Barring some last minute catastrophe, BYU is set to announce that they have joined the Big 12 this week. The remaining eight members of the conference appear to be committed to sticking together and wading through the tumultuous times that lie ahead. The PAC-12 orchestrated the meaningless and contract-less Alliance of Best Friends with the Big Ten and ACC and then announced that they have no intention of expanding in the immediate future. If we take them at their word, the Big 12 seems like a safe place for BYU to join.
With that background, let's celebrate. BYU is officially part of the Bowl Alliance! BYU is an Automatic Qualifier for the BCS! BYU is a Power 5 program! It's the thing that we have always wanted and it's here. That's GREAT news!
So, obviously, that is going to bring a huge uptick in recruiting, right? I sure think it will. But after a week of pestering recruits about the Big 12 rumors, the feedback that I received was really, really surprising.
All of the players that I spoke with are members of the 2022 or 2023 classes. All of them have long offer lists and the vast majority of them are three-star or higher players. I asked all of them the exact same question of, "What kind of impact does BYU going to the Big 12 have on your recruitment? Big impact or not so much?"
Here are the responses that I received:
"Not much because I liked BYU before they started getting all this attention! I like them regardless if they go into the Big 12 or not."
"Not a big deal for me. As long as I can be part of a great program like BYU has then I'm glad to be part of it."
"Of course it has an impact. I am trying to play the best of the best. But, really, I am just trying to find a college that feels like home."
"BYU always has a tough schedule so them joining the Big 12 doesn't affect their competition. With their coaching staff and players, they will get the job done anywhere."
"It's not a big for me personally. I love BYU no matter who they are."
And the most surprising response?
"Honestly, it doesn't make a huge impact for me. Honestly, I wish they would stay independent just because the Big 12 is falling apart."
Well that's not what any of us expected to hear!
I chatted with Margin Hooks after the news looked like it was more concrete to try and get his thoughts on the whole ordeal. Hooks, if you don't already know, is a big time wide receiver trainer in Texas. He trains studs and sends 10-20 players to the P5 ranks almost every year. He has an obvious connection to BYU and has helped with players like Micah Simon and Akile Davis in the past. He has a great pulse on the feelings of recruits and the state of Texas at large.
"I believe it will impact recruiting some," he told me. "But you still have to find the right fit for BYU. Most come to Texas for speed at the skill positions. I'm sure BYU will too, but the recruit has to be able to fit the culture. They could definitely find some kids here."
I have had a few days to let this feedback marinate and I have come up with one final conclusion: The Big 12 will matter on the recruiting trail as much as BYU says it will matter. Let's delve in a little bit more...
Take a mental trip back to high school
When you were 16 or 17 years old, think back to how much you really thought about the landscape of college football. I'm as big of a football fan as there is. I started going to BYU games when I was six or seven years old and went to nearly all of them all through my high school days. During that time, there was the 1996 scrutiny about what bowl BYU deserved to actually play in after a 13-1 regular season. BYU left the WAC and joined the Mountain West. They fought with the BCS during the 2001 season and tried to bust the system. Boise State and Utah both broke through and got to BCS bowls.
And none of it really meant anything to me.
Did I think BYU should have been ranked #1 in 2001? Of course I did. I was a fan. But when Saturdays came, I didn't plop myself on the couch and watch football all day long. I tried to convince girls to date me, hung out with my buddies, played sports, and caught whatever highlights they showed on SportsCenter late Saturday night. When BYU played, I watched that game. That was pretty much the extent of how much college football I really watched or knew about.
And that was the case with most of my friends who were equally big college football fans.
And that is the case with recruits today.
Most recruits I talk with don't care about the P5 label at the beginning on their recruitments. But, as they blow up and pull in more offers, it starts to matter more and more?
Because schools tell them that it matters. Utah markets the PAC-12 and the P5 moniker because they can. When they are competing for a local recruit, that is something that they can tout in front of a recruit and convince them that it matters a ton. BYU can't make that argument. Over time, it starts to feel more important.
"I do want to play with the best and the P5 is where the best play."
BYU's rebuttal further supports that argument - "We play a P5 schedule too! We have lots of P5 games!"
All this local recruit hears about is P5 stuff. And when it comes time to make a decision, the P5 label matters a lot more than it did before.
