If you want to be there for the biggest games of the 2012 BYU football season, you better starting pricing plane tickets.
Your destinations would probably be Boise, Idaho (Sept. 22); South Bend, Indiana (Oct. 20); and/or Atlanta, Georgia (Oct. 27).
BYU officially released the gridiron schedule Monday evening and although most of the opponents were already announced, now Cougar fans can get a look at when each game will be played.
"This is a better schedule than last year," said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe. "Last year was very lopsided, but we knew what we were getting into. Looking to 2013, there is an uphill trend with tougher and tougher teams on the schedule."
The Cougars will have six home games (five of which will take place before the middle of October) and six away games.
Five opponents that would be classified as "Bowl Championship Series" members highlight the list (Washington State, Utah, Oregon State, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech), but once again BYU supporters can't be thrilled with a November slate that includes being home against Idaho, at New Mexico State and at San Jose State.
"I heard the complaints last year (about the weak November schedule)," Holmoe said. "But it was one of the things we had to do. There was no other way around it. This year our last home game is Nov. 10 and I think there is a difference between road and home games. For example, we're going to San Jose, which will be exciting for those fans in that area."
The Cougars did diminish the number of Friday games (three in 2011, just one scheduled in 2012) although the BYU athletic director did say there was a possibility a game could be moved to accommodate television requests. Times of games won't be released until closer to the season.
Holmoe called the 2012 lineup another step forward toward where BYU wants to be as an independent program.
"In the first two years, we needed teams to be there for scheduling," he explained. "The WAC helped us in a great way to be able to get those games in 2011 but now we've backed off a little in 2012 as we reduced the teams we needed to play from the WAC. We may play some of those teams again but they will be sprinkled in over the next 10 years."
The Cougar athletic director expressed his thanks for the flexibility the WAC provided, but also said the only school from that conference that BYU would play in 2013 would be in-state foe Utah State.
"When you are not in a conference, when you are an independent, there are a couple of games you would love to have continue" Holmoe said. "Some of those are Hawaii, Boise State and Utah, but Utah State is one of those as well. We have games penciled in for the future since this is one we would like to have for a long time."
Holmoe was also very optimistic about the future of the biggest rivalry in the state, saying he planned to do whatever he could to ensure that the Cougars and Utes played every year.
"(Utah athletic director) Chris Hill and I have talked about the possibility of dates," he said. "We have some games we've talked about, but we don't feel it is wise for either school to contract out for a number of years. I love series and I will do anything could to keep it. We want it on our schedule every year. I think Hill and I will work it out slowly and make it fit.
"It's a long-standing tradition and a great game. I think we'll go back and forth (between Provo and Salt Lake City) just like it's always been. It's not the last game, but we've adapted to that and we're OK with that. I just want to play them."
Holmoe stated that the game he is most satisfied with landing was the series with Notre Dame, saying it was a great fit for both schools.
"That's a great tradition and we're glad to be playing them," he said. "Any time you can play Notre Dame in any sport anywhere, you want to grab that game."
Now that the first two schedules are out of the way, Holmoe said he doesn't have to spend as much time on the process. He explained that now he's working on the balancing act of making the schedule challenging while not making it overwhelmingly difficult.
"We still have couple of games we are working out for 2013, so now it's figuring out where we get those games and make sure we don't overload," the athletic director said. "For some of these games, we want to wait. We could get it done but sometimes it helps to wait until last possible moment to see if something is going to come along."
The Cougar players will begin preparing for the upcoming season when they start spring practice on March 5.
Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be followed on Twitter at @JaredrLloyd.