU. Another bye here.

Week 12: North Alabama, Nov. 21st

Confirmed – already on the schedule

The Lions have expressed they want to play a four-game non-conference schedule this fall despite their league, the Big South, postponing fall sports to the spring. North Alabama already has early September dates in place with non-conference games. Have to imagine UNA wants this BYU game to take place to get the payday that comes with playing an FBS program.

Week 13: at Army, Nov. 28th

Army is a challenging program to try and schedule. Just because they have a different set of objectives with scheduling as an Independent than BYU does. BYU in most years is trying to load up as many Power 5’s possible. Where Army is sometimes scheduling multiple FCS programs in a given season. But as we all know, this year is completely different.

With some FCS teams still expressing an interest to play non-conference games this fall, those teams are in play to fill open dates for West Point. Also, Army’s postponed game against Rice is expected to be rescheduled at some point during the season. The Black Knights are also talking to Power 5 programs according to head coach Jeff Monken during an interview with Dan Patrick.

So with so many variables still in play for the Black Knights schedule, I’ll put this game at the very end of the regular season for BYU on Thanksgiving weekend.

Army had a big opponent scheduled to come to West Point this fall in the Oklahoma Sooners. Now BYU isn’t anywhere near an Oklahoma, but with limited scheduling options, the Cougars aren’t a bad replacement.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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