BYU will be playing in a Power 5 conference next year. Say that out loud to yourself without smiling, I dare you.
There were some rumblings that the Big 12 Conference may release the 2023 football schedule on December 1. However, a recent report from BYUtv’s Dave McCann suggests that timeline has now been moved to “mid-December.”
BIG 12 Schedule update: Word today is the league is looking at mid-December for the release. Earlier, BYU A.D. Tom Holmoe told us he has seen the home and away slate, minus dates, and Dec. 1 was the day it all had to be ready. The wait continues. #BYUFootball— Dave McCann (@DaveMcCannTV) November 30, 2022
It looks like BYU and its fans will have to wait a little longer for the exciting reveal of their first Power 5 conference schedule in school history.
While we wait, let’s try to guess what the 2023 conference schedule may look like for the Cougars.
Some caveats- there will be a nine-game schedule for the Big 12 in 2023, most likely with no divisions. With the conference having 14 members for their first two years, that means BYU will not play four schools. I believe one of those will be Baylor for this first season, given that BYU has played them two years in a row as part of their independent schedule.
Also, I feel it is unlikely that the Big 12 will have both Texas and Oklahoma play BYU this season. I believe the Cougars will get a shot at both programs before they depart for the SEC, just not in the same season. The conference may want to spread it around.
I also believe BYU will get four conference home games and five on the road. I imagine the conference will alternate years with how many home games each school gets. As a new kid on the block, BYU may draw the short stick in year one.
With that in mind, here is my attempt at predicting what BYU’s first Big 12 schedule will look like. Again, this is not necessarily the most ideal schedule, just a possibly realistic one.
Week 1 vs. Sam Houston State
Week 2 vs. Southern Utah
Week 3 @ Arkansas
Week 4 vs. Oklahoma
Boom. Right out of the gate. What other situation can be a bigger “welcome to the Big 12” for BYU than hosting the Sooners, one of the most the most iconic Big 12 brands and in all of college football? Also, this will depict how petty the conference wants to be with their two defecting schools. Scheduling OU to head to Provo right off the bat would be a big indication of pettiness. The only more petty move would be to schedule the Sooners to travel to Provo for a frigid November matchup.
I believe it would be Oklahoma over Texas because of recency bias. Texas and BYU played three times during the Cougars’ independence era, in 2011, 2013 and 2014. The Cougars and Sooners have not played since they christened what is now AT&T Stadium in Arlington, AKA “Jerry World” in 2009. BYU has won both matchups with Oklahoma, the first being in 1994. Oklahoma has never traveled to Provo.
One downside is they would be playing Oklahoma a week after traveling to Fayetteville to face a very physical Arkansas squad.
Imagine the electricity in the air at LaVell’s house when BYU takes the field against the Sooners, with a fresh “Big XII” logo painted on the field and patches donning the same logo on the chests of all BYU players. Perhaps some #Big12AfterDark action to further the intrigue? Let your imagination run wild with this one.
Week 5 @ Iowa State
The Cougars and Cyclones have not played on the gridiron since 1974. With that in mind, the conference may send BYU to Ames, IA for their first road game in Big 12 play. Thus begins the new era of BYU’s lifestyle, traveling more than 1,000 miles for a conference game. Iowa State just finished their first losing season in six years. This is a very winnable first conference road game for the Cougars.
Week 6 @ Kansas State
For the longtime BYU fan or college football historian, this is an exciting matchup. This would be the first meeting between the two programs since BYU defeated the Wildcats in the 1997 Cotton Bowl, following BYU’s 13-1 1996 campaign. This matchup was one of the first to come to mind when hearing BYU was headed to the Big 12. This is also one of the few road games in conference play where the Cougars will not need to travel at least 1,000 miles. KSU is no joke, as they are set to take on undefeated TCU in the Big 12 title game this Saturday, with a likely trip to the Sugar Bowl.
Week 7: BYE
Gone are the days of BYU waiting until after 10 games for a bye week. That will be a nice change of pace.
Week 8 vs. Kansas
BYU gets their first crack at one of the darlings of the 2022 season. The Jayhawks are set to make their first bowl game since 2008 this season. In this scenario, they would be the second Big 12 program to visit Provo as conference foes. This certainly will be a much more intriguing matchup that winter on the hardwood. Consider this an appetizer.
Week 9 @ Cincinnati
BYU will certainly play a few of their fellow newbies. The Bearcats are the third-farthest program to Provo in the conference. The Cougars will rack up the frequent flier miles, to be sure. I am sure the conference will make it fair over the years, making Cincy return a trip to Provo soon, as well as considering when and where the Cougars play UCF. My opinion is that they would not make BYU travel to both Cincinnati and Orlando to play UCF, the farthest conference mate, in the same season.
Week 10 vs. Houston
BYU squares off with yet another fellow migrant to the conference. The two Cougar squads met up three times during BYU’s run of independence, with the Cougars in blue winning all three. It makes sense to play one new Big 12 team on the road and one at home.
Week 11 @ West Virginia
It may seem cruel to make BYU travel to both Cincinnati and West Virginia in the same season, but that’s the nature of the new Big 12 and being the new kid in the neighborhood. At least, in this scenario, they avoid a trip to Orlando. Plus, there are worse places to travel and enjoy the atmosphere of college football than Morgantown, WV. If you attend the game, good luck not singing along to “Country Roads” as the Mountaineers try and knock off the Cougars in their first trip to Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. They own one of the better gameday experiences in the entire conference. This would be my choice for a road game to attend in person within this slate of games.
Week 12 @ Oklahoma State
This is a brutal stretch, going from Morgantown to playing at one of the most consistently tough home field advantages in the conference in back-to-back weeks. If there is a road environment that might be able to match the fun and intrigue of West Virginia, it’s at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater. In this hypothetic scenario, this would be a November matchup. Imagine that, BYU playing a huge Power 5 game in November with possible conference title game implications on the line. Typically, in independence, the Cougars have a lighter November slate that resembles something like a cupcake. Not in the Big 12.
Week 13 vs. TCU
Who doesn’t love an old rivalry renewed? While the Cougars and Horned Frogs might not be true rivals to most, they have enough of a history to be. This will be the third different conference they share over the last 25 years. I am in favor of making this BYU’s “rivalry week” partner for the final week of the regular season. It’s almost a given that these two will square off in year one, given the history and relative proximity to each other, along with both being private religious institutions. Any other BYU fans still stewing over the Horned Frogs beating BYU in overtime in Provo in 2005? Or when they dismantled a 6-1, 16th-ranked Cougar squad with ease back in 2009? TCU traveling to Provo for a late-November clash gives BYU an advantage not many other Big 12 teams have- winter conditions at high elevation. This would be a tasty dessert at the end of conference play. Who knows? TCU could be playing for another College Football Playoff berth, bringing tons of national intrigue to Provo for this key matchup.
In this scenario, BYU does not play Texas, UCF, Texas Tech and Baylor.