by Daniel Olsen
With the announcement that BYU was invited to the Big 12 on Friday and a monumental win over Utah to end the losing streak on Saturday, BYU fans were one Zach Wilson debut away from losing their minds. How will they fare in a P5 schedule and what scheduling adjustments will set them up for success? It’s time to find out with three keys to completing a successful non-conference schedule around starting in 2023.
1. Choose the best P5 team
The Cougars will have to cancel a myriad of intriguing P5 games that they had scheduled. The good news is they are now a P5 school and will play about eight games a year against Big 12 opponents. However, it will be a bit of a disappointment to not be able to play challenging teams from other conferences. The Cougars should keep one team on the Power 5 per year. Here is a list of the teams they should consider from their current schedule:
2023: Tennessee – September 2
2024: @ Utah – September 7
2025 Utah – date TBD
2026: Arizona – September 12
2027: at Arizona – September 11
2028: Miami – September 2
2029: Stanford – September 1
2030: Virginia Tech – September 14
While this doesn’t include Utah in several of the agreed years, both teams might find it advantageous to fill the P5 slot with other intriguing teams from around the nation. It would give fans the chance to welcome in supporters of other teams around the country. BYU and Utah should look to play when possible as they always sell out. However, it might be good to either branch out some years or play two Power 5 teams if they really want to continue playing each other. BYU will already be playing eight, so this will be a tough decision to make.
2. Rotate Boise State and Utah State
The Aggies and Broncos have become the primary rivalries to BYU outside the Power 5. They are geographically favored matchups with the Aggies being a two hour trip and Boise being about a six hour drive. Fans of both schools travel well especially to play BYU. The Aggies have a contract agreed until 2026. Boise and BYU scheduled a new agreement with games scheduled until 2034. They will take a year break in 2024.
The in-state rivalry should always take priority, so it would be great to play out the remainder of USU’s contract while still trying to keep as many Boise State games as possible. In reality, both schools could remain on the schedule as two challenging G5 teams. BYU should still be favored in many of these games if they continue this upward trajectory. This will still leave an open spot for an FCS game.
3. Schedule Easy FCS Teams
This might rattle some folks who say that to be the best you have to beat the best. That’s true as long as it pertains to FBS teams. Division 1 programs pay a decent chunk of change for FCS programs to come to their house and play a warm-up game. BYU should hang up on the FCS powerhouse teams that might call them like James Madison and North Dakota State. Any team in North Dakota, South Dakota can play well. BYU should be hesitant to schedule anyone in that region of the country.
There are plenty of middling programs and even a few good ones that the Cougars can schedule. Weber State is one of the better FCS programs and is a nice in-state game. The Cougars would still be heavily favored to win. They would be even more heavily favored to beat Southern Utah. The Cougars could also pick random teams like McNeese State, North Alabama and Portland State as they have in the past.
Southern Utah is slated to visit Provo on November 18, 2023. It will be a great chance for the Thunderbirds to go up against a Big Sky opponent. The Cougars also welcome Dixie State to Provo on November 16, 2024. At this point, it’s better for the state if they keep those in-state FCS games and still sprinkle in new ones in the future. With a challenging P5 schedule, the Cougars need to schedule that one easier FCS win to avoid a possible 0-12 season on a bad year.
Featured image courtesy KSL Sports