The ‘Big 12 Conference’ has turned into the ‘Big 16’ with recent Pac-12 South additions of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Arizona State.
Adding the “four-corner schools” gives the Big 12 even more stability and arguably puts the conference as part of the “Significant 3” alongside the SEC and Big 10 Conferences.
So how does all this impact BYU?
As a former Independent football program combined with all colleges scheduling games more than a decade out, the Cougars have some work to do as they’ve scheduled games as far out as 2035 — boy do I feel old!
Most P5 schools across the country use a 3-tiered approach when scheduling games, playing one non-conference game each against each of the tiers.
- Tier 1: Hard (Most P5 programs, some top tier G5 programs)
- Tier 2: Medium (Most G5 programs, P5 bottom dwellers)
- Tier 3: Easy (Bottom G5 or FCS)
With conference expansion talks still going crazy, BYU may not be able to play at least one P5 team during the non-conference portion right out of the gates, but ideally, the Cougars would like to do so if they can make it happen.
Here’s a look at the games that BYU will need to replace on its schedule.
Whether fans like to admit it or not, Utah is a Tier 1 program and with games against Southern Illinois and Wyoming, the Cougars will want to fill that spot with another P5 program (Tier 1).
The remaining Pac-4 teams (Stanford, Cal, Oregon State and Washington State) will likely need some games depending on what shakes out. The three likely scenarios are a merger with the Mountain West Conference, the Atlantic Coast conference, or going Independent, joining Notre Dame, Army, UConn and UMass.
Also, it’s important to remember that FBS teams are allowed just one FCS opponent a year when it comes to getting bowl eligible (six wins). So BYU won’t schedule another FCS opponent. Utah State does has an opening in 2024 to add another non-conference game so that could likely happen.
My expectations is that the Cougars will likely schedule something with Utah State, unless Stanford or Cal goes independent, in which case, I think Tom Holmoe would schedule a game against one of those schools to help them out, and give the Cougars a P5 game.
Just like 2024, BYU and Utah will now be conference foes which opens up another non-conference opening.
USU already has 13 games for 2025 so that won’t be an option. Traveling father north, Boise State has room for one more game as the Broncos play Hawaii. An NCAA rule, allows teams that face the Rainbow Warriors to play 13 games to offset travel costs, etc. Teams don’t have to, as they can schedule an extra off-week if they desire.
I could see the Cougars facing a MWC team, or getting a game against one of the four current Pac-4 teams (Cal, Stanford, Oregon State, Washington State.)
2026 could present the biggest challenge for the Cougars so far as BYU may have to replace two non-conference games. As of now, BYU only needs to fill one game, however, if the Big 12 changes to an eight league schedule, the Cougars will need two more games.
Utah State has room for one more non-conference game and with 2024 and 2025 not likely happening. It would be smart for both teams to play this in-state game for the Battle for the Old Wagon Wheel. With BYU now in the Big 12, it will be interesting to see if the Cougars start asking for a 2-for-1 deal to play the Aggies. Utah State hasn’t played Utah since 2015 and won’t be playing them for the foreseeable future, so playing BYU is something the school desperately wants — giving the Cougars all the leverage they need to ask for a 2-for-1.
With Arizona and Utah becoming conference foes again for BYU, the Cougars will need to fill at least 3 non-conference games.
I expect a game against an in-state school, whether that’s Utah State, Weber State, SUU or Utah Tech. Boise State has an opening and is likely a team the Cougars would want to play given the close proximity and the long-storied series that the school have enjoyed since BYU went independent more than a decade ago.
I’d love to see BYU try and play Miami as the two programs had to cancel the two-game series which was scheduled to be played during the 2026 and 2028 seasons, because of BYU’s move to the Big 12.
The Cougars will need to add two more games and maybe even 3 if the Rebels try to buy out of the contract for this game due to a tough conference schedule with the addition of Texas and Oklahoma next year in the SEC.
Utah State has 3 non-conference game scheduled so it’s not likely, unless the Aggies are playing at Hawaii, which would allow Utah State to play an extra game.
BYU and North Carolina State have never played in football so that would be a great addition. The two schools were set to play in 2024 and 2030, however, due to BYU’s move to the Big 12, the programs had to cancel the series. Who knows, at this point, BYU-NC State could become a conference game with the ACC being unstable at the moment.
The Cougars only have Ole Miss on the schedule, so the program will need two more non-conference games.
Utah State would be available, and according to a poll by former BYU great Hans Olsen, 70% of BYU fans would like to see BYU-USU resume.
Would you like to see the BYU v Utah State football game resume, even if on a limited basis? They currently aren't scheduled to play in the foreseeable future.
— Hans Olsen (@975Hans) August 10, 2023
The Cougars will need to schedule at least two games in 2030.
Virginia Tech will be a fun game, but who knows at this point if that game will stay intact with so much conference realignment. If the current rumors are true that Clemson and Florida State want out of the ACC, the Big 12 Conference would look to add at least 2-4 teams from the ACC to give the conference more eastern time zone and travel partners for West Virginia. This game could turn out to be a conference matchup… crazy!
One series I’d like to see resume is BYU-USC. Both programs had to cancel when BYU joined the Big 12, but playing a “Big Ten” team, recruiting in California, not to mention the big LDS population in the area, this is something that Cougar fans should all want.
Only Stanford is on the schedule so the Cougars will need to add at least two more games.
Michigan State and Army are on the schedule so the Cougars will need to add at least one more game.
Virginia Tech and Coastal Carolina are on the schedule so the Cougars will need to add at least one more game.
Missouri and Troy are on the schedule so the Cougars will need to add at least one more game.