BYU and Tennessee were slated to kick off the 2023 season in Provo on September 2, 2023. It was to be BYU’s first game and first home game as a member of the Big 12 conference.
This was supposed to be the return game after BYU traveled to Rocky Top in 2019, where they won a dramatic, overtime game 29-26.
Unfortunately, the Volunteers elected to buy out of the game, upwards of $2 million, in favor of opening the season against ACC foe Virginia at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.
Now, in the aftermath, BYU must replace the Vols on their schedule. They need a new foe against whom to open up their inaugural season in the Big 12. They already have a home game scheduled against Southern Utah as well as a road game at Arkansas, another SEC opponent.
Obviously, Tom Holmoe and the Cougars would like to replace what was supposed to be a marquee game in the opening weekend with another opponent of similar stature.
Let’s explore four Power 5 programs that have an open date on September 2 along with an extra slot for a non-conference game, to possibly come to Provo to kick off the 2023 campaign.
Of course, in any of these scenarios, it’s up to the school to accept the invitation to travel to Provo to play a true road game. Not every Power 5 program is keen on accepting such invitations.
The Yellow Jackets have had a run of tough seasons of late. Head coach Geoff Collins is 9-25 in three seasons as the head man in Atlanta. This is an option from the ACC to come to Provo. That would not be completely unfamiliar territory to Georgia Tech, as these teams have met four times previously, including twice in Provo. They last met in 2013, in Provo, which ended in a 38-20 victory for BYU.
The Wildcats have very little set in stone as far as their 2023 non-conference slate ahead of Big 10 play. They have just a date with New Mexico State on October 28 secured. They did announce they will play ACC foe Duke at some point, but a date has not been announced. There is one slot left for BYU to slide in and September 2 remains open for the Wildcats. Northwestern is two years removed from a Citrus Bowl win over Auburn and finishing No. 10 in the final AP poll. Despite both programs being around since before World War II, they have never matched up on the field.
BYU and Pitt certainly have a history. Famously, the Cougars began their historic run in 1984 to the national championship by beating then No. 3 Pitt on their own turf. Pitt returned the favor in 1987, beating the Cougars in Provo. The Panthers are coming off one of their best seasons in years, going 11-3 and making it to a New Year’s Six Bowl, finishing No. 13 in the final AP poll.
Now, for the pièce de résistance. The SEC allows for four non-conference games and so far, the mighty Crimson Tide have just two scheduled and none on BYU’s now open date. Alabama is coming off of 13-win season and being the national runner-up. Somehow getting Alabama to agree to come to Provo would be an incredible score for BYU. The chances of that are slim, as Alabama rarely, if ever, travels west of the Rockies. The image of Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide taking the field at LaVell Edwards Stadium to christen the Big 12 era of BYU football seems like something dreamt up or created on an Xbox. Even if BYU has to meet somewhere on neutral ground like Arlington, Texas would be a huge get.
It’s now up to BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe to make some magic happen. He has shown over the last decade of independence that he can make it work. Only time will tell.