BYU will not have an easy road during its first year in the Big 12 Conference.
Per ESPN’s updated Football Power Index, the Cougars will have the third most difficult schedule of all Big 12 programs in 2023, behind only Texas (No. 12) and West Virginia (No. 26).
ESPN’s analytics considers BYU’s 2023 slate the 28th most difficult schedule in the country, and with the Cougars ranked No. 60 overall by the index it is easy to understand why BYU is only expected to win four or five games in 2023.
The Cougars will play only one FCS opponent this year (Southern Utah on Sept. 9) and just one Group of Five opponent (Sam Houston State on Sept. 2, which is transitioning to the FBS this season).
BYU’s remaining 10 opponents are all Power Five programs, nine of whom won six or more games in 2022 and earned bowl eligibility.
Texas and West Virginia edge BYU for the hardest schedules in the Big 12 in part because of their nonconference opponents.
The Longhorns travel to Alabama early in the season (on Sept. 9), while the Mountaineers visit Penn State (Sept. 2) and host rival Pitt (Sept. 16).
Here is where Big 12 programs rank in terms of schedule difficulty for the 2023 season, according to ESPN:
- Texas Longhorns — No. 12.
- West Virginia Mountaineers — No. 26.
- BYU Cougars — No. 28.
- Iowa State Cyclones — No. 33.
- Kansas State Wildcats — No. 34.
- Texas Tech Red Raiders — No. 36.
- TCU Horned Frogs — No. 38.
- Kansas Jayhawks — No. 39.
- Baylor Bears — No. 43.
- Houston Cougars — No. 44.
- Oklahoma Sooners — No. 48.
- UCF Knights — No. 53.
- Cincinnati Bearcats — No. 67.
- Oklahoma State Cowboys — No. 70.
The difficulty in BYU’s schedule is understandable given the Cougars’ entry into the Big 12 but also jarring when compared to previous seasons.
For instance, BYU finished with the 73rd hardest schedule in the country in 2022, the 70th hardest schedule in 2021, and the 69th hardest schedule in 2020.
In the last decade, BYU’s hardest schedule ranked No. 30 and that was during the 2013 season. Since then, every Cougars schedule has ranked in the 60s or 70s nationally in terms of difficulty.