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Predicting TV Coverage For BYU Football Games During 2021 Season

BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake smiles after talking with host Dave McCann on BYUTV during the BYU football media day in Provo on Friday, June 22, 2018. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – In my years covering BYU football, there are two questions I always get asked; how good do you think they will be this year? And what channel is the game on? Through thick and thin, rain or snow, BYU fans tune in to their team. They care. Plain and simple.

There’s a reason BYU has a contract with ESPN to broadcast its home games.

BYU fans want the games to be on channels they’ve actually heard of though. Don’t put a precious BYU football game on a channel they’ve never heard of, and Cougar fans, for the most part, will be happy. Who else remembers paying $15 to CSTV to watch an online stream in 2006 of a BYU game? Brutal. Times have changed for the better. But occasionally there are still a few landmines on the TV schedule for BYU football.

I’ll admit, I’m kind of obsessed with the whole concept of college football on TV. Even though I’m usually occupied in a press box on a College Football Saturday, the joy of a Saturday in the fall firing up the TV at 10 a.m. and staying glued to that TV until 1 a.m. where you’re searching high and low for the end of the Hawaii game is a special feeling.

If I were the Czar of College Football, I’d ditch the 12-day selection windows and delegate TV info and kickoff times for all teams during the off-season. How nice is it to be able to plan your travel far in advance? Waiting on a kick time less than two weeks before kickoff isn’t ideal. But since that’s above my job title and pay grade, I can only make predictions on such things.

Predictions for BYU Football games on TV in 2021

This fall, we should be back to normal in regards to the sports schedule. No random Masters weekend in the middle of college football season, NBA Playoffs, etc. All FBS conferences are expected to play without interruptions, so it should be business as usual for college football on television in 2021. Where does this leave a lot of BYU games?  Let’s take a fun crack at this.

BYU vs. Arizona (Las Vegas)

Date: Saturday, September 4th

TV Prediction: ESPN, 5 p.m. (MT)

This is a tricky one to predict for a couple of reasons.

When BYU and Arizona announced their three-game series in 2013, this was supposed to be a game played in Provo in 2020. Do the TV rights go to BYU for this game? One would think considering the first two meetings (2016, 2018) were under the Pac-12 contract. We haven’t received official word at the moment.

If it does go under BYU’s TV contract, ESPN would seem like a likely spot in primetime with the matchup taking place at Allegiant Stadium, home of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders. Especially with ESPN having the possibility of having BYU-Arizona lead into a tilt at the Rose Bowl between LSU-UCLA. ESPN could pull in big numbers to keep diehard SEC fans up late at night to watch the Bayou Bengals take on the Bruins in Pasadena for the first time.

Another thing to keep an eye on is the U.S. Open tennis tournament which takes up ESPN air space during the opening weeks of college football. U.S. Open typically lands on ESPN2 during a College Football Saturday.

If the Pac-12 has rights to the game, FOX could be in play as well.

Utah at BYU

Date: Saturday, September 11th

TV Prediction: ESPN2, 8:15 p.m. (MT)

Everyone loves the rivalry here in the state of Utah, but it’s never taken on a big role in the TV landscape except for 2016 when it picked up a network FOX timeslot. Look for the return of the annual rivalry to get a late-night TV designation. Since the two programs went their separate ways in 2011, all but one regular-season game (2016) has kicked off at 7:15 p.m. or later.

Arizona State at BYU

Date: Saturday, September 18th

TV Prediction: ESPN2, 8:15 p.m. (MT)

With two teams located out west, plan on a late night from LaVell Edwards Stadium. This will be the first time since 1998 that BYU has played Arizona State.

USF at BYU

Date: Saturday, September 25th

TV Prediction: ESPNU, 1:30 p.m. (MT)

In recent years, when BYU hosts a team in Provo from the east coast, ESPN typically puts the game on a television spot where it’s a reasonable time for the east coast viewers to watch (Liberty 2019, NIU 2018, East Carolina 2015). BYU will have revenge on the mind when they face USF, which defeated the Cougars in 2019.

BYU at Utah State

Date: Friday, October 1st

TV Prediction: FS1, 8 p.m. 

The Mountain West Conference enters year two of its TV agreement with FOX and CBS. Last year, BYU and Boise State played in a late-night Friday FS1 game that pulled in 680,000 viewers amidst Presidential Election coverage. A solid number on a late weeknight kick outside of an ESPN network. I definitely could see the Battle for the Old Wagon Wheel get tabbed for FS1.

Boise State at BYU

Date: Saturday, October 9th

TV Prediction: ESPN, 7:45 p.m.

For a while, BYU and Boise State were ESPN’s weeknight darling in the same mold as BYU-San Diego State and BYU-Colorado State back in the WAC and Mountain West days. Now, this is the third time in four years it lands on Saturday. If the game stays on this Saturday slot, look for a late-night but on the mothership, ESPN, especially if the two teams have good records.

BYU at Baylor

Date: Saturday, October 16th

TV Prediction: FS1, 2 p.m.

There’s a possibility this could be an ESPN+ game as the Big 12 has a contract for all schools not named Texas or Oklahoma to air at least one game on Big 12 Now, a.k.a. ESPN+. But there are enough storylines with Jeff Grimes and Eric Mateos moving from BYU to Baylor that this could end up on FS1.

BYU at Washington State

Date: Saturday, October 23rd 

TV Prediction: ESPN2, 8:45 p.m. 

BYU has played in the past on Pac-12 Network (2014 against Cal). Wazzu has had a minimum of at least four games on P12N from 2016-2019. BYU’s first-ever trip to the Palouse could be a super late-night kick to take advantage of the far west coast time slot.

Virginia at BYU

Date: Saturday, October 30th

TV Prediction: ESPN, 1:30 p.m.

The storylines write themselves in this game. Even if it’s a matchup between two mediocre teams, this game will likely get picked up by a good network with former BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall making his first trip back to Provo since leaving for Charlottesville after the 2015 season. The 1:30 p.m. timeslots have always drawn big TV ratings over the years for BYU; I could see this one sliding into the ESPN Saturday afternoon slot. A late October afternoon at LES? Sign me up.

Idaho State at BYU

Date: Saturday, November 6th

TV Prediction: BYUtv, 1 p.m.

Death. Taxes. BYU football against an FCS team on BYUtv at 1 p.m.

BYU at Georgia Southern

Date: Saturday, November 20th

TV Prediction: ESPN+, 1:30 p.m.

There’s always one road trip on BYU’s Independent schedules that creates some searching through a TV guide. The first-ever trip to Statesboro, Georgia, has the makings to fit that billing this year. Only 10 games from the Sun Belt Conference end up on an ESPN network in a given year. The rest typically end up on ESPN3 or ESPN+. It feels like ESPN+ has become more mainstream now that it’s bundled with Disney+, but still, who wants to Chromecast a game?

But hey, at least it’s better than paying $20 for FloSports. Yikes.

BYU at USC

Date: Saturday, November 27th

TV Prediction: FOX, 6 p.m.

USC should be good this year. With one of the easiest schedules in the Pac-12 Conference, anything less than a Pac-12 title and being in the conversation for the Playoff might lead Trojan fans to want Clay Helton out of town … again. If USC is as good as I think they could be this year, this game could land the network television treatment.

Games are staggered throughout Thanksgiving Day, the Day After Turkey Day, and Saturday during the Thanksgiving weekend, so there’s a chance this could happen. The Big Noon Kickoff is out of the question as Ohio State-Michigan will likely get that 10 a.m. (MT) spot, but a primetime kick in L.A. could be pretty fun.

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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