Oklahoma State football: Scheduling cost Cowboys
Mike Gundy wants to dumb down the OSU football schedule. There’s little doubt about. If Gundy is bluffing about going to Tennessee — who knows? — then he’s probably bluffing to get control of scheduling. Gundy wants three automatic wins each September.
And today, Gundy has a little more ammunition in his argument. He’s still wrong. Playing quality competition is still the best way to go. But Gundy can counter with the 2012 bowl assignments.
OSU is headed to the Heart of Dallas Bowl, against 6-6 Purdue. You might remember the Heart of Dallas Bowl as the TicketCity Bowl. Or maybe not. Maybe you haven’t heard of it at all. The truth is, it’s a rinky dink bowl designed for mediocre teams from the bottom of the Big 12 and the Big Ten.
The Big Ten produced two 6-6 teams (Michigan State, Purdue) just happy to be bowling. But the Big 12 produced only one of those teams (Iowa State), and instead had a logjam of five 7-5 teams. When OU fell to the Cotton Bowl, it meant simple mathematics. The Heart of Dallas was going to get a 7-5 team. Why that team was OSU isn’t abundantly clear, but here’s Gundy’s argument:
If the Cowboys hadn’t played, and lost to, Arizona, if the Cowboys had played a rumdum instead, and went 5-4 in the Big 12 as they did, OSU would have finished 8-4. The Alamo would have still jumped on Texas. But it seems unlikely that the Buffalo Wild Wings, the Holiday and the Houston bowls all passing on OSU in favor of 7-5 teams TCU, Baylor and Texas Tech, respectively.
Gundy also trotted out another example. Earlier in the season, maybe before the Texas game, Gundy pointed out that if OSU hadn’t played Arizona, the Cowboys would be 3-0 and ranked fairly high. OSU’s scores would scroll all day Saturday along the ESPN crawl.
Of course, I would counter that argument by saying the ESPN crawl is hardly the kind of marketing to which OSU football should aspire. OSU almost landed in the Big Bowl last season, even with a regular-season defeat, in part because the computers rated OSU above Alabama. Part of that computer rating was because the Cowboys played, yes, Arizona.
I could also argue that when OSU was out of the top 25 earlier this year with that lone loss, Arizona was in the top 25 and the ESPN crawl precisely because the Wildcats had played and beaten the Cowboys.
Personally, I think one of two things will happen with the Big 12.
* The networks will increase pressure for every school to deliver on quality non-conference games. In 2012, out of 30 non-conference games, the Big 12 played just seven against fellow major-conference (or Notre Dame) opponents: OU-Notre Dame, Texas-Ole Miss, OSU-Arizona, TCU-Virginia, West Virginia-Maryland, Kansas State-Miami, Iowa State-Iowa. And that’s not exactly a murderer’s row. Virginia, Iowa and Maryland all went 4-8. Ole Miss went 6-6. Miami and Arizona are 7-5. Notre Dame went 12-0.
Next season, the Big 12 schedule looks no better, as I blogged about last week, which you can read here. TCU is playing LSU, a great game, plus four repeats — OU-Notre Dame, Texas-Mississippi, Iowa State-Iowa and West Virginia-Maryland. Plus OSU-Mississippi State, in Houston. But Kansas State is checking out of the ballgame business.
There are some weeks in September when the Big 12 can’t find two decent games to televise. The networks are paying a ton of money for Big 12 football. They will apply pressure to improve the broadcast options.
* In lieu of better non-conference scheduling, the networks could pressure the Big 12 to expand. Go to 11 teams, play a 10-game round-robin schedule and ensure there is better inventory. The networks have signed the long-term contract, through 2025, for Big 12 football, but that doesn’t mean they will sit back and let the Big 12 do as it pleases. That contract makes it more likely that the networks will engage the league to improve its produce.
So what happens with OSU’s schedule? The Cowboys reportedly have talked about playing Florida State at JerryWorld in Arlington come 2014. That’s a rugged game. That’s a game that could knock OSU down the polls a bit. But the benefits of playing that kind of game are much greater than just getting on the ESPN crawl.
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