Skip to main content
Publish date:

Where’s the Beef? The Top 5 Candidates to Be BYU’s Biggest Big 12 Football Rivals

BYU's not-so-subtle arrival in the Big 12 is bound to ruffle some feathers.

BYU’s official invitation to join the Big 12 has been one of many highlights for this year. Finally moving up to a Power 5 Conference gives the Cougars even more validation on the national landscape, access to better bowls and of course, a nice influx of cash from a stronger media deal.

What it doesn’t bring, though? A pre-existing rival.

BYU has a fairly limited history against current Big 12 schools — for example, the one and only time the Cougars faced Texas Tech was in 1940. BYU hasn’t played any of the other incoming Big 12 programs (UCF, Houston, and Cincinnati) more than three times.

Obviously, when there’s a fairly limited history against most of your new conference mates, a rivalry isn’t necessarily going to develop right away. It’s something that is probably going to take some time to grow organically, even if the Big 12 looks to force new “rivalries,” like Utah and Colorado.

All that being said, here’s a look at the five schools that seem like they have the biggest potential to turn into real conference rivalries.

5. Iowa State

BYU hasn't played against Iowa State in football since 1974. If you look on the field, there’s not really much basis for a rivalry there.

Off the field, however, you get a slightly different story. Back when the Big 12 was considering expansion in 2016, the Iowa State student government passed a resolution opposing BYU’s potential entry to the conference due to its “discriminatory policies and practices” — aka the school’s Honor Code standards on homosexual behavior, which are based on the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

If that’s not enough, after BYU was officially accepted into the conference in 2021, the student government struck again, passing a resolution “condemning the lack of student input to the expansion of the Big 12 conference,” once again calling BYU discriminatory and homophobic because of the Honor Code.

You can bet they’ll do even more weeping and wailing each time Iowa State plays BYU in the future — and that’s always good groundwork for a rivalry.

4. Kansas State

In fact, the last time BYU and Kansas state played was in the 1996 Cotton Bowl, which BYU won in a 19-15 thriller. Cougar fans would undoubtedly love to relive one of the program’s biggest wins, while Kansas State will want to pick up its first win against the Cougars since 1976.

Kansas State Football

Read More

One interesting side note about this series: aside from the Cotton Bowl, which was technically at a neutral site, the home team has won every game in this series. The last time Kansas State played in Provo (1977), they got walloped 39-0.

3. Houston

In reality, the most likely course for a Big 12 rivalry to take shape is from the conference pairing incoming schools together for the rivalry week game. Among the newbies, Houston is the most obvious pick for BYU’s conference rival.

First and foremost, the Cougar Cup or Battle of the Cougars is a fairly decent setup for a rivalry game. Which Big 12 school with the Cougars as its mascot is truly the most dominant?

We all know that Cosmo would win any dance off with Houston’s Cougar mascot (the name is Shasta, by the way). Plus, BYU’s past matches with Houston have definitely been thrilling, from 2020’s comeback 43-26 win to the 47-46 shootout in 2013.

2. Baylor

While BYU and Baylor may not have an extensive history on the football field (three meetings, including this year’s loss), there’s a lot of groundwork for a good and surprisingly non-toxic rivalry.

Malik Moore vs Baylor

Starting with the obvious, both BYU and Baylor are religious schools. Jeff Grimes and Eric Mateos used to coach at BYU, and are now coaching at Baylor.

But when BYU played Baylor this year, Baylor laid the groundwork for a classier version of the traditional college football rivalry. Baylor recognized BYU during its homecoming parade with a welcome banner and by having athletic director Tom Holmoe and university president Kevin Worthen ride in the parade. Hopefully, the Cougs can be just as welcoming (and get the win) when Baylor makes the return trip in 2022.

1. TCU

College football rivalries are largely dependent on history — and no Big 12 team, current or incoming, has more history with BYU than TCU. BYU and TCU were both members of the Mountain West conference from 2005 (when TCU joined the conference) until 2011, when the Cougars left for Independence.

BYU actually had a better record against TCU before the schools became conference mates. TCU leads the series 6-5, but that’s mostly thanks to a four game win streak TCU enjoyed from 2008 to 2011 (the last time the schools played).

BYU fans have plenty of reason to want some payback against TCU. From derailing an undefeated season in 2008 to a College GameDay thumping in 2009, Gary Patterson didn’t make many friends in Provo. His recent firing/resigning may change things a little, but there’s no denying that TCU is an obvious rivalry pick.

When the Cougars officially join the Big 12 in 2023, there probably won’t be a natural conference rival — yet. But fear not. You can bet that after a few seasons of Big 12 play, we’ll have a good idea of who our biggest conference rivals are. It’s an exciting future to be sure!