Travel expenses are manageable for teams and fans; and BYU, with supporters in every state in the Pac-12 footprint, fills seats like few other road teams. The games themselves aren't the issue. In fact, there is no issue … unless the Cougars struggle ...
* The following commentary appeared in the Hotline newsletter on Wednesday (sign-up here) and has been updated and republished here for readers who missed the original …
Here’s an interpretation of chaos theory you probably hadn’t considered, starring Brigham Young as the butterfly:
Pac-12 football success over the coming years will depend, to a certain extent, on how well the Cougars flap their wings, so to speak.
Games won in Provo (and elsewhere) could impact College Football Playoff access in Los Angeles and Seattle (and elsewhere).
Of course, the inverse also holds: Loads of BYU losses would be bad news for the Pac-12.
This topic is a bit off-road, particularly in the middle of April, so let’s backtrack for a moment.
The crack Hotline research staff recently compiled a list of non-conference games for each Pac-12 team over the next five years.
I fully expected to find a slew of dates with BYU, which, as an Independent, is desperate to schedule home-and-home series with Power Five opponents.
But the extent of the relationship wasn’t clear until my deep dive into the schedules: Nine teams will play a total of 18 games against the Cougars during that timeframe.
Five years, 18 games.
That’s 10 percent of the non-conference total, locked up with one program.
Now, there are good reasons for all Pac-12 teams, not just Utah, to schedule the Cougars:
Travel expenses are manageable for teams and fans; and BYU, with supporters in every state in the Pac-12 footprint, fills seats like few other road teams.
The games themselves aren’t the issue.
In fact, there is no issue … unless the Cougars struggle in 2018 and beyond the way they struggle in 2017 (three FBS wins.)
Then the Pac-12 would have all those dates tied to an opponent that does nothing for, and perhaps even undermines, the conference’s strength-of-schedule — an opponent that provides no opportunity for quality wins to impress the playoff selection committee.
There’s an added component to the calculation:
BYU typically plays a handful of Power Five teams each season (upcoming schedules include Tennessee, Michigan State and Baylor).
In theory, if the Cougars are good, they would beat some of those opponents — and the Pac-12 would, in turn, get the collateral SOS boost from its victories over the Cougars.
That’s all another way of saying the conference needs the BYU of coming seasons to be the BYU of old. Or close to it.
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