Big 12 football is taking a reputation hit across America. Deserved or not.
Texas, which already had dumbed-down its non-conference schedule, is being branded a coward for producing a conference void of its second-biggest threat and void of a championship game.
Oklahoma, and every other Big 12 squad, will be drafted into such ill repute.
Such distinction is hard to overcome. There's one easy way for the Sooners to dismiss such talk.
The Cornhuskers are available, though no word on if they're willing. Nebraska's jump to the Big Ten frees the Sooners and the Huskers from the confines of the Big 12 schedule, which pitted the Big Reds on the same gridiron just twice every four years.
Renewing old acquaintance on a frozen November field seems like a suicide mission for both programs.
OU athletic director Joe Castiglione was none too promising a few days ago, when he said, "Given our current schedule, I don't see a place for them for 10-12 years.”
Castiglione referred to the Sooners' ambitious non-conference schedule. Florida State and Cincinnati this September. Florida State in 2011. Notre Dame and TCU in 2012. Notre Dame in 2013. Tennessee in 2014 and 2015. Ohio State in 2016 and 2017. LSU in 2018 and 2019.
No one will indict OU's non-conference schedule anytime soon.
But OU's overall schedule? That's another story.
The Sooners no longer have the carrot of a Big 12 title game, which provided a prestigious stage if not a challenging foe. It gave the Big 12 a much-needed platform against other high-profile shootouts the first week of December.
But also lost to the Sooners are road trips to Colorado and Nebraska. Bob Stoops has a losing record in only three Big 12 stadiums; Folsom Field and Nebraska's Memorial Stadium are two of the three (Tech's Jones Stadium is the other).
Despite adding a conference game, OU's overall schedule will appear to be weaker and will
be weaker. National pundits will stand sentry to point it out, particularly when the Pac-10 and Big Ten have added championship games.
Schedule an annual non-conference series with Nebraska, and all that talk goes away.
In fact, the Sooners would become the new Southern Cal. A program showing itself willing to play anyone anywhere anytime. Nebraska and Florida State in the same season? Nebraska and Ohio State?
No one would be talking about trips to Ames and Lawrence. Or the lack of a championship game. The Sooners would be the baddest dudes in college football.