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November 7, 2012The day of and the day following the Presidential Elections in 2012, BYU showed the country that they were going to thrive this term in Independence. Yesterday the Cougars announced a contracted game with the University of Michigan in the Big House on September 26th, 2015. Today BYU announced a home and home with the University of Virginia with the Cougars playing at Charlotesville on August 31st, 2013 and in Provo September 20th, 2014. All within a week of BYU having announced a home and home with the Cincinnati Bearcats in 2015 and 2016, with the Bearcats coming to Provo on October 24th, 2015.
These three contracts all perfectly illustrate the three aspects of scheduling games as an Independent.
First is the one and done at Michigan, which has the potential to become a two for one like the Texas game did. Even if it remains a one and done, it is still a great game. BYU will play on national television, in front of the biggest crowd in school history, against one of the most winningest programs in the history of college football. What could be better for BYU's recruiting than breaking news that they will be playing against the best programs in the country on national television? The recruit doesn't care if it's a one and done or a two for one. They care that they will be able to showcase their talents against Michigan, Texas, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Nebraska on national television if they commit to play for BYU. These games are very good for this BYU football program. Of the five teams listed that BYU has played in the last two years the Cougars had chances to win both of them in the fourth quarter. All while BYU has been enduring the poorest three years of offensive output that they've experienced in more than a decade.
I can understand season ticket holders being frustrated at how often BYU is playing these elite teams on the road compared to how often they are coming to Provo. But BYU has just as many fans outside of Utah as they do in the Beehive State, so these two for ones are much better for BYU's fanbase than most other teams whose fanbases are more regionally limited. At this point in Independence, while BYU is fresh out of the Mountain West and is still considered a non-BCS program, they are having a hard time scheduling home and home series with elite teams. As they continue to build their program and distance themselves from their perceived status as non-BCS team, scheduling will get easier and there will be fewer two for ones on the schedule. I don't think that BYU will ever get on a home and home basis with Notre Dame now that Notre Dame is playing five games a year against ACC teams, but that game should continue. I believe that a two for one with BYU is the best scheduling opportunity in the country, no other team in the country with this large of a fan base and this good of a program is offering Notre Dame a two for one contract. They should want to play BYU annually if the Cougars are willing to continue a two for one deal, which they are.
Today's announcement of the Virginia contract is a good example of scheduling lesser BCS programs, who bring exposure, and are still a very likely win for BYU. Washington State was another good example of a similar program, BYU gets more exposure for beating programs like this than they do beating Utah State, although these lesser BCS teams are not as competitive. These are great games for BYU because of the balance that they bring to a schedule that has a lot of very difficult road games against marquee programs. There is of course the chance that Virginia will be having one of their better seasons that year, just like Oregon State had this year, and in that case BYU just scheduled a home and home with a top 25 team. It's a great game to have on the schedule regardless of how competitive Virginia is that given year.
The series scheduled with Cincinnati is similar to what I anticipate seeing a lot of in the future. Big East teams need to bolster their strength of schedule because of how weak their conference is compared to the four power conferences. Even ACC teams need to bolster their schedule, their conference is just a lot weaker than the Pac 12, Big 12, B1G, and SEC. I see a lot of home and homes between BYU and ACC teams going forward, and even more series with Big East teams. The Cincinnati series is a good example of Big East teams also being willing to schedule games with BYU late in the year. They want to make a statement late in the year, and playing BYU is one of the best ways to do it.
I was very surprised that the Boise State series wasn't scheduled in November every year back when it was announced, and I still hope that it might be moved to November some day. I would love to see an annual game scheduled with San Diego State, one would think that Rocky Long's relationship with Bronco would help to make that happen, especially since San Diego State no longer has any reason to be bitter about BYU leaving the MWC. If Air Force joins the Big East that would open up their schedule to play BYU frequently as well, since Army and Navy would both be a part of their conference schedule.
I like BYU playing Big East teams to fill the schedule, but I don't think that they will be joining the Big East. With how nicely Tom Holmoe is putting this Independent schedule together, I see no reason to join the Big East unless they make a lot of concessions and make an offer that BYU can't refuse. Unless every BYU home game is accessible nationally then BYU will not be interested in any offer that the Big East proposes. It would make sense that the Big East not settle for regional coverage however because of their coast to coast conference membership, so that might be something that the Big East is able to provide for BYU. Either way, BYU has made Independence work and the Cougars are in a very good position, so if they do join the Big East, it won't be out of desperation. I see BYU's potential being higher as an Independent, they wouldn't be limited with the label as a member of a watered down Big East conference, and it makes the Cougars more available to the Big 12 should they ever come calling.
The Big 12 isn't going to come calling anytime soon, but if/when they do, it would be nice if BYU were available to come when the Big 12 wanted them without having to wait for the Big East to release them. I don't understand the Big 12 not wanting a conference championship game, if Oklahoma State had a conference championship game win on their resume last year they would have surpassed Alabama in the BCS standings and played LSU in the title game. The same thing might happen to Kansas State again this year. If Alabama, Oregon, Notre Dame and Kansas State all go undefeated, it will be Alabama and Oregon in the National Championship game because they both will have played a 13th game against a division champion to solidify their strength of schedule. Hopefully with the post season model going to a four team playoff, the Big 12 will feel that the conference championship game won't carry as much risk of eliminating their title contender from being in the top 4, and they decide to add two more teams to bring back the conference championship game.
I frequently hear people say that they would like to see BYU get into a conference, but as of right now the Big East is the only option, and the Big 12 is the only other potential option. The Pac 12 will never come calling because BYU isn't a research institution. Neither will the B1G for the same reason, BYU getting an invite from the SEC is obviously unrealistic, the ACC is possible but they are on the east coast and already have a full house. I think that BYU is Independent for the long haul, unless of course the Big 12 comes calling, but that is probably not happening soon, and it might not ever happen.
In the meantime Tom Holmoe has built a BCS caliber strength of schedule in Independence, BYU is generating enough TV income to implement an advanced strength and conditioning program, and the Cougar's are able to pay coaches what they need to keep them happy in Provo. Whether or not you're happy with who won the election and the direction that President Obama is taking the country, you have got to love the trajectory of this BYU football program.
Follow me on Twitter: @lancewarchibald