BYU trying to blaze a new trail again

Published: Monday, May 23 2011 11:00 p.m. MDT

BYU has agreed to play Notre Dame six times between 2012 and 2020, including games already scheduled for 2012 and 2013 in South Bend. There are also dates set with Texas (2011, 2013, 2014) and Georgia Tech (2012, 2013, 2014, 2017). BYU will play neutral-site games against TCU (2011) at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas (2011), and West Virginia at FedEx Field in Washington, D.C. (2016).

The Cougars are rumored to be trying to schedule the likes of Wisconsin, Nebraska, Penn State, USC and UCLA.

For some of these matchups to come to fruition, it may require BYU agreeing to a two-for-one deal, playing two road games in exchange for a home game at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Or there may be home-and-home arrangements, with one game at a neutral site.

"If we do a two-for-one, it's generally with a team that's great and they don't do home-and-homes with most teams anyway," Holmoe said. "You'll see it with us because we get the opportunity to do it. We have a wide-open schedule now."

Holmoe said he has already turned down some two-for-one offers. "We'll do whatever it takes. We'll do what we need to do to get the games necessary to become a top team."

Mendenhall said independence is all about exposure, and that means playing all over the nation.

"I love the idea of being more visible," he said. "It's a national schedule, basically East Coast to West Coast. We're trying to get as many quality opponents from as many parts of the country that we can get to continue to promote our program and generate excitement for the teams we're playing. That's what's fun now, the idea of who you would like to play and develop some natural rivalries and learn about different parts of the country. The chance to have choices like that, I'm excited about it."

For Edwards, one of the highlights of his coaching career was playing at renowned stadiums around the nation. "It was exciting to go to those places and play those teams," he said. "It was probably more exciting to think about them than play the game sometimes. I loved playing at different facilities around the country, like Notre Dame's. The most exciting place we ever played was at Wisconsin. Wisconsin was great. Those fans were unbelievable. They hadn't won for a while, but you never would have known it."

Cougar players have embraced BYU's new status.

"We're way excited about going independent," said BYU left tackle and team captain Matt Reynolds. "Coach Mendenhall's big thing has been about the tradition of BYU. To be able to take the tradition that we have and the history that BYU has and to take it to the next level and add on to it and be part of the tradition and history and open a new chapter of BYU football is absolutely exciting. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

True, there will be no conference championships to play for anymore, but the Cougars' sights are higher.

"We're not playing for a conference championship," said sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps. "We're playing for a national championship."

"Certainly it changes in terms of not having a conference championship," Mendenhall said. "The national landscape is such that you have to win as many games as possible against the best opponents you can to be considered for the next tier of bowl games. That doesn't really change a thing."

Holmoe has said repeatedly that going independent had nothing to do with gaining greater access to the Bowl Championship Series, though he is hoping the Cougars earn automatic qualifier status at some point.

BYU's arrangement with ESPN, which broadcasts most of the BCS games, will not enhance the Cougars' chances with the BCS, Brown said. He added that BYU doesn't need ESPN's help in that area.

"If you win all of your games, you will be in the BCS," Brown said. "Utah's proven it, Boise State's proven it, TCU's proven it and Hawaii proved it that one year. That's not changing. You'll probably even see opportunities, given the strength of schedule BYU will play, plus their brand name, teams now could lose a game and could still make the BCS depending on how the year turns out. That is great for the sport, and those are opportunities BYU will be able to take advantage of going forward, because I know BYU will play a really good schedule, no doubt about it."

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