PROVO — Lost in the flurry of BYU football news last weekend and Monday over the postponement of the BYU-Army game, athletic director Tom Holmoe announced another addition to the Cougars’ reconstructed 2020 schedule.
BYU will host Louisiana Tech on Oct. 2, the Friday before General Conference weekend, getting the school back to seven remaining scheduled games. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. MDT, BYU announced Wednesday, and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
That means next week’s home opener against Troy will begin a stretch of six straight weeks of games for the Cougars, barring a COVID-caused postponement or cancellation, like what happened last Saturday for the Cougars and Black Knights.
Then what happens? BYU still has open dates on Nov. 7, Nov. 14, Nov. 28 and Dec. 5. Their only scheduled November game is on the Nov. 21 against North Alabama, an FCS school.
Which schools are on Holmoe’s list of possible opponents?
At the top of the list are these teams: Army, Central Florida (UCF), Marshall, Alabama-Birmingham (UAB), Charlotte and Liberty.
Of course, Army and BYU have both said they want to make up the postponed Sept. 19 game if they can, so Army remains on the list, especially now that it doesn’t appear the Black Knights have found an opponent to replace BYU at Michie Stadium this Saturday, as athletic director Mike Buddie pleaded for last Sunday on Twitter.
Proof of that came when CBS announced the Appalachian State-Marshall game will replace BYU-Army in Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. MDT time slot.
“We still want to play them. Army is a really good team, and they are doing some great things right now, too,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “And I don’t think anyone else is 2-0. We would love to play that game.”
Army has an opening on Nov. 28, and on Wednesday longtime Army football beat writer Ken McMillan of the Times Herald-Record told BYU Sports Nation that he believes there is a 90% chance the BYU-Army game is played two days after Thanksgiving in West Point, New York.
“I don’ think it is going to be difficult to reschedule, to tell you the truth,” McMillan said. “… As far as I’m concerned, I think Nov. 28 is ideal, if both schools can agree. … There is no excuse not to play at the end of the year, barring any more issues with COVID and things of that nature.”
#V845U, #ArmyFootball: Here is a snippet from my interview with @BYUSportsNation this afternoon. Yes, I think BYU and Army will play this season, but I am no lawyer and don't speak for West Point. https://t.co/pC8nADZ384— Ken McMillan (@KenMcMillanTHR) September 16, 2020
Army coach Jeff Monken said in his weekly news conference Tuesday that they’ve discussed rescheduling the game, but aren’t ready to put it back on the schedule right now.
“We’ve got to look at where we’re at here in a couple weeks down the road and just see what happens with the rest of the football season. … We would love to play that game. They’re a great team and it would be a great opportunity for our program to play a team of that caliber. If we can do it, we will try to do it but right now we’ve got our schedule pretty set.”
Monken also said Army “will play anybody” and “would travel” this weekend because it wants to play so badly, but it is unclear if playing the game in Provo was ever discussed.
Sitake said the question of whether Army could have played at BYU instead is a question he couldn’t answer at Monday’s press briefing on Zoom.
What’s clear is that Holmoe remains active in searching for opponents. The Louisiana Tech addition proves as much, and verifies Holmoe’s Aug. 31 post on Twitter that BYU “could add games as the season progresses.”
Here are a few date-by-date possibilities:
Nov. 7: UCF, Marshall, UAB
Cougar fans would love a matchup with UCF, which has emerged as the top Group of Five team still playing this season. That’s especially true if a trip to Orlando comes with the promise of UCF visiting BYU down the road. The Knights currently have nine games scheduled, beginning Saturday against Georgia Tech, and also has an opening on Oct. 10, but BYU is hosting UTSA that day.
Marshall defeated Eastern Kentucky 59-0 on Sept. 5, but has had a Sept. 12 game at East Carolina and an Oct. 3 game vs. Rice postponed due to coronavirus concerns and might be looking at Nov. 7 as a date to make up those or other games that get postponed. A matchup with the Thundering Herd, be it in Provo or Huntington, West Virginia, would be a good, competitive game for the Cougars.
Alabama-Birmingham plays at La. Tech on Halloween and hosts North Texas on Nov. 14, but might be keeping Nov. 7 free for a makeup game. The Conference USA team defeated Central Arkansas 45-35 on Sept. 5 and lost 31-14 at Miami last week.
Nov. 14: Charlotte
The 49ers are the only FBS team with a current opening on Nov. 14. Problem is, they are playing on nine consecutive weekends before that date, and might be ready for a bye. Or, Charlotte could be saving the date for a postponement, like a lot of other teams.
Nov. 28: Army, Marshall, Liberty
Fellow independent Liberty lost four games off its original 12-game schedule when conferences canceled or postponed their seasons amid the pandemic, but added North Alabama and Coastal Carolina and announced on Aug. 19 that its 10-game schedule was “finalized” for 2020.
The Flames have an opening on Nov. 28, but are likely saving that in case there is a September or October postponement; still, BYU could fill that spot, especially if the Army game can’t be worked out. Liberty is slated to host BYU in 2022 in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Dec. 5: South Alabama, Georgia State, Georgia Southern
The Sun Belt Conference is holding its championship game on Dec. 12, but these three solid programs might be willing to talk toward the end of the season if it is apparent they aren’t going to be in the title game.