Unless BYU Football and Utah completely cut ties, the Utes will always be the biggest rival.
Sometimes rivalries are forced. To prove this point look at UConn against UCF. Back in 2016, UConn decided that it would be smart to start the “CONFLICT”, or a rivalry that featured the abbreviations ‘CT’ and ‘FL’ to represent each state. That was about as far as the good ideas went.
First off, the two teams were thousands of miles away from each other. Second, UCF was the top G5 team at the time and UConn was just a few years away from being so bad they decided to go Independent.
In fact, this game was so bad, that after UCF won the game, the trophy stayed on the sideline. That may have hurt UConn more than the actual final score (49-24).
As BYU Football enters the Big 12 there is going to be a natural push to try to have a conference rival. The issue is, BYU is about as far away from every other Big 12 school as UConn was UCF.
Obviously if the Big 12 were to expand again and add SDSU, UNLV or Boise State (or even Air Force or Colorado State) then there would be a strong push and a more understandable rivalry started.
But as things currently are, are there any potential rivals, or will the Cougars have to just play each week and not have a set rival game to look forward to?
Honestly, the most likely answer is the latter.
But if there is going to be a rivalry, it will likely come from one of the following groups.
A True Holy War
The Big 12 has two Christian based schools (although TCU is a bit more debatable). With a bit of luck and a few upsets ruining the other schools’ season, a Holy War could break out between the Cougars and either Baylor or TCU. TCU seems like the most likely candidate with some more history between the two programs, but there isn’t much traction there currently to claim this as a slam dunk rivalry.
New School Rivalry
The Big 12 is adding three other teams, Houston, UCF and Cincinnati. None of those schools have a rivalry with current Big 12 teams either. At least for the first few years, teams like WVU may be hesitant to build a rivalry with the new kids on the block (Cincinnati) despite it making sense. TCU and Baylor may hesitate to embrace Houston as rivalry as well. This could lead to BYU and these schools building a small rivalry between them that could grow to something bigger.
Of all the Big 12 schools, Kansas seems to be the closest to leaving for another conference. They are in the Big 10 footprint and could end up leaving. No I don’t have any insider knowledge here, but if that were to happen, Kansas State would actually make sense as a rival. The Wildcats are geographically the closest to BYU and the two would make sense as rivals.
The other reason this is focused on Kansas is because they are the only school that would gravitate towards BYU if their rival left the conference. If WVU left for the ACC, none of the east coach teams are going to reach out to BYU.
Big 12 Expands
This was mentioned earlier, but if the Big 12 expands again, it is almost a guarantee that the Conference would look west. Aside from picking up Arizona and Arizona State (or any other two teams who are already a rival), one of the new additions would very easily become a rival for BYU. Personally, I believe that Boise State will be in the Big 12 in the coming years if the conference does expand and become BYU’s rival and travel partner.
Aside from the Big 12 expanding (which in itself isn’t extremely likely), none of these scenarios are very likely to play out. The fact that after over a decade of playing each other BYU and Boise State still don’t have a named rivalry game says a lot.
BYU Football doesn’t need a rival in the Big 12, at least a forced one. Hopefully they, or the media won’t try to force one (Arkansas vs Missouri, Utah vs Colorado, or yes ‘The CONFLICT’.