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Reports: Washington inquired about playing No. 8 BYU this weekend, but Cougars declined offer until release of CFP rankings

‘It’s off the table’: Washington’s request to play BYU on Saturday after the Apple Cup was canceled due to COVID-19 was rebuffed by the Cougars for a variety of reasons, including the Pac-12’s stipulations for nonconference games

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) runs against Washington Huskies linebacker Ryan Bowman (55) in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.
Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) runs against Washington Huskies linebacker Ryan Bowman (55) in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

After having its annual Apple Cup rivalry football game with Washington State canceled because of COVID-19 issues, Washington reached out to BYU to gauge the Cougars’ interest in replacing WSU this coming weekend, according to multiple national college football reporters.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, Kyle Bonagura of ESPN.com and Mike Vorel of the Seattle Times were among those who initially reported the possibility.

Later Sunday, Feldman reported that “BYU turned down the opportunity to play Washington this coming weekend” because it “wanted to wait until after the (College Football Playoff) rankings Tuesday” to assess where it stands.

BYU officials did not immediately return text messages seeking confirmation.

“It’s off the table,” Feldman reported, quoting unnamed sources.

Having defeated North Alabama 66-14 on Saturday, BYU is not scheduled to play again until Dec. 12 against San Diego State in Provo, but coach Kalani Sitake and athletic director Tom Holmoe have repeatedly acknowledged they would like to add more games to the schedule if the conditions are right.

“If you are going to assume anything, you should probably assume that we want to get games,” Sitake said. “And Tom is not a hard guy to get ahold of.”

A BYU-Washington rematch of last year’s 45-19 Huskies win at LaVell Edwards Stadium would have to be played in Seattle, per the stipulations the Pac-12 listed last week when it announced its teams could play nonconference games.

BYU would also have to adhere to all Pac-12 testing and related protocols, a possible stumbling block because the Cougars test differently and less frequently.

The Pac-12’s criteria also stipulates that the game must be broadcast by a Pac-12 television partner.

And, if a Pac-12 opponent becomes available by the end of the day Thursday in any given week, the conference game must be played in lieu of any nonconference game.

In essence, BYU would have to agree to a game that could be canceled Thanksgiving night if another Pac-12 teams needs an opponent.

Another Pac-12 requirement is that teams have 53 scholarship players available, including one quarterback, seven offensive linemen and four defensive linemen. It is not clear whether that rule would apply to BYU.

Last Monday, Sitake told the Deseret News that BYU, a college football independent, did not have a similar threshold to play games.

“We need 11 to play on offense, 11 to play on defense, and 11 to play on special teams. So that’s pretty much it,” he said. “… If there is enough to put on the field, we will play.”

Holmoe told BYUtv Saturday — long before it was known that Washington was seeking an opponent — that his search for games was on hold until the College Football Playoff rankings are released Tuesday night.

With each possible opponent that surfaces, the Cougars are obviously weighing the risks and rewards that such a matchup would do in regards to their long shot hopes of making the College Football Playoff and/or getting an invitation to a New Year’s Six bowl game.