COUGAR TRACKS

Four Thoughts On BYU Football’s Non-Conference Scheduling Efforts

Jan 18, 2023, 2:51 PM | Updated: 3:13 pm

PROVO, Utah – BYU football moving from the world of Independence to the Big 12 Conference has many changes. One of the most notable is the schedule.

BYU goes from scheduling 12 games to only worrying about finding three. Drastic change.

We’re starting to understand how BYU will be piecing together its non-conference schedules. Three out-of-league opponents are slotted in for the first three years in the Big 12 (2023-2025).

So while we all continue to wait for that 2023 Big 12 schedule, here are some early thoughts on how BYU is piecing together its non-conference schedules for the future.

1. BYU football appears to be taking on Utah’s old “A-B-C” scheduling model

When Utah moved from the Mountain West Conference to the Pac-12 in 2011, former Utah athletic director Chris Hill incorporated an “A-B-C” model for non-conference schedules. The “A games” were against rivals like BYU or BCS/Power Five opponents.

Games against “B” opponents were typically from Group of Five leagues. Then a “C” game would always come from the FCS ranks.

BYU has taken on a similar approach for the first three years. In 2023, BYU opens with Sam Houston State from Conference-USA, which would qualify as a “B grade,” Southern Utah to fill the “C,” and a road trip to SEC country to face Arkansas for the “A game.”

There will be exceptions to this rule. In 2023, for example, BYU was prepared to host Tennessee in the season opener until the Vols bought out of the trip to the Wasatch Front in favor of a game against Virginia in Nashville.

You make the necessary changes for once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, but this “A-B-C” scheduling appears to be the path BYU is on for the early years of the Big 12.

2. Utah rivalry remains scheduled

When BYU AD Tom Holmoe addressed the media on the day that BYU was officially invited to the Big 12 in 2021, one of the questions he received was about the future of the series with Utah.

As of now, the rivalry series is scheduled annually from 2024 through 2028. Those games were part of an extension the two programs signed in 2019 shortly after Utah inked a home-and-home with Florida.

There should be more bragging rights in the rivalry now that both are in Power Five conferences. There’s no love loss between the Big 12 and Pac-12 already. These two heated rivals can only add more fuel to the bickering.

The biggest question regarding the Utah series is, will there be another extension after these scheduled games conclude in 2028?

I get both sides of the argument. The history of the game is worth fighting for. But there’s also a need to deliver novelty to ticket holders in the non-conference schedule.

3. Cross-country trips against Group of Five teams shouldn’t happen

Earlier this week, East Carolina University unveiled its future non-conference schedules. Why does this matter to BYU? BYU’s trip to Greenville, North Carolina, remains on ECU’s future schedules.

BYU was previously scheduled to play at ECU in 2024. However, the game has been pushed back to 2025, a strong indication that the game stays on BYU’s future schedule.

When operating as an FBS Independent, play East Carolina. You need 12 dates to fill every year, and if you’re not in the hunt for a conference title, a concession is taking your program around the country to your national fan base.

As a Big 12 member, what is BYU football gaining by playing this game?

East Carolina is a good football program with a lot of history. They’ve defeated BYU in the last two meetings. One in Provo last season and one in 2017 in Greenville. That 2017 loss was one of the worst setbacks in the Kalani Sitake era.

The good news for BYU is that there aren’t any other east coast trips to G5 schools after ECU in 2025. But it wouldn’t have been the worst idea to back out of the game, as many Power Fives have done to BYU over the years. It’s how scheduling is done at this level.

4. Week Zero

When the 12-team College Football Playoff arrives in 2024, it will cause seismic changes to the sport’s calendar. One of those potential changes could be turning week zero into the new week one.

If college football does make that change, which games from BYU’s future schedules get moved up to the week zero spot? The logical answer would be moving the Utah series from 2024 to 2028 to the new opening week.

BYU’s 2025 meeting with Utah has a “TBA” (To Be Announced) date. The off-season buildup to a rivalry game adds a lot more excitement to the matchup than playing it in week three.

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 Mitch’s coverage of BYU moving to the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Four Thoughts On BYU Football’s Non-Conference Scheduling Efforts