BYU and Utah not playing every year doesn’t compute

BYU receiver Gunner Romney (18) catches a pass from quarterback Zach Wilson while defended by Utah defensive back Jaylon Johnson.

BYU wide receiver Gunner Romney hauls in a pass while being defended by Utah defensive back Jaylon Johnson during game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. | Colter Peterson, Deseret News

Utah is hardly the only Power Five team that schedules FCS opponents, but not playing BYU annually isn’t right

The BYU-Utah rivalry game is back after a one-year break that was forced by the pandemic. There is no sporting event in Utah that is anticipated more than this showdown. Too bad it’s going away for a while. The Utes and Cougars aren’t scheduled to play again until 2024.

Here we go again. This is a tired subject, one that keeps resurfacing because of wrongheaded thinking on the Hill. Picking up where his predecessor left off, Utah athletic director Mark Harlan has tried to justify why the Utes aren’t playing the Cougars the next two seasons.

“We play nine conference games, which is more than some conferences. You’ve got to figure all those are going to be battles,” Harlan told the Deseret News earlier this year. “We play BYU, but some years we might take a year or two off. In general, I would like to see another premier opponent when we can that matches up and makes sense to complement that overall philosophy.”

Chris Hill, the school’s previous AD, came more to the point in 2012, when the Utes decided to not schedule football games with BYU in 2014 and 2015. Hill reasoned that it was too much to play the Cougars when they had scheduled Michigan those years.

“What we have to do is make sure we don’t come close to overscheduling,” Hill told the Salt Lake Tribune at the time. “I can’t expect us to play 11 really, really difficult games in a season.”

Why not? This presupposes that the Utes even have 11 “really, really difficult games.” More on this later.

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It’s a long-accepted practice in college football of course. The Utes — and almost everyone else in the FBS ranks — suffer from what they call risk aversion in the finance world. To avoid a potential loss, they look for a team that will mean a sure win. We all know this.

Harlan’s “overall philosophy” is to take periodic breaks from games with the Cougars while also making room on the schedule to play FCS schools. Instead of playing BYU the next two seasons, Utah will play Southern Utah in 2022 and Weber State in 2023, both of them FCS schools. In the last 14 years the Utes have played 10 FCS opponents and won by a combined score of 404-95, including three shutouts — an average score of 40.4 to 9.5. Their victims were Northern Colorado, Weber State, Idaho State, Southern Utah and North Dakota.

Almost all the Power Five schools do the same thing, which doesn’t make it any more palatable. According to a recent report by Forbes, only 15 of the 130 FBS schools will not play an FCS opponent this …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Sports News

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