Back at BYU Media Day, the 2016 BYU football schedule was basically set. A home and home with Toledo and the finalized date for UMass essentially locked the entire slate into place. All BYU fans are waiting on now is which FCS team the Cougars will host late in the season, and the exact date. Not exactly earth-shattering news, but with the rest of the 2016 slate, a schedule that features six power five opponents, Boise State and Cincinnati, with UCLA and Mississippi State coming to Provo, next season should be more than challenging and exciting enough.
It's the year after that where things get a little murky. Earlier, both BYU and UNLV confirmed that the Cougars will play a road game at UNLV (which was previously scheduled for 2015) on Saturday, November 11, near the end of the year. That gives BYU 11 scheduled games for the 2017 slate, and since the Cougars will be finishing the season at Hawaii, they will be allowed to play a 13th game. On paper, it seems like BYU would just need to grab two more teams, and the schedule would be pretty open and shut, right?
But given BYU's recent history, and their likely budgetary requirements, it doesn't seem that simple.
BYU's two open slots right now in 2017 are both in September (September 16 and 23), which is typically the best time of year to try and schedule a big name, power five opponent. BYU is doing that this season, and in 2016 (Arizona, Utah, UCLA, WVU). 2017 starts off with two big names (LSU in Houston, Utah), but with only one other power five team on the schedule (a road trip to Mississippi State), it seems probable that BYU would like to try and add at least one more big name to the beginning of the month. Ohio State, for example, will need a game during that time period, as will Louisville, and several other blue bloods.
The trouble is, BYU is already playing seven games away from Provo (six road, one 'neutral'), and can't take on any more. Not only would that be a massive competitive disadvantage for BYU, but it would rob the athletic department of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. That math doesn't add up. Without any games changing, BYU would need to add two more home games. One of them may very well be an FCS team, but playing one of those in September would be brutal. Any additional power five programs would need to visit Provo first, which is hard to do. It would certainly mean Ohio State is off the table.
In order to accommodate BYU's broader goals (at least six home games, more than three power-five opponents, balance throughout the year, etc), it would make the most sense to make some tweaks to the back half of the slate. We're all just speculating here, but I would not be surprised if road trips to Fresno State (Nov 4) or East Carolina (Oct 21) are moved back a season or two, to give BYU some breathing room later in the year, to either allow them to play another earlier season road game, or play their FCS game later in the year.
A less likely, but still potentially possible scenario would be for UMass to move their game. Given their multi-game contract with BYU, and their status as a fellow independent, the Minutemen may have more schedule flexibility to help BYU, should they need to. It's also possible that a game (or games) just gets canceled.
2017 is still a ways away, but it's not THAT far away, and game inventory is filling up fast. There are still some interesting options to fill out the rest of that slate, but given BYU's recent history, I would bet the finished product looks pretty different from what it looks like now.