How BYU rebuilt its schedule from scratch

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Ever since they left the Mountain West for independence in 2011, BYU has done a successful job of filling out its schedule each and every year.

The Cougars lined up games with the likes of Notre Dame, USC, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin, plus regular contests with their old Mountain West rivals (including Utah) while filling out the rest of the slate with a potpourri of teams from the Group of 5 and FCS.

In fact, plenty of BYU fans made the case that their schedules were too good. The Cougars would often play four Power 5 opponents by the time the calendar flipped to October, leaving a defeated and exhausted team to play out the string of a schedule that could not end in a conference or national championship.

Turns out, there was another weak spot that none of us ever could have spotted before 2020.

When a pandemic hits our shores and the Pac-12, the Big Ten, the Mountain West and the MAC cancel their seasons and the SEC goes conference-only, it turns BYU's schedule from this...

Sept. 3: at Utah
Sept. 12: Michigan State
Sept. 19: at Arizona State
Sept. 26: at Minnesota
Oct. 2: Utah State
Oct. 10: Missouri
Oct. 16: Houston
Oct. 24: at Northern Illinois
Nov. 6: at Boise State
Nov. 14: San Diego State
Nov. 21: North Alabama
Nov. 28: at Stanford

... to this.

Sept. 3: at Utah
Sept. 12: Michigan State
Sept. 19: at Arizona State
Sept. 26: at Minnesota
Oct. 2: Utah State
Oct. 10: Missouri
Oct. 16: Houston
Oct. 24: at Northern Illinois
Nov. 6: at Boise State
Nov. 14: San Diego State
Nov. 21: North Alabama
Nov. 28: at Stanford

Though the Pac-12, Big Ten, Mountain West and MAC eventually canceled their seasons in early August, BYU's schedule started crumbling back in July.

July 9:Big Ten announces conference-only season, canceling Michigan State and Minnesota games

July 10: Pac-12 announces conference-only season, canceling Utah, Arizona State and Stanford games

July 31: SEC announces conference-only season, canceling Missouri game

That cut the Cougars' schedule in half, leaving only the non-Power 5 games. Until the next round of cuts started.

Aug. 8:MAC cancels fall season, ending Northern Illinois game

Aug. 10: Mountain West cancels fall season, ending Utah State, Boise State and San Diego State games

But the same forces that worked against BYU also played in their favor.

When the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC went conference-only and the ACC and Big 12 moved to 1-game non-conference schedules, suddenly there were just 25 Power 5 non-conference games on the market for the American, Conference USA, Sun Belt and various FCS teams looking to play this fall. Independents like BYU and Army became the only game in town.

BYU opened fall camp Aug. 4 with six games still on its slate and started adding games as others fell off.

Aug. 6:BYU adds Sept. 7 game at Navy

Aug. 13:BYU announces home-and-home with Troy, beginning Sept. 26 in Provo

Aug. 19:BYU announces home-and-home with Army, beginning Sept. 19 at West Point

Aug. 21:BYU adds Oct. 31 home game with Western Kentucky

Aug. 26: BYU adds home games with UTSA (Oct. 10) and Texas State (Oct. 24)

As of today, BYU's new schedule looks like this:

Sept. 7: at Navy
Sept. 19: at Army
Sept. 26: Troy
Oct. 10: UTSA
Oct. 16: Houston
Oct. 24: Texas State
Oct. 31: Western Kentucky
Nov. 21: North Alabama

This new schedule won't be as exciting or profitable, but it generate more exposure for the program than even games with Utah, Michigan State and the like would have.

-- BYU's trip to Navy will be the only game going on ESPN on Labor Day night, filling a hole vacated by Georgia vs. Virginia.
-- Since the SEC doesn't start until Sept. 26, BYU's Sept. 19 trip to Army gets bumped up to CBS.
-- In a normal year, games with Troy, UTSA, Texas State, etc. wouldn't sniff ESPN on a mid-season Saturday. But this isn't a normal year. ESPN's Big Ten and Pac-12 inventory are gone, and ESPN still needs to stock a certain number of SEC and ACC games on their respective networks. So we could see more of the Cougars on the Mothership than we otherwise would have. #BYUAfterDark, anyone?

With space for up to four more opponents, Kalani Sitake's team might find 2020's Frankensteined schedule to be more enjoyable than the one they thought they were playing just a few months ago.