The Big 12 football schedule finally has been released, with all the bated breath of a Harry Potter sequel, and now we can look forward to the ballgames themselves.
But write down your schedules in pencil. No way is this the final version. Have you taken a look at September?
September 2012 has five Saturdays, and the Big 12 barely has five decent games to offer the television networks paying all those big bucks to fund this madness.
The Big 12 has front-loaded some good conference games – Kansas State at OU, Baylor at West Virginia, Texas at OSU – to prop up the embarrassing non-conference buffet set up by the Big 12.
I count eight non-conference games involving Big 12 teams that anyone would consider worth watching, and that's being very generous: SMU at Baylor on Sept. 1; Miami at Kansas State, OSU at Arizona and Iowa State at Iowa on Sept. 8; Texas at Ole Miss on Sept. 15; Virginia at TCU and Maryland at West Virginia on Sept. 22; and TCU at SMU on Sept. 29.
So plan your autumn at your own risk. The networks figure to add some Thursday games and figure to keep tinkering with September.
We can go week by week and see if the networks are getting their money's worth. Can they fill their quota of at least two quality games for the likes of ABC/ESPN and Fox Sports' primetime window? Let's rank the games each week.
Sept. 1: 1. SMU at Baylor; 2. OU at UTEP (provisional; the Miners are expected to be OU's opponent); 3. Wyoming at Texas; 4. Marshall at West Virginia; 5. Tulsa at Iowa State; 6-9 (tie). Northwestern Louisiana at Texas Tech, Savannah State at OSU, Missouri State at Kansas State and South Dakota State at Kansas.
I can't see ABC picking up any of these games. Maybe we'll have a Fox Sports doubleheader: SMU-Baylor at 6 p.m., OU-UTEP at 9 p.m.
Sept. 8: 1. Miami at KSU; 2. OSU at Arizona; 3. Iowa State at Iowa; 4. New Mexico at Texas, 5. Rice at KU; 6. Grambling State at TCU; 7. Florida A&M at OU (another provisional); 8. Tech at Texas State.
If every Saturday was like this, we'd be all right.
Sept. 15: 1. Texas at Ole Miss; 2. TCU at KU; 3. Louisiana-Lafayette at OSU; 4. North Texas at KSU; 5. New Mexico at Tech; 6. West Virginia vs. James Madison in Landover, Md.; 7. Sam Houston State at Baylor; 8. Western Illinois at Iowa State.
What a thoroughly pitiful list. And the Big 12 doesn't even own the UT-Ole Miss game; that's an SEC broadcast. ABC has nothing to show for the second time in three weeks.
Sept. 22: 1. KSU at OU; 2. Maryland at West Virginia; 3. Virginia at TCU; 4. KU at Northern Illinois; 5. Baylor at Louisiana-Monroe.
Now that's better, thanks to a conference showdown and the two newcomers. West Virginia and TCU, you guys will learn soon enough.
Sept. 29: 1. Texas at OSU; 2. Baylor at West Virginia; 3. Tech at Iowa State; 4. TCU at SMU.
A limited list, but still passable. ABC will jump all over OSU-Texas.
Oct. 6: 1. West Virginia at Texas; 2. OU at Tech; 3. Iowa State at TCU; 4. KU at KSU.
Decent list. Heck, ESPN GameDay might be in Austin. And Tech might be undefeated, since the Red Raiders have no interest in playing anyone with shoulder pads non-conference.
Oct. 13: 1. OU-Texas in Dallas; 2. TCU at Baylor; 3. West Virginia at Tech; 4. KSU at Iowa State.
Again, solid menu. I'd gladly watch all four of these games. But remember the problem; some games in October and November might have to switch to bail out September.
Oct. 20: 1. KSU at West Virginia; 2. Baylor at Texas; 3. Iowa State at OSU; 4. KU at OU.
ABC is at least getting a marquee game every week in October. And Fox won't have many complaints about its No. 2 pick.
Oct. 27: 1. Notre Dame at OU; 2. TCU at OSU; 3. Tech at KSU; 4. Baylor at Iowa State.
If the Sooners weren't scheduling such good games, the networks might just walk away from this nonsense. The Big 12 non-conference package would be a total joke.
Nov. 3: 1. OSU at KSU; 2. TCU at West Virginia; 3. Texas at Tech; 4. OU at Iowa State; 5. KU at Baylor.
See what happens when all the games are good? Everyone is pleased. Whoever gets third and fourth pick, usually Fox Sports, might still have OU or Texas available.
Nov. 10: 1. West Virginia at OSU; 2. KSU at TCU; 3. Baylor at OU; 4. Iowa State at Texas; 5. KU at Tech.
Again, a solid lineup. I don't see any way the Big 12 doesn't move one of these Nov. 3 or Nov. 10 games to September.
Nov. 17: 1. OU at West Virginia; 2. KSU at Baylor; 3. Tech at OSU; 4. Iowa State at KU.
Not a deep Saturday, but great at the top. OU in Morgantown has ABC primetime written all over it.
Nov. 24: 1. TCU at Texas; 2. OSU at OU; 3. Baylor vs. Tech in Arlington; 4. West Virginia at Iowa State.
The Frogs and Longhorns are headed for Thanksgiving night. That's why they're idle on Nov. 17. And Bedlam gives ABC a quality game for Thanksgiving Saturday.
Dec. 1: 1. Texas at KSU; 2. OU at TCU; 3. OSU at Baylor; 4. KU at West Virginia.
Odds are, none of these will be the Big 12 championship game, the way the Bedlam finale was last December. But a solid array of games to combat the championship games being played in other leagues.
So what does a network programmer think when he looks at this schedule? Big 12 football has some appeal. Are there enough good games to attract the number of eyeballs that would warrant the dollars the networks are paying?
In September, the answer is no.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.