We have heard it all offseason. There is going to be somewhat of a rude awakening for the four incoming schools to the Big 12. BYU, Houston, UCF, and Cincinnati will embark on their first Power 5 conference schedule journey in 2023.
Their depth will be tested in ways they did not experience before. It will be a week-in, week-out battle for survival at college football’s highest level of competition. While these four schools are very deserving, it will likely not come without some growing pains and bruises.
However, it appears BYU is the best set up to take on this heavy workload among the four new kids on the block. They are best equipped to shoulder the beating of a Power 5 lifestyle.
What makes BYU different from the other three is that they are not coming from a Group of 5 conference. In fact, some conferences had already considered BYU a Power 5 opponent as an independent.
Not only that, but BYU has been scheduling in independence much more like a Power 5 team than not. As an independent, they had much more flexibility to schedule many Power 5 programs since they were not tied to a conference schedule, like UCF, Houston and Cincinnati were.
Over the last two seasons, BYU has played 12 games against Power 5 opponents. That is twice as many as any of the other three new schools.
BYU is 8-4 in those Power 5 games. Their eight wins are more than any other newcomer has played total games against Power 5 competition.
While UCF and Cincinnati are not too far removed from runs to a New Year’s Six Bowl and a College Football Playoff spot respectively, the level of consistent competition has been lower for them than it was for BYU in independence.
Some BYU fans lamented the brutal schedules the Cougars endured in independence. Now, that might be their saving grace.
The Cougars under Kalani Sitake have already learned some lessons that UCF, Cincinnati, and Houston will have to learn the hard way. Playing Power 5 team after Power 5 team beats upon you and tests your depth as injuries pile up.
Take 2019 for example. After losing to Utah, BYU burst onto the scene with huge overtime wins over Tennessee and USC. They then had to play the Washington Huskies depleted from two emotionally and physically taxing wins. Washington clobbered them 45-19.
However, BYU has also shown the ability to withstand such a schedule. BYU went 6-1 against Power 5 teams in 2021. They had more wins against Power 5 teams than a host of actual Power 5 programs that season. Plus, they were able to recover from the mid-season slump to beat Washington State, Virginia, and USC late in the year.
While BYU may not finish the 2023 season as the best newcomer on the block in regards to wins and losses, they appear to be the best equipped to deal with the weekly grind that is Power 5-level football.