PROVO – About the only noteworthy aspect that came out of BYU’s easy win over North Alabama literally centered around Zach Wilson’s head.
The star quarterback created a social media buzz with the words written on his headband, which was on prominent display as he stood on the sideline sans a helmet while watching his backup play in the second half. The word “any” was centered, followed beneath by the following: team, time, place.
The obvious statement referred to the heat the unbeaten Cougars have received for the perception of building a top-10 national ranking on the strength – or lack thereof – of a cupcake schedule. Wilson’s message was meant to enforce the theory that BYU won’t duck any Power 5 team if a game can be arranged during the program’s three bye weeks, starting this week and ending Dec. 19.
In short, BYU isn’t looking to pile up a season’s worth of wins against a bunch of lightweights. If this premise were true, athletic director Tom Holmoe already would have gone that route the last several years instead of annually scheduling as many Power 5 opponents as possible.
Within 24 hours of Wilson’s headband going public, the possibility of BYU playing Washington on Nov. 28 raged on social media. Both teams are open, let’s play – you know, any team, time and place.
Snap your fingers, game on. If only it were that easy.
With its Apple Cup rivalry against Washington State canceled due to COVID-19 reasons, Washington wants an opponent to play Thanksgiving weekend. BYU, whose original schedule was shredded over the summer, put together a 10-game slate that was reset on the fly but has only one game left, San Diego State at home on Dec. 12.
Washington reportedly contacted BYU about playing, but the possibility has several complications. For these reasons, Holmoe couldn’t commit to playing the game.
But, you know, what about the headband? Not entirely false, but certain conditions do apply.
Immediately after national pundits posted on social media slanted takes to make it appear BYU chickened out, critics went wild claiming the Cougars are frauds for ducking a Power 5 opponent. The theory goes the scared Cougars prefer to protect their gaudy record as a path to backdoor a New Year’s Six bowl game.
Among the many issues is coach Kalani Sitake informed the players after the last game they would have off Thanksgiving weekend. Several players already have booked flights home to their various destinations.
Also, with Washington belonging to the Pac-12, the conference’s first intent to is play league games before going outside the conference. On Sunday, the conference announced the Apple Cup postponement due to Washington State’s COVID issues and also moved Utah’s game at Arizona State back a day to Nov. 29.
The problem is the coronavirus has swept through the ASU program, causing the cancelation of last Saturday’s game against Colorado State. If the Sun Devils aren’t able to field a team this week, which remains a distinct possibility, the conference could quickly arrange a game between Utah and Washington.
The precedent already was set when the conference re-adjusted the schedule on 48-hour notice to arrange a game between Cal and UCLA earlier this month. Both teams lost a conference game due to COVID-19, leaving them open to play each other.
After his team lost to USC last Saturday, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham acknowledged the Utes may not play ASU this weekend. But he also said Utah wouldn’t play a non-conference opponent this week either, knowing that COVID may prohibit Washington State from playing Washington as scheduled (WSU was unable to play last week).
So, BYU gets a pass this time around. Either of the following two bye weeks may be another story.