In two years, BYU will be moving from independent status to a member of the Big 12 Conference.
Emphasis on two years, and not right now.
So coach Kalani Sitake and the 23rd-ranked Cougars (2-0) really didn't want to ponder too deeply what the move would mean.
Instead, they'll just keep on showing they belong among the ranks of the Power Five. Should they knock off No. 19 Arizona State on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium, the Cougars would move to 3-0 against the Pac-12 this season.
“We’re excited to just step up to the plate for the next challenge and hopefully keep this thing rolling,” said Sitake, whose school recently announced it will join the Big 12 with its sports anticipated to play Big 12 schedules in '23-24. “Nothing to prove other than what we’re trying to get done this week."
The last time BYU and Arizona State (2-0) met on the football field, Sitake was a fullback for the Cougars. He had a 2-yard run on that Sept. 12, 1998, day, along with a 25-yard catch as they upset the 14th-ranked Sun Devils 26-6.
“Back then, you can’t play offense for BYU if you can’t catch the ball,” said Sitake, whose program used to belong to the Western Athletic Conference with the Sun Devils.
BYU showcased a high-flying offense under Hall of Fame coach LaVell Edwards. He left a big impression not only on Sitake but also on Sun Devils coach Herm Edwards, who said he was recruited by BYU before attending California, Monterey Peninsula College and San Diego State.
“I took a visit there and started a friendship with Coach," Herm Edwards said.
A tough task awaits ASU: Playing in the stadium bearing LaVell Edwards' name. The Cougars have won 11 straight on that field.
Herm Edwards expects one thing: Noise. Plenty of it, too.
“They have a great fan base,” he said. “You couldn’t be going to a better venue if you think about college football ... I think our guys are excited about the opportunity to play as well.”
For the Cougars, the assignment will be staying sharp after an emotional win over rival Utah last weekend.
“Saturday was so much fun,” Sitake said. “But winning that game isn’t our end goal. We have 10 more games.”
BYU has nine victories over Power Five programs under Sitake. The Sun Devils are 5-5 under Herm Edwards against ranked teams.
“I don’t pay attention to a lot of rankings. I just don’t,” Edwards said. “You still have to play. Rankings don’t help you. You have to play and in college football, it’s hard to win a game every week.”
Edwards stressed the importance of starting fast at a hostile place such as BYU.
“Don’t get off to a bad start,” he said. “Because if you get off to a bad start then you’re fighting two elements — the 11 guys on the field and the crowd.
“It doesn’t mean you have to score but you have to move the ball. If you go three and out, it’s like, ‘Uh oh, are you kidding me?’ Because then they’re excited and all of a sudden their offense has the ball and the energy of the stadium goes up.”
It could be a flea flicker. Or an end-around. Or a halfback pass. But when Edwards hears a trick play called through the headset, he prefers to look the other way. He added his wife isn't a big fan of them.
"Every time she sees them, even in pro football, she says stop letting it take place,” he said. “It's fun when they work and we’ve had some that work. ... When they don’t, it's ‘Why did he make that call?’ I get it. It’s always a bad call when it doesn’t work.”
The Sun Devils have forced 38 turnovers over their last 13 games dating to 2019. It’s the most in the country over that 13-game span, according to ASU research.
“It’s just a known fact in any kind of football that kicking game and the defense travels,” Edwards said.
The Cougars are plus-three in turnover margin this season. They’ve yet to turn it over on offense. It's a recipe for success: BYU has won 16 straight games when the team is even or ahead in turnovers.
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