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Huskies set for showdown with Cougars in 2018, 2020

Brigham Young quarterback Taysom Hill runs with the ball against Washington during the Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park in San Francisco last December. Northern Illinois has added BYU to their football schedule starting in 2018.
MCT Brigham Young quarterback Taysom Hill runs with the ball against Washington during the Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park in San Francisco last December. Northern Illinois has added BYU to their football schedule starting in 2018.

History. Tradition.

Those are two words Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier mentioned when talking about BYU football.

The Cougars, NIU's second opponent announced via its SchedulePalooza campaign, happen to be one of the most historic mid-major programs of all-time.

On Wednesday, NIU announced a home-and-home series with BYU. The Huskies will play the Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah on Oct. 27, 2018, while the Cougars will visit NIU on Oct. 24, 2020.

"The reality is that they're a quality football program," Frazier told the DeKalb Daily Chronicle Wednesday. "When you look at a body of work such as BYU, a program that's been consistently winning, and consistently doing it across the board from home and away, you've got to give them their due. You've got to give them respect."

BYU has made a bowl appearance each of the past nine seasons, and only three programs have won more games than BYU over the last 20 seasons.

BYU won the consensus national championship in 1984, the last mid-major team to accomplish the feat. The school is also home to the last Heisman Trophy winner from a non-major conference – quarterback Ty Detmer won the award in 1990.

"When you think of BYU football, it has a tradition, it has a respect," Frazier said. "It was great to have them on the schedule."

The Cougars have competed as an independent since 2011. They were previously a member of the Mountain West Conference.

However, being an independent hurts the Cougars' chances of gaining exposure to the new College Football Playoff.

Because BYU is an independent and not part of the "Group of Five" conferences, the Cougars have no guaranteed access to any of the six contract bowls. The only way BYU would be able to participate in the playoff is if the Cougars were selected as one of the four semifinal teams.

There have been rumors about BYU getting into another conference, with the Big 12 being a league that's mentioned often. Whether the Cougars are still not affiliated by the time their series with NIU rolls around could be a factor when the games roll around.

Frazier acknowledged the possibility the Cougars may no longer be independent when these games take place. He said that no matter what league, if any, BYU is in, the Cougars make a good opponent due to the body of work they've put together. He called BYU a national brand.

"Our scheduling philosophy is about putting together a home and home schedule and putting together worthy opponents, and they're right there," he said. "It's a great matchup regardless if they're in a big five conference."

NIU now has three opponents scheduled for 2018. The Huskies are currently scheduled to host Idaho and visit Iowa in addition to the game with BYU. NIU is also scheduled to visit Iowa in 2020 and still has two open dates for that season after today's announcement.

The Cougar File

Last year: 8-5

Last bowl game: 2013 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, lost to Washington, 31-16

Against NIU: The two teams have never met

MAC attack: The last time BYU played a current Mid-American Conference team came back in 1983, when the Cougars won 63-28 against Bowling Green. The only MAC schools BYU has played are Bowling Green and Western Michigan, and the Cougars hold a 4-3 record against the conference, according to college football information database

The good: In the second game of the 2013 season, BYU earned a 40-21 win over Texas in Provo.

The bad: Two weeks after their win over the Longhorns, the Cougars fell 20-13 to Utah in the "Holy War" rivalry game.

The ugly: BYU lost three of its last five games in 2013, including the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl loss to Washington.

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