But when Utah goes into Southern California and is going head to head with USC and UCLA for a recruit, 'P5' isn't even part of the pitch. It would be silly if it was.
"Hey kid, if you want to play against the best of the best, the PAC-12 and the P5 is where to do that and we can offer that to you."
"Okay, but your opponent is also recruiting me so they must be the best of the best? I think I'll go that way."
The onus is on BYU. In order to maximize the return on their P5 endeavors, they have to make the most of it. Throwing around the P5 label when they go head-to-head with other P5 schools isn't going to matter. The kids that I talked to about this aren't going to care about the Big 12 because they are choosing from schools who are already in the Big 12 or PAC-12 or SEC.
The impact will come. The rankings will climb. But, the responsibility to make that happen lies with BYU. If they don't figure out how to tactically deploy this benefit, then maybe it really won't be a big deal.
The Impact Of Taking Away Others Arguments
Negative recruiting is real. It just is. Not every school goes about using it the same way, but it's just something that you have to deal with.
BYU is an easy target on the negative recruiting trail. The Honor Code, the independent status, the losing streak to their rival, all of that stuff. It's easy.
Joining the Big 12 takes away one of the things that others can use to negatively recruit against BYU. Simple as that. Taking that away is a huge win for BYU.
What I'm Expecting Against Utah
Looks, ladies and gentlemen, Utah is a very good team. I know that nobody wants to hear that, but I am hear to tell you that they are a very good team. You should prepare yourself that BYU is facing a very good team this weekend.
Everyone wants to beat Utah. BYU fans, players and coaches alike all desperately want to end this losing streak so they can stop hearing about it. I promise you that as badly as you want BYU to win on Saturday, the players and coaches want to win more than you do.
But Utah is a good team and BYU is going to have to play significantly better than they did last week to pull off an upset.
First, don't read into anything you saw from Utah against Weber State. It was the opening week and Utah stayed in base for pretty much the entire game. And at the end of the game, aside from the early Weber State kickoff return for a touchdown, Utah was winning by double digits all game long. Weber didn't challenge Utah and the game was never in doubt. Anyone who says contrary to that is lying to themselves.
What Weber did do was find some success. Utah typically shut the door quickly, but Weber found some ways to gain yards and make some plays. Bronson Barron was best when he was on the run and moving the pocket around. Josh Davis couldn't ever get the ball going on the ground, but he did have more success running to the edges, away from Mika Tafua than he did anywhere else. And defensively, Charlie Brewer struggled when Weber was able to get some pressure.
The Wildcats couldn't do those things with any level of consistency that gave them a chance to win the game, but they shouldn't have been expected to do that.
BYU has more hogs and more speed. In theory, they should be able to exploit the holes that Weber State exposed with more frequency than Weber did.
Jaren Hall can move the pocket around. Tyler Allgeier can hit holes with more quickness than Josh Davis. And the collective BYU defense should be able to create more havoc in the backfield than Weber State.
I'm expecting to see a lot of rollouts from Hall. I'm expecting option runs and I'm expecting Allgeier to be moved around all over the field. I'm expecting quick passes to the outside (The MacPherson kid for Weber had a great game on the sidelines) to players like Puka and Samson Nacua.
I'm expecting Utah to attack the right guard. I'm expecting Tafua to line up across from Harris LaChance again and again and again. I'm expecting to see Brewer challenge the BYU secondary - particularly Malike Moore and Isaiah Herron.
I'm also expecting their offensive line to look significantly better.
All in all, I'm expecting BYU to lose this game. It's just a bad match up this year. But there is a path that BYU can take to find a win. It won't be easy. It will require a great game from Hall and it will require the defense to force the action and take risks rather than sitting back and hoping Utah makes a mistake. The thing that Utah does better than most other teams in the country is be content. Whittingham doesn't care about winning by 50. If he beats BYU by a field goal, he'll still hold up 10 fingers on his way out the stadium and taunt fans. If BYU is content to let Utah beat them with 15-play drives, that is exactly what Whittingham will do. He doesn't care if you die by paper cuts or die by a freight train just as long as you die eventually.
BYU's path to win requires BYU to play outside of who they typically are. It can be done. It has been done. But it's going to be really tough to do.