Much has been made of BYU’s inability to gain an exception to BCS automatic qualifying rules and enable itself easier access to BCS stardom. While an important facet in BYU’s postseason outlook, the idea that BCS access is a make-or-break step to the postseason success overstatement. Critics of BYU’s decision to test the waters of football independence have been quick to point out this, the most recognizable flaw to the plan. Don’t believe it.
During the 2011 and 2012 seasons, BYU is scheduled to play four schools from BCS conferences. In the past twenty years, BYU has played four BCS schools during a single regular season just once (2003). In fact, the Cougars have only played three BCS opponents in a regular season just five times. Since 2005, the Cougars have played no more than two BCS teams during the regular season.
The 2011 numbers may be inflated, with Utah now counted as a BCS opponent, whereas in the 1990-2010 numbers it is not. But the numbers will only get better as time goes on. The scheduling agreement with the WAC will run its course and by 2013, BCS opponents should be more numerous than ever before.
This is a key element to the success of BYU football going forward. Without guaranteed access to the BCS, the Cougars still have the ability to play tough, BCS opponents anywhere from five to seven times per season. Independent of BCS conference inclusion, the Cougars have no better alternative. BYU will be playing name programs a number of times per season, on national television no less.
Playing a national schedule, against some of the best teams in the country, will be a boon to the program and will raise the visibility of BYU football across the board. It is up to the Cougars to win and keep the spotlight in a glowing hue. Every week brings the possibility of a bowl game atmosphere.
Some may ask: Didn’t BYU play BCS schools in its recent bowl games? And with the current bowl agreements (2011: Armed Forces v. Conference USA/2012: Poinsettia v. MWC/2013: Kraft v. Pac-12) aren’t the Cougars actually in a worse position relative to bowl game opponents? Yes, but it’s not that significant nor is it an important factor.
With the exception of Oregon State and California, BYU hasn’t played a ranked BCS opponent in a bowl game since 1996. With the ability to play teams like West Virginia and Notre Dame moving forward, the Cougars will have greater bang for their buck. Instead of a sixth or seventh place Pac-10 team, BYU will be able to choose who it plays. And if the scheduling rumors of teams like Nebraska, Penn State, USC, and Wisconsin come to fruition, BYU fans may be blessed with a bowl game like contest every other week.