Attention, BYU fans. Despite a snub by college football’s bluebloods — and that’s what it was — the football apocalypse has not arrived. Please, take a deep breath and back slowly away from the cliff.
The recent announcements by the ACC and SEC are certainly not good news, but they will not have the dire effects that many seem to fear.
The ACC and SEC mandated that their member schools play eight conference games, plus one non-conference game against a member of the other so-called Power 5 conferences (Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12). They made one exemption: Notre Dame, an independent, will count as one of those games, as well.
Nobody said anything about BYU, and that was the problem. Notre Dame received the official anointing of two powerhouse conferences — but BYU, the other major independent, was ignored.
The Cougars apparently aren’t considered good enough to count as a “quality” game. That of course is ridiculous and a slap in the face, and BYU fans reacted accordingly, which prompted BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe to tweet, “Folks, I feel like scheduling is proceeding in a positive manner. I suggest you not react to every press release as if it’s final.”
In other words, please remain seated with your seat belts securely fastened until the bumpy ride through the turbulent world of college football has come to a complete stop.
The ACC and SEC policies will have a minimal impact on BYU. For one thing, the Cougars rarely play their teams. During the nine-year Bronco Mendenhall era, the Cougars have played only seven games against ACC schools and one game against an SEC school (3 wins, 5 losses).
The Cougars should have little difficulty scheduling quality opponents. It’s simple math. There are 65 Power 5 teams, including Notre Dame. The ACC and SEC require eight conference games and one game against a Power 5 team; the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 require nine conference games. Either way, all 65 teams need three more opponents to fill out their schedules, a total of 195 games. BYU, which fills half its schedule with region opponents, needs to find only 5-6 more opponents each year from around the country. ACC and SEC schools can still schedule BYU — but the Cougars won’t count as a “quality” opponent.
BYU does not have the scheduling issues many thought it would have as an independent. The eight-year contract with ESPN (it just finished its third year) undoubtedly helps. During the 29-year LaVell Edwards era, the Cougars scheduled an average of 4.2 Power 5 schools annually. In nine years under Mendenhall, it’s 5.1 (and 5.7 the last three years).
During the next decade, the Cougars are scheduled to play 26 games against 14 Power 5 schools, and the schedules have not been completed yet, meaning there could be more. The opponents include Texas, Nebraska, Michigan, Wisconsin, USC, Stanford, Arizona, Arizona State, Cal and Notre Dame.
The fact is the Cougars are better than or equal to many of the teams in the Power 5 conferences and deserve to be considered a “quality” team. Their record speaks for itself. As for the old argument that they have had a relatively soft schedule, it’s just that — old (see previously noted stat about the number of Power 5 opponents they schedule).
Based on information provided by the BYU sports information department, here is the case the Cougars can make for themselves:
• BYU has appeared in the in-season national rankings 31 of the last 42 years and finished in the top 25 18 times. During the Mendenall era, the Cougars have finished in the top 25 five times.
• In the last 40 seasons, BYU ranks fourth in total victories with 353. Only Nebraska, Oklahoma and Ohio State won more games.
• BYU is one of just six schools (BYU, Ohio State, Penn State, Texas, Boston College, Iowa) to have players win the Heisman, Outland, Davey O'Brien and Doak Walker awards. Only BYU and Ohio State have had players win all four awards in the past 25 years.
• In the last 40 years, BYU is 87-95 against schools in the Power 5 conferences, with a winning record against the Pac-12 (55-51) and .500 records against the Big 12 (14-14) and SEC (4-4).
The Cougars have winning or .500 records against Georgia Tech (3-1), Miami (1-1), Pitt (1-1), Michigan (1-0), Wisconsin (1-1), Baylor (1-1), Oklahoma (2-0), Texas (3-1), Ole Miss (1-0), Texas A&M (2-1), Missouri (1-0), Washington State (3-1), Cal (2-1), and Oregon (3-3).
Somehow, the SEC and ACC missed all of the above when they decided to overlook BYU.
Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: [email protected]