ARLINGTON, Texas — They call this the Cowboys Classic, but make no mistake. That’s no homage to OSU.
The Jerry Jones Invitational on Saturday night features Florida State and Jameis Winston’s Heisman Trophy and Jimbo Fisher and Chief Osceola’s spear. Mike Gundy and J.W. Walsh and Pistol Pete’s six-shooter are mere props. Extras, hired to make the scene look real.
All of which should be just fine with the Cowboys (OSU, not Dallas). This is not the best place to be. The best place would have been playing Florida State last season with a loaded OSU team. But this is a good place to be.
Big underdog, sure, but a big measuring stick. The Cowboys are about to find out how good they are. About to find out just how much rebuilding is necessary from the team that was the Big 12’s best last season until a Bedlam crash.
“It makes me more excited than anything,” said OSU defensive tackle James Castleman. “It puts us somewhere to see where we’re at. It’s the national champs, Heisman winner. This is a big deal for us.
“Everybody talks about they want to play the best. Well, we have the chance to play the best, get to see where we’re at.”
That’s the proper attitude. Much better than that silly golf comment of Mike Gundy last week, when he said we’d all prefer to play from the ladies’ tees so we could shoot a good score. No golfer with a competitive spirit wants the easy course.
And sorry, OSU’s been there, done that. The last time the Cowboys faced rebuilding, 2012, they opened the season against Savannah State, won 84-0 and learned absolutely nothing unless some discussed Chaucer in the halftime locker room.
There is no honor and very little pleasure in guaranteed victory. And the Cowboys know that.
“I’d rather play this kind of game anytime,” said cornerback Kevin Peterson. “If Coach Gundy had come up to any of us, ask who we’d rather pick, we’d have picked Florida State, Cowboys Stadium, exactly how we laid it out.
“If you want to be the best, you’ve got to go after the best. I think it’s going to be a testimony to how hard our team has been working throughout the summer and the spring.”
The beauty of this matchup is that OSU doesn’t even have to win to find it fruitful. Play well, play tough, play competitive, and all kinds of optimism flows. Confidence soars. Of course, the possibility exists that the Cowboys get blown through the giant video screen and have to lick their wounds, but that’s life.
The lament of this matchup, of course, is that it didn’t occur last season. The Cowboys sure would have liked a shot at Florida State with their 2013 team. And playing Mississippi State this season would have been a swell way to open the year.
But that’s life, too. You don’t schedule your challenges. They come at you and you respond. Don’t lament that Florida State is a mighty challenge. Embrace it.
“You can’t ask for better,” said OSU linebacker Ryan Simmons. “I believe a lot of guys love this platform we have.”
The Cowboys aren’t playing from the ladies tees, they’re playing from the championship tees. And there’s no other place they should want to be.
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 FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.