BYU Football: Searching for a New Rival?
Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images
With one season of independence under its belt, BYU seems to have lost the allure of a rivalry matchup, a game fans and players alike look forward to each season.
Sure, the Cougars have Utah on their schedule, but without the stakes of a conference championship and a bowl berth in the offing, the Holy War has lost its luster. Not to mention the new deal between the Pac-12 and Big Ten is already threatening to eventually do away with the BYU-Utah rivalry anyway.
It’s not that there isn’t the potential for an exciting rivalry with the Utes, but without the meaningful implications that Utah and BYU fans have grown accustomed to over the years, the game just isn’t what it used to be.
What the Cougars need is a fresh rivalry, one that doesn’t have a long history—but can develop into one—and that can be built up in quick fashion.
Fans may want to hold on to the Holy War tradition and memories of games gone by, but seriously, the rivalry went kaput the moment the Utes bolted for the Pac-12.
Because the game is just another nonconference game for the Utes and a game that carries as much weight as any other on the Cougars’ regular-season schedule, the BYU-Utah rivalry is dead on arrival.
BYU needs to plant seeds for a new rivalry or two—or three—to blossom. Some may argue that without a conference affiliation, a rivalry is impossible.
Au contraire, mon ami!
Notre Dame—also an independent—has managed to keep not one, not two, but three rivalries intact over the years.
Notre Dame-USC, Notre Dame-Stanford, Notre Dame-Michigan. Each a rivalry game that keeps things interesting and draws big attendance and ratings.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the top four potential long-term rivals for BYU.
No. 4: USC
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
For many Utahans, those two words alone are enough to invoke excitement, especially when used in the same sentence as Disneyland.
Weekend vacation possibilities aside, a USC-BYU rivalry would be good for both schools. Because the Trojans are regularly considered one of the top programs in the nation, an annual matchup would be a good barometer for the Cougars to assess their own talent.
An annual tilt with BYU could provide USC with a dose of reality, as well.
While the Trojans would likely be favored—and favored heavily—against the Cougars at first, it would put BYU in a position to show what it can do against an elite team. An underdog with a point to prove is a dangerous thing.
This annual matchup could also do wonders for ESPN’s BYU game ratings.
No. 3: UCLA
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
See previous slide, but with one difference: dominance.
BYU would likely dominate this potential rivalry at first, but give Jim Mora a couple of years to rebuild the program and BYU-UCLA could become a highly anticipated, evenly matched rivalry game.
Typically, highly anticipated, evenly matched games equal good games and high ratings.
Besides, who wouldn’t love to see the Cougars playing on a national stage with the historic Rose Bowl as a backdrop every other year?
No. 2: Notre Dame
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Because both schools are religiously affiliated and compete as independents, an annual BYU-Notre Dame rivalry game would give truer meaning to the term Holy War.
The Cougars and Irish have intermittent games scheduled over the next nine seasons, but an annual matchup has the potential for drawing even more interest.
Why not establish a rivalry between the two most successful independent programs? The game could be for top-dog independent bragging rights.
To keep the religious aspect of this potential rivalry involved, a trophy of some sort could be awarded to the winning team each year. Maybe with the Angel Moroni and Touchdown Jesus emblazoned on it?
We’ll get a sneak peek at this potential rivalry on Oct. 20, 2012. Stay tuned.
No. 1: Boise State
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
As Bleacher Report featured columnist Ryan Teeples pointed out in a recent article, a BYU-Boise State matchup on Thanksgiving Day is something that would draw a lot of interest and could become a holiday staple.
The Cougars and Broncos might have the same thing in mind, having inked a deal that includes annual games through the 2023 season, though not on Thanksgiving.
If any of these potential long-term rivalries is going to have a chance to catch on, it’s this one.
Whether the game is played over Thanksgiving weekend or not, a BYU-Boise State annual matchup is a long overdue rivalry in the making.
Thanks to the deal, BYU and Boise State fans will have a chance to take this rivalry for a test drive into the next decade.