Any team, any time, any place.
That’s what the Brigham Young football program tweeted at 2:03 p.m. Saturday, while leading a 0-4 FCS opponent named North Alabama at halftime by a score of 42-7. It’s also the sentiment BYU quarterback Zach Wilson – a Heisman Trophy contender, who sat out the second half – wore on a white headband as he stood happily on the sideline.
BYU won that game, 66-14, to improve to 9-0. Those nine wins, by the way, have come against opponents with a combined record of 30-38. They’ve come against three teams with winning records: 4-1 Boise State, 6-4 Texas-San Antonio and 4-3 Louisiana Tech. They’ve come against the likes of Texas State, Troy and the aforementioned North Alabama.
And to be fair, BYU – which next plays San Diego State on Dec. 12 – hasn’t been afforded much scheduling flexibility. Because the Cougars are an independent, and most prospective Power Five opponents are locked into conference-only schedules during a 2020 college-football season shortened by COVID-19, they’ve essentially been left out in the cold.
But any team, any time, any place?
Not Washington, not this weekend, and certainly not in Seattle.
According to a source, UW made contact with BYU on Saturday after it became apparent that the Apple Cup might not be played. The Cougars – who are ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll – responded that they preferred not to agree to a game until seeing their spot in the initial College Football Playoff ranking Tuesday.
On Sunday night Yahoo’s Pete Thamel produced a somewhat conflicting report stating that BYU wanted to play, but only if a contract could be locked in immediately. The Pac-12’s protocol states that if another conference opponent is available by Thursday, UW would have to play that team – even if a nonconference game had already been scheduled. It’s possible the Cougars might have struggled to adhere to the Pac-12’s daily COVID-19 testing standards as well.
Regardless of the reason, it appears Washington and BYU won’t be meeting for the third consecutive season. And that might ultimately be best for BYU’s CFP or New Year’s Six bowl bid, considering the Huskies won the past two games by a combined score of 80-26.
On Monday morning, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe released a statement.
“We remain open to exploring options to add football games, and have been throughout the season,” Holmoe said. “In that exploration process there are a variety of factors that need to be considered, including location, prep time for the game, the chances of the game being played, the testing protocols that are in place and what the game would do for our resume.
“At this point of the season, having played nine games and being nationally ranked, we are involved in discussions for possible matchups with other teams, on common open dates, for the benefit of both teams.”
It’s just unlikely those discussions will involve UW.
So with both Washington State and BYU almost certainly off the table, who might the Huskies meet on short notice this weekend?
Here’s the shortlist of possible opponents.
Utah (or other Pac-12 opponent)
This remains Washington’s most likely option, primarily because the Pac-12’s nonconference protocols state that such a game can only take place if:
•All Pac-12 testing and related protocols are adhered to by the nonconference opponent.
•The nonconference game is a home game for the Pac-12 team and broadcast by a Pac-12 television partner.
•If a Pac-12 opponent becomes available by Thursday in that given week, the conference game is played in lieu of any nonconference game.
So, in other words: if a Pac-12 team can play, that’s who the Huskies will play.
And Utah, so far, is the most eligible option. The Utes – whose first two games were canceled due to COVID-19 issues in their program – are scheduled to play at Arizona State on Sunday, but the Sun Devils’ past two games were also canceled due to their own COVID-19 outbreak. It’s unclear, at this point, whether ASU will reach the 53-player scholarship threshold to resume Pac-12 play.
And don’t forget that seven Pac-12 games have been canceled. If that trend continues the Huskies could have a conference dance partner by the end of the week.
San Diego State (or Wyoming?)
San Diego State was scheduled to meet Fresno State on Friday, but that game has been canceled due to contact tracing within the Bulldogs’ program. There’s also some concern that Wyoming will have a third consecutive game canceled due to its opponent’s COVID-19 issues, after UNLV was unable to play last week.
Logistically, scheduling a Mountain West opponent would appear feasible for UW. But it’s unclear whether either program would be capable of adhering to the Pac-12’s daily testing protocols, which is a mandatory criterion for any nonconference matchup.
The Golden Knights are 7-2 and aren’t scheduled to play again until the rivalry game against Navy on Dec. 12. The distance here could present some significant logistical challenges, and Army – same as SDSU or Wyoming – would have to comply with the Pac-12’s stringent COVID-19 testing protocols.
Also, from a strategic standpoint, it might prove an insurmountable task to prepare for Army’s triple-option offense on short notice.
But, you know what they say: Any team, any time, any place.
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