BYU and the PAC-12. It has been a prickly, complicated, and long relationship between one of the biggest private religious football programs in the country and a conference that differs completely in political and social matters, despite being in BYU’s backyard.
Several times it seemed like BYU was the obvious choice to be added to the PAC-12 conference during eras of expansion, given their geography and, of course, their relationship with current PAC-12 program Utah. However, the Cougars did not receive the official invite for a number of reasons. Whether that be the “Sunday play” rule or the differences in political stances between the school, as a result of its affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the PAC-12 conference, which mostly resides in California, Oregon and Washington, and their predominant political climates.
That being said, these two sides have had fierce, even epic competitions on the football field. The Cougars have plenty of history with most of these schools in the West. In fact, the Cougars have defeated 11 of the current 12 schools in the conference.
The lone holdout is Stanford.
The Stanford Cardinal is the only football program BYU has not beaten among the current PAC-12 schools.
Aside from Utah, BYU once shared a conference with Arizona and Arizona State as part of the WAC in the 1970s.
Stanford is the only PAC-12 school that BYU has not played at least four times. They are 0-2.
The Cougars and Cardinal played in back-to-back years in 2003 and 2004, with the first meeting in Provo. The Cardinal beat BYU 18-14 in John Beck’s first career start for the Cougars at quarterback. He filled in for the injured Matt Berry.
This weekend will be BYU’s second trip to Palo Alto. Gary Crowton’s Cougars went to Stanford in 2004, losing 37-10. Injuries to quarterbacks Matt Berry and John Beck certainly did not help. Third-string quarterback Jason Beck threw three interceptions.
In essence, this meeting on Saturday night will be the first time BYU squares off against Stanford with their actual starting quarterback, in Jaren Hall.
BYU is currently scheduled to host Stanford in Provo in 2031, nine years from now. That is only if the two sides agree to continue this relationship, with BYU heading to the Big 12 next year. Their flexibility with non-conference games is limited.
If BYU does not beat Stanford on Saturday, they will need to wait nine years, or even longer, to finally notch their first win against the Cardinal and thus check off the final box of PAC-12 opponents.
This matchup also offers a unique storyline. Both starting quarterbacks are returned missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Stanford signal caller Tanner McKee served his mission in Brazil. He was a highly sought-after recruit, receiving offers from Auburn, Florida, Florida State, USC, and yes, BYU.
Kickoff is 8pm PST/11pm EST on Saturday on FS1.