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Lightweight nonconference schedule stinks for television networks, fans

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy prefers easier load early in the season so Cowboys will be healthy to face tough Big 12 schedule
by Berry Tramel Published: August 13, 2012

“Most coaches would want it that way,” OSU athletic director Mike Holder said of Gundy's stance. “He makes some good points. It's pretty challenging. It's one thing when you play four nonconference games. When you play nine conference games, that dynamic changes some.”

The only thing that will change the attitude at OSU or anywhere else is pressure from the networks or the new Football Four. In 2014, college football moves to a four-team playoff that will be determined by a selection committee.

“If your goal is to win the national championship, then it's very important to give yourself the strength of schedule necessary to put yourself in the mix,” Holder said. The Cowboys know a little about that — they lost out to Alabama last December for the final Big Bowl berth.

OSU's nonconference schedule (a home game against Arizona, at Tulsa) was at least equal to Alabama's (three rumdums and at Penn State).

But Holder points out that “you could also argue that if you go undefeated, you'll be in anyway.”

OSU has not always dumbed down its schedule. The Cowboys have played UCLA and Houston in the 2000s. As recently as 2007 and 2009, the Cowboys played a series against Georgia.

When Gundy talks about Georgia, he focuses on what could have gone wrong, not what went right.

“I wouldn't vote for them again,” Gundy said of Georgia. “I learned this with the Georgia series; you have to practice so hard and so much more physical when you're opening the season with a team like that. It affects you in October. Nobody will ever convince me otherwise.

“If you don't play physical and you don't practice physical, you get your butt kicked. Then everybody's sad. It doesn't generate the interest and enthusiasm you need to keep things going.”

Well, then, schedule Georgia sometime after the season opener. It's not all that complicated.

And Gundy forgets the positive results of such scheduling. The Cowboys, before the Brandon Weeden era, landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated after their victory over the Bulldogs that christened the completed Boone Pickens Stadium.

This is not just an OSU problem. It's a Big 12 problem. Far too few Big 12 schools man up in September. And most of them don't care about the football committee.

Which means the networks are the best bet to save September. The Big 12 does not have enough quality games to fill out a September TV schedule.

The networks won't always settle for that poor content. They will demand more.

Until then, OSU fans, get ready for a steady diet of Texas-San Antonio, Central Michigan and South Alabama.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at 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