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Pros & Cons Of Pac-12, MWC Returning To Play For BYU Football

BYU football players meet Boise State players at midfield before playing on October 19th, 2019. (BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)

PROVO, Utah – With the Pac-12 and Mountain West Conference returning to play this fall, BYU football isn’t the only FBS program out west anymore.

The return of these two conferences has an impact on BYU.

There are both pros and cons to the return of the Pac-12 and MWC football for BYU. Let’s break them down.

Pros of Pac-12, MWC returning for BYU Football

  • More scheduling opportunities in 2020

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said the possibility of adding games during the season is out there. We’ve already seen that happen with the addition of next week’s game against Louisiana Tech. Now with the MWC back in play, November dates have to be on the table.

We already heard from MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson that BYU traveling to Boise State is once again a possibility. The two schools were initially scheduled to play on Friday, November 6th, in what was likely going to be a CBS Sports Network broadcast as part of the MWC’s new TV contract with CBS.

The MWC schedule will be released in “the coming weeks,” according to Thompson, who addressed the media on Friday discussing his league’s return to the gridiron. If Boise can play BYU, why not Utah State as well?

Is it merely a situation where the MWC is trying to make Boise happy after losing their sweetheart TV deal? Whatever the reason, Boise being allowed to play BYU helps the Cougars in a big way. If Boise does get added to the 2020 schedule, the boys on the blue will be the best opponent BYU faces in this crazy season.

  • 2021 schedule likely remains intact

Keeping the 2021 BYU football intact might be the most crucial piece to the Pac-12 and MWC returning to football in fall. Had both leagues continued on the path towards a spring season, that would have likely led to an altered 2021 schedule for both leagues plus BYU.

BYU has seven games against programs from the Pac-12 and MWC on its football schedule next season. Five of those seven are against the Pac-12, highlighted by a season-opener against Arizona in the new $2 billion Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

Tom Holmoe has to be exhaling just a little bit that these leagues are back to playing this season, which, hopefully, leads to business as usual next year.

Cons of Pac-12, MWC returning for BYU

  • No longer the only FBS team west of Texas

Just my personal opinion here, but I got the sense that BYU enjoyed being the only show out west in the college football landscape. As they should.

For a program that covets exposure nearly as much as financial gain, being the only team west of Texas was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

BYU will still hold that down until the Mountain West returns on October 24th, but now ESPN won’t be clamoring as hard to put one of BYU’s games against Texas State or Western Kentucky on one of their mothership stations.

  • Bowl opportunities will shrink.

There were many possibilities in the bowl picture for BYU with the Pac-12, MWC, and Big Ten for that matter out of the picture. You can’t tell me you didn’t like seeing Jerry Palm’s projection of a BYU/Tennessee rematch in Las Vegas. Even guys like Kirk Herbstreit threw around the possibility of BYU making a case for the College Football Playoff. Now those possibilities are probably gone. Especially with the NCAA looking to have requirements to be bowl eligible waived this year.

The bowl executives and the TV networks will look to get as many Power 5’s as they possibly can. If that scenario happened, it would likely leave BYU with a small payout bowl game against a Group of 5, unless ESPN pulls some strings on BYU’s behalf.

  • Could get squeezed out of the Top 25 rankings

We already witnessed BYU drop in the Coaches Poll this past week when coaches included Big Ten teams in the rankings. BYU dropped one spot from No. 22 to No. 23.

With Pac-12, Big Ten, MWC all added this week to the AP poll, BYU could find themselves outside the rankings. The one saving grace for BYU is that the dominance they displayed at Navy has held its own after a handful of weeks into the season. Quality of play in college football this year has been impacted severely by the pandemic, but BYU has been an exception.

Another dominant performance against Troy could keep BYU in the rankings, but it’s going to require some more blowouts to impress the pollsters.

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

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