Brave Moccasins make trip to Norman despite clear mismatch

by Berry Tramel Published: August 30, 2008

/> Empowered by Appalachian State's monumental upset of Michigan last season, the Sooners this week embraced the any-given-Saturday theme.

"A football team's a football team,” said OU o-lineman Trent Williams. "Anybody can beat anybody.”

Maybe that's true with teams from the same universe. But U.S. Grant can't beat Tulsa Union. The Tulsa 66ers can't beat the Celtics. The Woonsocket Sentinels can't beat the Dallas Cowboys. And Chattanooga can't beat Oklahoma.

So how did this game come to be?

College football non-conference scheduling has grown increasingly squishier in the last decade. The reasons are many:

* Bowls. The proliferation of bowls has produced many tie-ins with the major conferences, so schools know if they can just get to six victories, they will make a bowl game. Thus schools schedule to win rather than to compete.

* Coaches. The big contracts make coaches protective of their jobs, so padding a record increases job security.

* Money. Playing more home games has been a priority for many schools trying to make a budget. Many major-conference teams play seven home games; a few play eight.

All of the above has created a supply-and-demand problem. Not enough mid-majors to soften the schedule of major-conference teams, so schools are going further down the food chain. Hence OU gets all the way down to Chattanooga.

After an agreement to host Middle Tennessee fell through, Castiglione said, "We were calling everybody . Biggest response was ‘no.' A resounding no. They simply didn't want to play the University of Oklahoma in Norman.”

But Chattanooga was willing, so tonight at Owen Field, we have a mismatch for the ages. A sellout crowd will wildly cheer it, the media will breathlessly report it and coaches will studiously analyze it, as if it was a championship game and not an exhibition game.

Who's to blame for this historic mismatch? Start with us all.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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