BYU football is ready to say goodbye to independence.
But, at least on paper, it won’t be easy.
The Cougars on Tuesday released their 2022 schedule, their final season as an independent. And after navigating a difficult schedule a year ago, this year’s slate doesn’t look any easier.
Here are three thoughts on what is in store for the next season.
An early test for injuries
If last year was marked by a rash of injuries, BYU will certainly get an early chance to address its health in 2022. Because its game against East Carolina was pushed up to October, BYU will now start the season with 10 weeks without a bye.
This grueling stretch includes trips to both coasts, a game in Las Vegas against nationally ranked Notre Dame and several home games against Power Five opponents.
Last year, BYU got hit with the injury bug almost immediately. This year, the schedule is not forgiving to early depth issues. BYU faces Big 12 champion Baylor in the second week of the season. Then it travels to Pac-12 stalwart Oregon right after. BYU’s lone game against an FCS opponent doesn’t come until November.
Within the first seven weeks of the season, BYU will play five teams that finished 2021 ranked in the national polls. The only reprieves will come against South Florida and Wyoming. But South Florida is returning 88% of its offensive production from 2021. And Wyoming won its bowl game last year.
A tougher test than last year?
On paper, BYU’s 2021 schedule was more difficult. It featured USC and Baylor on the road. It had Arizona on a neutral site. And it also boasted Utah and Arizona State at home.
But in reality, many of those teams had down years. USC went 4-8. Arizona went 1-11. Arizona State won only eight games after being nationally thought of to start the year.
So, this year’s schedule may actually turn out to be more treacherous for BYU. The Cougars will play five Power Five opponents, all of which were nationally ranked last year. It will add Notre Dame, a Fiesta Bowl participant in 2021.
In all, BYU’s FBS opponents for 2022 won 87 games last year and nearly 70% of their contests. BYU’s 2021 opponents went 72-71 last year, with three teams losing 10 or more games.
A swan song and a hello
BYU’s schedule will offer an early preview of the Big 12, but also pay homage to its last decade as an independent.
The home opener will come against Baylor, a future Big 12 opponent. But after that, BYU will travel to six different states and play teams from six conferences. This type of diversity in scheduling will be impossible as the program enters a conference in 2023.
BYU’s schedule is also dotted with rivalry games that might end in the near future. Boise State is on the schedule, a program that will likely stop playing the Cougars after they move to the Big 12. In-state rival Utah State is also coming to Provo in September.
The athletic department has been figuring out scheduling as it moves to 2023, prioritizing in-state games. As of right now, though, only Arkansas is confirmed to remain on the schedule going forward.
BYU’s 2022 football schedule
Sat, Sept. 3 at USF Bulls
Sat., Sept. 10 Baylor Bears
Sat., Sept. 17 at Oregon Ducks
Sat., Sept. 24 Wyoming Cowboys
Thu., Sept. 29 Utah State Aggies
Sat., Oct. 8 vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (in Las Vegas)
Sat., Oct. 15 Arkansas Razorbacks
Sat., Oct. 22 at Liberty Flames
Fri., Oct. 28 East Carolina Pirates
Sat., Nov. 5 at Boise State Broncos
Sat., Nov. 19 Utah Tech Trailblazers
Sat., Nov. 26 at Stanford Cardinal
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