SALT LAKE CITY — In time, most likely five weeks away, BYU football will get the chance to prove worthy of its current national ranking.
Until then, expect BYU to follow up its first two easy wins with a string of blowouts through the month of October, possibly except for Houston on Oct. 16. Ranked No. 22, the Cougars have overwhelmed Navy and Troy by a combined score of 103-10.
They need — and deserve — better competition.
Hang on, help could be on the way.
All signs point to the Cougars reaching an agreement to play Boise State on either Nov. 6 or 7 in a game that will boost the legitimacy of the eventual winner. And in an interview with The Zone Sports Network, athletic director Tom Holmoe said BYU also could add another game late in the season to a schedule that he patched together over the last two months.
Long before COVID-19 shattered the 2020 schedule, BYU was set to play Boise State on Nov. 6, continuing the long series between the two teams. But following the Big 10 and Pac-12, Boise State’s conference decided in August to limit the season to conference-only games apart from Air Force, keeping its annual games against Navy and Army.
Or so we thought.
After announcing its revamped season, the Mountain West then canceled its conference season, with only Air Force set to play the two games against the military academies. But last week, the MWC again reversed course, deciding to play eight conference games starting Oct. 24.
The decision to keep Air Force’s game with Army on Nov. 7 leaves the Mountain West with 11 teams that weekend, meaning one member would have to take a bye or play a non-conference game. Enter BYU, which has a strong desire to play more games and beef up its lackluster schedule.
“There’s just a situation that cropped up that they hadn’t really prepared for,” Holmoe said of the MWC. "They didn’t really think about that, but I think it’s good for the military academies. The Mountain West Conference is going to do what they can to make sure every team in their conference has somewhat of an equal opportunity to play games. So, with one team not being able to play on that given week, why not let them play?
“It’s not that it’s a BYU thing. It’s a Mountain West Conference thing. Everybody would know that our attitude about playing these games is we want to play the games and we’ll try to play them if it’s feasible. If there’s an open discussion about this, we’d like to get in the mix.”
In other words, game on. Book it, COVID-19 permitting.
Boise State has built a national brand over the last 20 years by feasting on conference opponents and then playing one or two higher-profile games each season. Since 1999, the program has finished no lower than second in the Big West, Western Athletic and now the Mountain West conferences.
The Broncos should be favored to win the MWC this season despite losing four starters each across the defensive and offensive line. But this season, much like BYU, they need to play a ranked team to gain any national traction.
Taking a cautious approach, Holmoe might be able to snag another undetermined opponent late in the season. As it stands, BYU’s only game on the schedule after October is against North Alabama on Nov. 21.
There’s a possibility Holmoe could make a deal to play a Power Five opponent or a ranked Group of Five team. Depending on conference championship games, most teams have open dates to play in early December.
Over the summer, after BYU’s anticipated strong schedule was blown up, Holmoe was desperate to find games. Going forward, patience might pay off.
“Instead of just trying to find anybody, I’m thinking right now that it’s possible that there would be games that people might want to play later,” he said. “So, instead of trying to grab them right now, it’s probably better to wait and see what games might be available at that time.”