Simply put, the only two BCS conference options for BYU that make sense would be invitations to join the Big XII or the PAC 10. I believe the best BYU fans should hope for is for the Big 10 conference to cherry pick Missouri or PAC 10 to grab Colorado and Utah. Why? So the Big XII can finally add BYU to its conference line up. Alignment with the Big XII has some major benefits over the PAC 10. Specifically:
1) BYU is a much better ideological fit for the Big XII than PAC 10 (read conservative vs. liberal, religious acceptance vs. religious animosity, heartland vs. left coast, etc.)
2) BYU gets a major expansion and boost to its geographic recruiting base. The Cougars will always recruit the West Coast well because of the high LDS population so this is not a major concern.
3) BYU would avoid much of the apparent "East Coast bias" from being in the PAC-10. Nationally, a "Big XII contender" is generally taken more seriously than a "PAC 10 contender."
4) BYU would paired to play schools like Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Kansas State at home on a regular basis. We know anything can happen at a Provo home game evidenced by wins over Miami, Texas A&M, Washington, Arizona State and Syracuse. Imagine playing against Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Texas. Win one of those and you get a 5-10+ jump in the ranking; win two and you're in line for the Big XII title game and a BCS bid; win all of them and you're a front-runner in the national title race.
5) BYU would get more "easy wins" in the Big XII than the PAC 10. This is the little secret for the Big XII powerhouses. Most only play 2-4 tough games a year and if things fall their way, they're up for the national championship. However, there is so much parity in the PAC 10. Just about all 10 schools have either won the conference or gone to a major bowl in the last 10-15 years. When was the last time Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas, Iowa State, Missouri or Oklahoma State won their conference in football or were playing on Jan 1st?
6) Big XII would probably be better on the "Sunday Play" issue than the PAC 10. This is definitely the fly in the ointment for BYU in any BCS conference.
7) Historically, BYU has greater success against Big XII teams than the PAC 10. I believe that the Big XII is the only BCS conference against which we have a winning all-time record vs. current members.
8) Indeed, a move to the Big XII or PAC 10 would mean more losses for the Cougars. But BYU could lose a game and still be in the national title race in the Big XII. That would be harder to do in the PAC-10. BYU could lose 2-3 games and still a shot for a New Years Day bowl game. Even losing 4-5 games would garner a more desirable bowl than any of the lesser bowl games with MWC ties.
9) The Big XII schools usually gets more money than the PAC-10 from bowl payouts.
So what would BYU's schedule look like in the Big XII?
Here's a look at perennial Big XII powerhouse Nebraska's schedule last year and how BYU might fare against the same competition: That's eight games in Provo against Arizona State, Troy State, Utah State, McNeese State, Missouri, Texas, Kansas and Colorado. Even for BYU, that's four almost automatic wins; two likely wins against Arizona State and Missouri; one toss up against Colorado; and one loss against Texas. A 6-2 home record would be expected.
BYU's away schedule against Penn State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Kansas State would be tough, but you could pencil in two or three wins in an average year. In a decent or average year, the Cougars could end 9-4 or 8-5 with that schedule, be ranked most of the season and head to a desirable bowl location with a good payout. A sub-par year would put us at 7-6 and still bowling. Still, with games against Troy State, McNeese State, Utah State, Kansas and Oklahoma State, it would be pretty tough to have a sub-500 year.
Last year, Nebraska went 7-6 with that schedule and played Ole Miss in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, LA. and a $1.2 million payout comparable to the MWC Champion Liberty Bowl purse.
Two years ago, Nebraska's game schedule also included eight home games (TCU, Troy State, Notre Dame, Rice, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Kansas State and only four road games (Missouri, Baylor, Kansas and Colorado). With only four "tough" games, three of which are at home (Oklahoma, Kansas State and Notre Dame), they lose their only tough away game at Colorado and they still play in the Rose Bowl national championship game against Miami.
What about a weaker Big XII North schedule?
Kansas last year played home games against SW Missouri State, Bowling Green, Colorado, Texas A&M, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. They had away games vs. Iowa St, UNLV, Tulsa, Baylor, Missouri and Nebraska and went 2-10 against this schedule.
This year BYU plays Georgia Tech, USC, New Mexico, Air Force, SDSU, Colorado State, Wyoming, UNLV, Boise State, Notre Dame and Utah. That doesn't look too much easier than what Kansas or Nebraska play year in and year out.
Here's a projected schedule of BYU in the Big XII's north division if the PAC 10 successfully wooed Colorado -- an "easy" year in the cross-division games with no games against Oklahoma or Texas.
vs Idaho vs Arizona State @ UCSD vs Nebraska @ Missouri vs Utah State @ Iowa State vs Baylor vs Kansas @ Kansas State @ Texas Tech vs Utah
Would 8-4 or 9-3 season and a great bowl be that hard? Is 11-1 or 12-0 and a run at the national title completely unthinkable? Surely, going sub .500 and no bowl game would be a surprise.
Also, don't overlook the fact one of the biggest benefits of leaving the MWC is BYU would no longer be every conference team's "bowl" game. After years of BYU domination followed by some down years and increased parity within the conference, this has made play tougher in the last decade or so.
Conversely, BYU would be the underdog more often in the Big XII. There are, however, drawbacks to being in the Big XII versus the PAC 10. Specifically:
1) Bad TV contract for Cougar fans. Big XII fans already complain they don't get to see enough games of their favorite teams.
2) BYU fan totals for away games would be much higher in PAC 10 games.
3) Less time to recruit the West Coast. More top talented LDS athletes would likely sign with a BCS conference BYU team. But membership in the PAC 10 would really expand BYU's recruitment of non-LDS talent in the region.
4) Fewer bowl ties in the western U.S. with Big XII.
Running the table is what you have to do in the PAC 10 to win a national championship game bid because of the East Coast bias -- that is, beating a tough USC or a Washington does not carry the same prestige or glory as a win over Texas or Oklahoma.
NEXT INSTALLMENT: What could happen to the Big East's BCS slot.
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