People who attended BYU’s football media day at the school’s broadcast center on Wednesday were greeted by a large banner proclaiming, “Welcome to the future home of Big XII football.”
None of the Cougar players or coaches wore equipment with the Big 12 logo, although a lot of the questions asked were about moving next season to the new league.
Two of the Cougars fandom’s best days will ever be Friday, September 10, 2021 (BYU announces it will join the Big 12 in 2023) and Saturday, September 11, 2021 (the Cougars hit Utah to end a painful nine-game no loss to the Utes).
With all the pats on the back for earning a Big 12 invite, BYU needs to stay focused on the season ahead of them. Terrific Power Five opponents such as Baylor, Oregon, Notre Dame, Arkansas and Stanford are on the roster, along with regional opponents from Boise State, Utah State and Utah Tech as well as the South Florida opener and games against Wyoming, Liberty and East Carolina.
Although, I have to say, it looks like BYU has given up a lot to play the Irish in Las Vegas this year, where Cougar fans are going to find some very hard-to-find tickets in what will be considered a home game of Our Lady.
I guess it’s better than not playing it at all, but still.
The BYU football program exists in a very unique place this spring. The Cougars know they will bid farewell to a 12-year stint in independence this winter, but still have to play a very difficult independent schedule this season. Luckily, this is a veteran and mature roster that looks like it can handle the mental and emotional challenge.
Players and coaches are well aware that a successful 2022 can be an important launching pad into the Big 12 airspace.
Generally, confidence is high in June and it certainly is in Provo. The attack is charged and the defence, which was quite good at the start before injuries decimated its depth, is sound.
Cougar coaches were quite optimistic about recruiting, noting that the biggest impact of the impending Big 12 move is that other teams can no longer play the “They’re not a P5 program anymore” card.
Like the rest of college football, BYU is learning to deal with name, image and likeness (NIL) mess – athletic director Tom Holmoe says too many rules are being broken and it’s all out of control . Last August, the school released information about Built Bar’s funding scholarships for walk-ons, a deal that seems odd compared to the millions of dollars some P5 programs offer potential recruits.
BYU coaches say huge NIL deals aren’t part of their recruiting pitch. Associate head coach Ed Lamb said he bets his professional life that you build programs by finding the right person, not ZERO money.
It’s hard not to like what BYU will put on the field in 2022. The offense has playmakers in skill positions, including NFL prospect Jaren Hall at quarterback and newcomer Christopher Brooks who earns his place at RB1 (according to offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick, anyway), a great group of talented receivers and tight ends and possibly one of the best offensive lines ever to wear blue.
The Cougars were No. 3 in the nation in red-zone offense in 2021, converting at 73%.
“We want to be No. 1,” Roderick said.
Defensively, BYU has plenty of experience and a chip on its shoulder after giving up a ton of yards and points in the second half of last season. Defensive end Tyler Batty said the Cougar defense would be much better at getting off the field and not allowing 12, 13 or 14 games like they’ve done too often in 2021.
BYU was 6-1 last year against opponents Power Five, though those six wins averaged just 8.3 points per game. Roderick said one of the big lessons learned from last year was just to find ways to win.
“That’s all that matters,” he said.
Getting into the Big 12 will allow BYU to focus more on the win, not the beauty of that win.
Head Coach Kalani Sitake is entering his seventh season in Provo and his “love and learning” culture is gaining momentum.
“What I really love about our culture is that with love and learning, there are no limits,” he said. “We have the growth mindset and you can always find new ways to love and learn.”