BYU finds itself in the thick of an independent life in Ohio this weekend. It is the first time BYU has played a football game in the Buckeye State.
These road trips are an adventure. This one is the third trip into the Eastern time zone for the Cougars. Back in the day showmen Bob Hope and Bing Crosby created their famous road movies "The Road to Singapore," "The Road to Morocco," "The Road to Bali" and others.
In his first season as BYU head football coach, Kalani Sitake has his Road to Landover, Road to East Lansing and Road to Phoenix.
Now, this in Ohio.
None of Sitake’s road trips have been comedies. They’ve been dramas, fully appreciated by networks like Fox Sports 1, Fox, ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC. These have been nationally televised football games, giving Sitake’s program exposure money can’t buy.
Although Saturday’s opponent, Cincinnati, is in the American Athletic Association, this is Big Ten territory, a region dominated by Power 5 talk.
This is independence 2016 and Sitake’s boss, athletic director Tom Holmoe, likes what he sees.
In a unique video released to the public Friday, Holmoe extolled BYU’s road of independence as his first in-depth response to the Big 12 telling the world it won’t be expanding to 12 or 14 teams. Yet.
Holmoe did this to set the record straight.
Two years ago BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall, anxious to get into a Power 5 conference, said being an independent is not sustainable. He did not elaborate if it was because of money, scheduling, recruiting or paying his staff. He just said it wasn’t a long-term solution.
At that time, Holmoe agreed, but with some reluctance because he did not know.
On Friday Holmoe buried his reluctance. Yes, probably by necessity, but it was his theme. He declared the school’s administration has a “newfound energy and stronger desire” to take on independence and represent BYU and the sponsoring LDS faith. He said BYU was reaching and surpassing its goals as an athletic department.
And then there was this:
“We are averaging 10 football and 14 men’s basketball games a year on ABC or ESPN. Our partnership with ESPN is strong and it is unique. It gives us an opportunity to play in front of some of the nation’s best competition in front of a national audience.”
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That is a big deal in terms of exposure. We’ll have to see how it impacts the ever-important recruiting game.
It has been a rocky road for Holmoe to establish a routine football schedule since 2010. But this season provides a taste of what it could be like with games against Arizona, Utah, Mississippi State, West Virginia and Michigan State.
Essentially, it is a Power 5 schedule.
The 4-4 Cougars battle the 4-4 Bearcats Saturday. This game will be on Cincinnati’s contracted league network, CBS Sports.
If any of BYU’s previous road games are any indication of Sitake squad’s penchant for theater, it should be worth watching.
This week’s picks:
Ohio State 34, Nebraska 28: Urban Meyer goes a husking.
Texas A&M 44, Mississippi State 21: Aggies retain CFP standing.
Virginia 24, Wake Forest 21: Bronco enjoys fruits of labor.
Oklahoma State 32, Kansas State 14: Cowboys flex some Big 12 muscle.
Stanford 21, Oregon State 17: Cardinal deliver much-needed win.
Baylor 33, TCU 27: Bear offense outraces TCU.
Texas 33, Texas Tech 31: Longhorns get it done down stretch.
West Virginia 38, Kansas 14: Mountaineers still in Big 12 hunt.
Washington State 38, Arizona 24: Mike Leach’s air raid rules.
San Diego State 42, Hawaii 27: Aztecs sniff MWC championship.
New Mexico 33, Nevada 24: Lobos are a pesky force in Rockies.
Colorado State 28, Fresno State 21: Rams too physical for ‘Dogs.
USC 42, Oregon 24: Trojans won’t lose another game.
Wyoming 28, Utah State 21: Boise State killers feeling just fine.
Washington 33, California 28: Huskies just too consistent for Bears.
BYU 28, Cincinnati 21: Taysom Hill, Jamaal Williams deliver.
Last week 4-5; 62-45 (.579)