Mike Gundy has made it clear. He wants to dumb down the Cowboys' nonconference schedule.
This time, OSU athletic director Mike Holder won't stand in Gundy's way. Win the Big 12 with a Bedlam victory Saturday, and OSU is headed for the Fiesta Bowl against the kind of foe Gundy craves. Mid-major.
With a victory Friday night in the Mid-American Conference championship game, Northern Illinois will make a major bowl for the second straight year. And since the Fiesta has last pick in the BCS rotation this season, Greater Phoenix will have to settle for the Huskies the way the Orange Bowl settled last season for a Florida State-Northern Illinois matchup.
And Gundy will be happy even should Bowling Green upset Northern Illinois in the MAC title game. The American Athletic Conference, which is the remnant of the old Big East, has an automatic BCS berth for one last season. Which means Central Florida or Cincinnati is headed for the BCS. So if it's not Northern Illinois, it's UCF or Cincy headed to Phoenix.
Not exactly Stanford with Andrew Luck, the matchup the Cowboys enjoyed and survived two years ago, with a 41-38 overtime victory in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Fiesta is out of OU's grasp, much to Bob Stoops' chagrin. He likes trophies, we all know that, but this year, he would like the Fiesta matchup as much as anything.
The Sooners seem likely headed for the Alamo Bowl, where a rugged matchup with a Pac-12 school awaits. Probably Oregon, maybe Stanford.
A relatively young OU team that has produced just one smooth-sailing victory since mid-September could use a breezy bowl opponent. Or at least one not likely to take your lunch money.
But barring an unlikely fall to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, or a rise to the Sugar Bowl against the American champ, and OU is headed for a much tougher assignment.
Easy bowl opponents had become the Sooners' staple until last season. In 2009, a Luck-less Stanford in the Sun Bowl. In 2010, Big East champ Connecticut in the Fiesta; those Huskies were a nice team but lost by two touchdowns to Temple. In 2011, Iowa in the Insight (now Wild Wings) Bowl. Any time you get a chance at a Big Ten opponent, take it.
Of course, the Sooners' string of pushovers ended with Texas A&M in the Cotton last season. So Stoops would love to get back into the Wild Wings against, say, Nebraska. He can't say that, of course, but who wouldn't want that script?
Traditional rival, marketability among national viewers and OU fans, and a team you could beat. Plenty of momentum for the offseason, as opposed to playing Oregon in the Alamo or LSU in the Cotton.
The Sooners aren't out of the BCS picture. Beat OSU, and OU joins the crowded group of BCS at-large hopefuls. If Northern Illinois loses Friday night, there's an extra spot for the contenders. Clemson and an SEC team seem likely to fill two of the slots, leaving Oregon, Michigan State (if it loses to Ohio State) and a 10-2 OU (or an 11-1 Baylor) to campaign for one or two BCS berths.
OSU's not on the campaign trail. Win, and the Cowboys are in the Fiesta. Where they absolutely will play a team void of pedigree.
Just like Gundy prefers.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. 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.