The headline says it, so let's not be coy. No. 1 is Texas. But I will tell you why in another slide. For now, let's look at the situation.
BYU is independent meaning it does not have a built-in rival that it plays each year in-home or home games where fans get all hyped up, travel, say mean things to each other and blow up like pufferfish when they win or lose.
It's fun as anyone who has ever gone to a USC-UCLA game, or Michigan-Ohio State or other big rivalry can tell you. Painted faces, lots of hype, perhaps ESPN Game Day shows up, the bands are playing and trying to out play each other, cars with license plates customized for one team or another, flags streaming from car windows, cops giving out tickets for all sorts of tom-foolery.
A rivalry game is just plain fun.
BYU needs one. It pretended to have one in Utah for over 50 years. They were next door, there was the Mormon school versus the half-Mormon school upstate, red vs. blue, etc.
But really, it just didn't work. For all the hype, it never really was as terrific as Michigan-Ohio State except in a few small minds. The antics of Utah fans painting a red U on the white Y on Y Mountain, dumping red paint on Cosmo's bronze statue in front of the stadium and painting the street red, all were annoying pranks but did nothing to hype the game itself.
Much of the time BYU was either busy running roughshod over a Ute (mostly through the air) or getting run into the ground (literally).
Utah, to their credit, gets the nod in the last 100 years winning 51-31 and 4 ties. But for a 10-year run by BYU, it would have even been worse.
But I have a caveat here as any loyal blue fan would. BYU wasn't playing real college football but more club football for the early years. They were more of a Division II school getting their heads knocked around by a Division I school before growing up.
Nonetheless, the record is what it is. I imagine Idaho State thinks the same thing regarding its record with some schools.
Not the point. The point is, for BYU to be truly successful on a national stage of independence they need a good old fashioned rivalry.
Mormon vs. Methodist, Mormon vs. Catholic, East vs. West. Something we can gloat over and chant before having a good brat and apple beer with our enemy after the game.
I have given this some thought and propose eight candidates to you. I will also include as an added bonus a slide of some teams I think BYU should never play again. EVER!
It is time to break out of the Utah (the state) syndrome and stop thinking of BYU as a "mountain west" team. We need to think big, as in BIG.
There is no bigger big than Texas. Big reputation, big school, big money, big exposure, big recruiting area, big LDS population north, south and east of Austin and growing in Austin—big, big and big.
But that isn't why. All good reasons.
It is this, Longhorn Network v. BYUtv. Both universities have their own channel.
BYUtv stretches its branches across the well both east and west to foreign lands as well as covers the continents north and south. Longhorn Network reaches into almost every home in Big 12 land. That spells dual exposure, two for the price of one. You know the ads on TV: "But wait, there's more; you can get a second free, just pay for additional shipping."
Well, this is the place were additional shipping doesn't even apply.
Play Texas and you get a game on ESPN, then replayed on both Longhorn and BYUtv. Can't get better than that.
I don't care if we have to go to Texas for the first 15 years and get them to come to BYU only five of those 15. Each time we go we will go with a bigger fan base, a bigger recruiting opportunity, a bigger reach out to members in Texas, a bigger chip on our shoulder to win in their house and we'll share that Russian boar brat and brisket with a hearty helping of "deep in the heart of Texas."
We need to teach Cosmo how to throw a lasso and have that prominently featured with him in a cowboy hat, six gun, boots and rope. Perhaps riding in on horseback wouldn't be a bad thing either. Perhaps we can get our own longhorn and ride in on him in Provo.
Good fun and a fan base the world over that would enjoy the show. And BYU is ahead in the series 2-1, and that loss was only by 1 point. Not many schools can say that about games with Texas.
But there's more. You know there had to be.
There are other schools in Texas whom, seeing BYU come to town, might be interested in scheduling some of that kind of exposure and fun. There are two patsies in the wings, UT-San Antonio and Texas State.
Then there is of course TCU, Texas Tech, SMU, Rice, Houston, Texas A&M and Baylor.
A Texas-BYU game seen on BYUtv and Longhorn Network year in year out will have a draw among the young men in those schools recruiting grounds that will see BYU regularly and know who they are, and their principles and standards, and that if they play for BYU, they will be seen on their parents' TV, and all their friends' as well.
Something only Texas itself can offer.
Establishing a rivalry isn't just about what goes on on the field, it is about being a rival for the assets off the field. National exposure, rankings, excellence and the players that get you there. I think BYU can give Texas a good run for its money and be a true rival, more than what Texas A&M couldn't even do.
Next up: Hawaii
Speaking of recruiting in your opponent's backyard.
A perfect rival for that is none other than Hawaii.
