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Five Teams BYU Should Pursue For 2023 Non-Conference Opening

May 17, 2022, 1:12 AM
BYU Football, LES, LaVell Edwards Stadium...
PROVO, UT - NOVEMBER 6: Fans watch the game between the BYU Cougars and the Idaho State Bengals November 6, 2021 at the LaVel Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – The move of Tennessee opting out of the trip to Provo to play BYU football in 2023 has left an opening. An opening that BYU wasn’t expecting.

In January, AD Tom Holmoe said BYU was complete with non-conference schedules to 2027. So the task for Holmoe and his department was to “take teams out” rather than add any new inventory.

Things change in a hurry in college sports. BYU’s first year as a Big 12 member will require Holmoe to work the phones again to bring a game together, as he did so many teams navigating independence.

The good thing for BYU is that if anyone is tasked to bring a game together, it’s Holmoe. He found a way to cobble up an 11-game schedule amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when nearly everyone played conference-only schedules.

Five teams BYU football should pursue to fill the 2023 schedule

Assuming the Big 12 goes to a nine-game league schedule, finding one non-conference game shouldn’t be as daunting as piecing together the 2020 slate. But it’s still tricky.

Despite having 18 months to work with, that’s considered late in the scheduling game. Football programs are still deciding to line up games a decade in advance.

Here are five teams that BYU should pursue to fill that open spot for the 2023 non-conference schedule.

UNLV

The Rebels have an opening in their non-conference schedule, and they already have six dates lined up at home in Las Vegas. UNLV was initially scheduled to play in Provo on November 4 in 2023, before the Cougars got the call up to the Big 12 Conference.

It’s an easy travel game for the Rebels, and if BYU writes a nice guaranteed amount, what’s the downside for UNLV?

The only thing that could make the Rebs pause is that their non-conference already includes games against Michigan and Vanderbilt from the Power Five ranks. Would that be too much for a struggling program to tackle in one season? Probably.

Coastal Carolina

A possible rematch against Coastal Carolina is where things would get juicy. Mullets vs. Mormons: II? Let’s go. The issue is that the Chanticleers have all of their non-conference dates filled already, headlined by a Sept. 2 trip to UCLA.

Folks like Dave Brown from Gridiron would have to bring different puzzle pieces together to make it happen, but it would be a game with a unique history. A crazy thing to say, considering the Chants have only been playing football since 2003. But that one impromptu game in 2020 defined the crazy nature of college football amid COVID-19. So a return game to kickoff BYU’s new era in the Big 12 would make for a fun event.

When BYU football initially agreed to play Coastal Carolina in 2020, Holmoe got a verbal agreement from Coastal AD Matt Hogue that the Chanticleers would make a return trip to Provo.

Miami

BYU football has a future home-and-home series lined up with the Miami Hurricanes for 2026 (in Miami) and 2028 (in Provo) seasons. On their schedule, the Canes already have dates filled with non-conference games in 2023 for Sept. 2, Sept. 9, and Sept. 23. But Miami still needs one more non-conference game.

To make this become a reality would require some heavy lifting with multiple schedules. Miami has another Power 5 opponent in Texas A&M lined up for Sept. 9, 2023, in Miami Gardens. But looking at future Miami non-conference slates, the Canes are consistently playing two Power 5 programs out of the ACC.

Find a way to move up the 2028 game in Provo to Sept. 30, 2023, and then open up against Big 12 opponent, Kansas, in week one. The Jayhawks don’t have a game scheduled for week one at the moment, and if you’re going to make a football game against Kansas interesting, slide it in as the Big 12 opener.

Like the SEC did for Texas A&M when the Aggies joined. The SEC schedule-makers had the Aggies open with a league game in College Station against Florida.

Middle Tennessee

Relationships matter when trying to bring together a football game together. For example, BYU’s Tom Holmoe has a previous history with Middle Tennessee AD Chris Massaro. In addition, the two programs previously scheduled a home-and-home against one another for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

After flirting with a potential move to the MAC, Middle Tennessee is standing pat in Conference-USA. For the 2023 season, the Blue Raiders only have two non-conference games lined up. One of those is a road game against a P5 opponent in Missouri on Sept. 9.

Alabama

Want to take a deep dive into life as a Power 5 team? How about a crack at the best program in the land, the Alabama Crimson Tide? Nick Saban’s historic program has an open date on September 2, 2023.

The two programs nearly played each other in 2020 at Jerry’s World in Arlington before the SEC chose to play a conference-only schedule. BYU coaches were game-planning for a week one tilt with the Tide that season. So maybe dust off the old scouting report for a tilt in 2023?

Holmoe has a history with Alabama AD Greg Byrne. The two brokered the Arizona series back in 2013 and then had conversations about the reported BYU/Alabama game in 2020.

BYU has always had a history of being willing to play the best. They don’t come any better than Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide program.

A trip to Tuscaloosa or a natural site tilt would be an epic stage for BYU players to compete. But on the flip side, the idea of potentially breaking in a new QB against Alabama? Would Kalani Sitake step in and pump the brakes on such a move?

Bonus possibility: Northwestern (back in 2018, the Big Ten lined up NU to play Rutgers on 9/2/2023; this could change if the Big Ten ditches divisions.).

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 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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