COUGAR TRACKS

Which Non-Conference Games Should BYU Football Keep As Big 12 Member?

Oct 27, 2021, 1:37 PM
BYU Football - Tennessee...
Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Chaz Ah You (3) isn't able to bring in an interception as Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Jauan Jennings (15) out-battles him for the ball in the end zone as BYU and Tennessee play a game in Knoxville on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. BYU won 29-26 in double overtime. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)
(Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU football is ramping up for their big move to the Big 12 Conference beginning in 2023. But right now, behind the scenes, the work is focusing on which games from their Independent schedules to keep or unload when the Cougars go into the Big 12.

The Big 12 Conference hasn’t decided which direction the league will go regarding conference games. It will be either eight or nine; they haven’t settled on a number. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby told KSL Sports that the conversations on the number of games to play began two weeks ago.

Whichever direction the Big 12 goes with league games, the workload for BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe is going to get a lot easier piecing together three or four games a year rather than a full 12-game schedule.

“The first thing we do is we look at our contracts, and we have many varying and widely different contracts with different teams,” said Holmoe to the Zone Sports Network powered by KSL Sports earlier this month. “Those were contracts that took a lot of time to put together and schedules that took a lot of time to put together. And now, some of those will have to unwind. So we’re in the process of that right now, looking at each individual year and the games that will fit into the schedule of a Big 12 [schedule]. We’re in that process right now.”

So let’s join Holmoe and look year-by-year at which games should be kept on the future BYU football non-conference schedules when the Big 12 era begins.

These are my predictions, trying to forecast what would fit BYU football when they join the Big 12 Conference. Of course, much juggling will be done with many teams around the country likely getting involved in making these moving pieces come together.

For this exercise, we will make these predictions based on an eight-game Big 12 schedule.

2023

Sept. 2 – Tennessee

Sept. 23 – at Arkansas

Oct. 21 – Boise State

Nov. 4 – UNLV

Under no circumstances should BYU football mess with future games against the SEC. Remember, the SEC is not part of “The Alliance.

The Big 12 and SEC already have a partnership through the Sugar Bowl. Strengthening relationships with the most powerful league in the land can only benefit BYU and the Big 12. So you keep those games.

Also, the idea of Tennessee in Provo for BYU’s first game as a member of the Big 12 Conference? Again, that’s a primetime type of stage.

For the other two games, I went with UNLV because it’s a home game. BYU should try to pull in seven home games per year as a Power 5 team.

Then one rival in Boise State. Boise comes to Provo and they’ve always shown a willingness to adjust their schedules to fit BYU.

The one game that brings pause is a trip to USC on November 25. 2023 might be a year to take on three Power 5’s in the non-conference because a chance to go into LA and play at the Coliseum doesn’t happen often.

I’m sure Bronco Mendenhall and the Virginia Cavaliers would have no problem with the remaining games against BYU getting dropped.

2024

Sept. 7 – at Utah

Sept. 14 – Hawaii

Oct. 4 – Utah State

Nov. 2 – at UNLV

If the Big 12 Conference does go to eight league games, I could see a scenario where this opens the opportunity for BYU football to schedule two in-state games in the non-conference slate.

There’s a chance that the Utah game might not work on the schedule, though. The two programs have TBA dates on the 2025 and 2026 schedules at the moment. It’s hard to imagine a six-year gap between games, but it’s possible. Especially with the looming Alliance for the Pac-12/Big Ten/ACC.

Games against Hawaii and a road trip to UNLV round out the schedule. UNLV currently doesn’t have September non-conference dates filled. Also, Las Vegas is a glorified home game for BYU. Play in an NFL stadium and have 30,000 BYU football fans supporting you; why not?

Hawaii is a historic rival, and the matchup’s date makes a lot of sense in typical non-conference scheduling.

2025

Sept. 6 – at Hawaii

Sept. 13 – Stanford

Sept. 20 – Minnesota

FCS

It will be interesting to see what becomes of the Minnesota game. The first meeting was canceled due to COVID-19 last year in Minneapolis. On BYU’s end, you don’t give up a chance to host a Big Ten team. People have to remember, the Big 12, from a perception standpoint, whether it’s fair or not, will look to prove they are still a great league without Oklahoma and Texas. Maintaining one or two P5’s in the non-conference helps change narratives around the country.

2026

Sept. 19 – at Miami

Oct. 2 – Utah State

Nov. 28 – at Stanford

FCS

2026’s hypothetical non-conference schedule here would be loaded. Then you pair this up with eight (in this scenario) Big 12 games; it’s daunting. But, the Stanford series is valuable from a geographical standpoint. It gives BYU the chance to reward its west coast fans with some visits.

In this scenario, I’m dropping the remaining Arizona games. Is it a bummer to not get a game from the Wildcats in Provo? Yes. Especially when you consider all three of the meetings with Arizona have been deemed “road games.” But that’s how it shakes out in my scenario.

I think fans would much rather maintain the games with Miami and Stanford over more games with Arizona. Then throw in an in-state game with Utah State and an FCS squad.

2027

Sept. 18 – Utah

Sept. 25 – at Boise State

Group of Five

FCS

There are four games currently on the non-conference schedule for the 2027 season. But I’m saying BYU should drop Arizona and Fresno State. Revive Utah after a three-year break again and add Boise State back to the slate.

Ideally, BYU does a money game with a Group of Five team and an FCS team to round out the slate.

2028

Sept. 2 – Miami

Sept. 16 – Ole Miss

Nov. 25 – at Stanford

FCS

This would be a gauntlet. But at year six of being in the Big 12 Conference, you have to think BYU’s depth and personnel are in a better place to contend with a schedule like this. Of course, this sort of schedule only happens if the Big 12 goes to an eight-game league format.

Also, these non-conference games are drivers to keep people investing in season tickets. As crazy as it sounds now, the honeymoon phase of being in the Big 12 will wear off for fans. They’ll want something else on the home schedule. Games against Miami and Ole Miss in Provo will keep the donors investing and fans investing in tickets.

2029

Sept. 1 – Stanford

Sept. 8 – at Ole Miss

Sept. 22 – at Boise State

FCS

The Grove alone is reason to keep the Ole Miss series. Those who didn’t experience Oxford in 2011 need to be on your college football bucket list. This is another challenging non-conference schedule, but BYU should value Boise State games.

2030

Sept. 7 – at Utah

Sept. 21 – Boise State

Group of Five game

FCS

Pretty self-explanatory here. But it’s all easier said than done.

2031-2035

2031: Aug. 30 – Stanford, Sept. 27 – at Boise State

2032: Sept. 11 – Michigan State, Sept. 25 – Boise State, Army West Point

2033: Sept. 24 – at Boise State

2034: Sept. 23 – Boise State

2035: Sept. 1 – Stanford, Sept. 8 – Missouri

If Boise State eventually joins the Big 12 Conference, it would be a lot easier to juggle the Broncos in these non-conference schedules. But looking down the road in the 2030s is where you could start seeing Boise State return as an annual tilt with far less game inventory on BYU’s schedules.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the remaining Army West Point game. There’s still the possibility a trip to Michie Stadium could be in the works eventually as well. Army seemed to have no interest in rescheduling last year’s game. They’ve had a history of canceling games on BYU in the past.

Tom Holmoe will make an Army series a priority. It’s a bucket list series for him to get on BYU’s schedules.

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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