This has been a long standing rivalry that BYU just hasn't really embraced. BYU leads in the series 20-8. The first five years BYU was 1-4. It was a rough start. But BYU got its sea legs and ran off 10 straight wins before being spanked in the Ty Detmer era twice. They were down right rude to us. I still remember the games in 1989 and 1990.
BYU was big, strong, fat, talented. Hawaii small, fast, strong, quick, warrior-like. They ran through the O-line like it was corn stalks, sacking Detmer 10 times in one game. That was down right rude to a guy about to get the Heisman Trophy.
This is a natural rival. Many island kingdoms in the Pacific have large LDS populations some reaching almost 50 percent.
Wherever Hawaii recruiters go, there also BYU should be found among the LDS faithful youth in Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and all of the other Islands. Along with BYU football should be the coaches for Rugby, volleyball and the Olympic sports.
The Pacific Rim is a natural hunting ground for athletes for BYU, and that includes BYU-Hawaii. The presence and exposure of a BYU-Hawaii rivalry should be and would be a natural vacuum for BYU to gobble up all eligible LDS athletes capable of playing at that level of competition.
It should also lead to some interesting game locations. Perhaps instead of a home and home BYU could propose a home and away, with a game in Auckland, New Zealand (great for BYU Travel department tour and missionary tour), or Australia, Japan and even China.
If the world is our campus, then our games should reflect that kind of reach, and Hawaii is the furthest west that would be a natural rival to our recruiting for both players and fans. The Pacific Rim is just awakening to BYUtv, Hawaii would be a great addition to that spirit.
And, in addition, it should be the last game of the year. No matter how well or poorly you did in the regular season you could always promise your players an exciting trip to Hawaii at least twice in their playing career, and perhaps an even greater adventure to more exotic locations. Young men of 18 get impressed by that sort of thing.
So that is game two, Texas, and game 12, Hawaii. Whom should we sandwich in between?
Rivalry number three. An East Coast team.
It doesn't make a difference where—in the south of the East Coast is better than middle or northern states.
An SEC team won't be likely to take BYU on for their second game of the year. The SEC jealously guards its ability to have as winning a season as possible so they don't play far from home, at odd hours or competition that can beat them, unless you are nationally ranked and there is a big TV payout. BYU doesn't offer that at this time.
This team may even be a composite. Say Clemson one year, Eastern Carolina the next, a Florida team.
The ACC would be a good bastion to assault. In that whole realm there is Duke—perfect for BYU—Wake Forest—competitive now and then—North Carolina, Virginia and Boston College. The real advantage of a Boston College is the opportunity to go really far east. As in play the game in London or Ireland.
The problem with Boston College is it doesn't have the exposure BYU needs and wants. Florida State does.
But one of them must be looking for an opportunity to expand its recruiting and exposure, and BYUtv can give that to one of them. A long-term agreement with some flexibility is what is needed. We can renegotiate the details later once BYU is a preseason top-20 team for the third year in a row and finishes in the top 10 for the last two years. That is what brings leverage.
Right now, BYU offers opportunity, not leverage. So let's take up Boise State's mantra, "anyone, anywhere, anytime, and we will beat you."
With our home base covered with Hawaii, and our second game covered with Texas, the third game covered with an ACC rival - of sorts, our next target should be two pronged, north, and west again. Let's go north.
BYU needs quality wins. If you have a Big 12, ACC and Big 10 on your schedule then you are beginning to get there. My pick here is Minnesota.
Wow! Why Minnesota, you ask?
Simple. BYU can beat them year in and year out. Minnesota is the little guy in the Big 10 and will be for decades. Maybe forever.
Two other teams in that area are Illinois and Indiana or as an alternative Northwestern. But Northwestern doesn't have an audience. So I rule them out. Purdue would be great, but they are locked up. And likewise from now until 2015 are the rest of these teams. They are filling their out of league schedule with FCS teams and MAC conference teams. They too are trying to get bowl eligible by playing down, not up.
Hence the sustained myth of how good the BIG 10 is, and others as they pad their win-loss column with teams like Indiana State Sycamores. Isn't that a tree?
Bowling Green and North Texas Mean Green. I guess if Stanford can be red (cardinal—yeah, the color, not the bird), North Texas can be green. Only mean about it. I guess if your mascot was a color you'd get pretty mean about it at some point too.
If you look at each of the BIG 10 teams schedule you find three patsies for each team to start the season with. So all they have to do is go 3-6 in league and the three patsies and you are bowl eligible. Sweet, huh?
OK, we will need to look for something other than the BIG 10. How about the MAC?
The problem is there is no regional team worth spending the money and time on or giving the exposure to. They are a bunch of also-ran teams that under the new system of Final Four Collegiate Championship Games will slip into a Division 1-A status at some point. That just has to come and the MAC is primed for that designation right now.
