NORMAN — Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops insisted he doesn't sit around thinking about his 2012 team's bowl fate, which was redirected from the Sugar to the Cotton Bowl by forces beyond the Sooners' control.
But Stoops does believe strength of schedule should — as it's soon expected to — play a bigger role in determining college football's postseason.
With schedules like the one Oklahoma has in front of it for 2013, the Sooners would certainly increase the likelihood of their inclusion in the looming four-team playoff, set to begin with the 2014-15 season.
The Sooners open next season at home Aug. 31 against Louisiana-Monroe, which was 8-5 last season. Oklahoma's other 2013 nonconference games are against Tulsa, which beat Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl, and at Notre Dame, which is fresh off a BCS national-title game appearance.
Nine of the Big 12 Conference's 10 teams played in 2012-13 bowl games, which leaves Kansas — which hosts Oklahoma on Oct. 19 — as the Sooners' only 2013 opponent that failed to reach a bowl game last season.
“It doesn't get any easier,” Stoops said of next year's schedule. “But, so be it.”
The four-team playoff's participating squads will be chosen by a selection committee, which is expected to heavily weigh strength of schedule in their decisions.
Oklahoma lost 41-13 to Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, but early bowl projections had the Sooners facing Florida in the Sugar Bowl.
MAC champion Northern Illinois, though, rose into the BCS Standings' top 16, ensuring its automatic BCS berth and kicking the Sooners out of the BCS party. The overmatched Huskies lost to Florida State in the Orange Bowl, and Louisville routed Florida in the Sugar Bowl.
Northern Illinois lost its season opener to Iowa, which ended up with a losing record in 2012. It was the Huskies' only loss of the season.
“Northern Illinois, to me ... I'm not at all complaining,” Stoops said. “They had their place had they beat Iowa. They weren't undefeated. When Boise went to Georgia to start the year, and beat Georgia and goes on undefeated, hey, give it to them.
“In the end, Iowa had a difficult year, and here they lose to them, and go on to play a bunch of teams that we'd all love to play. To me, it's not valuing the strength of schedule enough. That's where this argument is going; not where we should've been. It should matter.”
Oklahoma, which was 10-3 and a Big 12 co-champion last season, returns few starters on defense, and will have to replace four-year starting quarterback Landry Jones in 2013.
Jones' backup last season, junior Blake Bell, is the front-runner to take over under center, although redshirt freshman Trevor Knight, sophomore Kendal Thompson and senior Drew Allen will all have their opportunities in the spring.
With so many key players to replace — and such an apparently difficult schedule — some fans have already expressed lowered expectations for next year's Sooners.
“Hey, I'm not gonna tell them what to think,” Stoops said. “They'll think what they wanna think, and say what they wanna say. We're gonna do all we can to improve and compete for the Big 12 and hopefully the national. That's what we try and do every year.”