How about C-USA? If we do that, we are giving up the north and heading central states. Well, a team has got to do what they have to do. There are some interesting candidates here.
Rice: small fan base, small school, good TV market, good recruiting area, good LDS market.
UCF: big fan base, big school, good TV market, good recruiting area, fair LDS market.
Well, we ran that one to ground pretty quick. Both of their schedules are looking empty. UCF is going Big East so that would be a bonus, and BYU has a two-game stint with them currently. UCF puts BYU back in the south, but then, it's in Florida—good travel, 500,000 LDS in the Southern States, good recruiting. And a rivalry against BYU might enable UCF to come get some of the kids that would otherwise go to Utah. Oh, that's rich.
Do we have any recommendations for them we can share?
Next: West Coast
BYU has had good luck with the Pac. Whatever their number be, there has been a good relationship with Washington, Oregon State, and from the old WAC days Arizona and Arizona State.
Washington or Arizona State would be my pick for the Pac-12, and San Diego State for the Big East in the West. I reserve Boise State for later consideration.
Washington has Steve Sarkisian, a former BYU quarterback. Good rivalry formula. Also there is a good density of LDS in Washington. Washington State might be a surprise with Mike Leach there. But no market for what BYU wants to do, and we want this to be long term, 20 years or better.
We aren't big enough to attack Stanford, Cal, USC or UCLA. Arizona is too small a market, and Utah—well, that is over. Never remarry your ex or even date her. In fact, the wise man won't even call her. Notice recently the AD there confirmed they aren't accepting our calls anyway.
The alternative is San Diego State. Good media, good LDS market, sets BYU up for a local fan base for Poinsettia Bowl, and now that they are an officially first-tier team by being admitted to the Big East, they would be a good quality team to play every year. Not that they weren't before. And the recruiting territory of California would be good competition.
That brings me to homeland. Someone near home every year fans can jump into their cars or a cheap flight and make the big game. A homecoming-game rivalry. Win or lose, this is the guy you are going to fight with, in fun, for the next 20 to 25 years and enjoy it.
Here is where I suggest Boise State. They are close; they are not a big market but are a big LDS market. 400,000 LDS in Idaho and growing fast. Within 10 years the population of Idaho could be 50 percent LDS. In 20 years it could rival Utah's LDS percentage.
Boise State is a state school with all of the attributes that many BYU fans could have hoped for from Utah.
A competition with respect. No matter what you say about Texas-Texas A&M, you say it toward either of them with respect in Texas. Orange and Crimson stand side by side around the fire and laugh and joke, but shoulder to shoulder to the world. That is what BYU needs. That never was the promise with Utah; that is what needs to be the promise in BYU's next key rival.
BYU won't find it in Colorado, Air Force or Colorado Springs. Nor any of the other MWC teams. Boise State can be a great hope. If only they didn't have that ugly blue turf.
No matter. We can wear all white there, and make them wear all orange when they come to Provo. It's only fair. Maybe one year we will surprise them with an all-green uniform the color of grass, or paint the whole field white and wear white uniforms, them in orange. The fun could be endless.
This is another class team who has earned their place in national attention. We should respect it, and help them and offer them another leg up as we climb the same ladder. Boise State, thank you for growing up and becoming great. Now, want to rumble?
Say "I do," and both you and BYU will profit nicely thereby.
I include this in my "rivalry" list because this is where the rivalry is OVER.
New Mexico State
Utah—well, maybe once every five years or so
Any other team from Utah or Idaho besides besides Boise State
San Jose State
UTEP—they cheated; that's a death sentence
Any FCS team except from the Big Sky and then ONLY at home and ONLY the first game of the season
The above list is the list of "been there done that." Like taking your sister to the prom, at least you have a date, but, once you have done it, you just better take in a movie instead and tell everyone you were sick or had to work.
And the final rival BYU needs to add: Notre Dame.
What fun. We can have fun with them for years.
I envision after painting the field white for Boise State, the next week when Notre Dame comes to town, BYU takes the field in a throwback uniform of gold pants, plain dark blue jerseys with white numbers, and a white BY on the shoulder. Perhaps a dark-blue helmet with the stark white letters BYU on it.
Notre Dame would be looking at themselves, 100 years ago. Talk about deja vu. The Holy War game, between two religious-sponsored schools. The two biggest religious institutions in the country. We might even have to add seats to the stadium or build a new one.
Looking ahead 10, 25, 50 years, one might dream. But if BYU will plan today for that day yet to come, it will happen. If fans and supporters sit around and wait for it to come, all it will ever be is just wishful thinking.
Well, there's my wishful thinking for the rivals I would like to see BYU have. Go get 'em, big blue.