WACO, Texas — Two of the three biggest college football games of the week won't be played Saturday.
In Waco, Texas, BCS No. 6 Baylor will host No. 10 Oklahoma on Thursday. The same night in Palo Alto, Calif., No. 5 Stanford will host No. 3 Oregon.
Thursday night football has become more prominent in recent years as more teams have been open to taking advantage of a guaranteed national-television audience.
But several of the nation's most prominent programs — including Oklahoma — remain opposed to hosting midweek games.
That opposition, in addition to the inflexibility of college football scheduling and the competition of Thursday night NFL games, among other factors, makes it unlikely college football Thursday nights will ever rival what Monday Night Football once was for the NFL.
"I don't think you're going to get the big-time game every week," said Justin Kutcher, who will call Thursday's Oklahoma-Baylor game for Fox Sports 1. “You look at Monday Night Football in the NFL, they're not getting the big-time game every week. … I think what the Thursday night game presents is an opportunity where … you have all these games going on Saturday but on Thursday, you've got one game on Fox Sports 1, you've got one game on ESPN. You're going to have an audience. That's where I think you can do something with that.
“There's a hunger for it.”
Since Thursday night college football started to become a regular event in the early 1980s, the Sooners are among a group that includes Michigan, Penn State, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and LSU that have not hosted a Thursday game. The only Thursday games Texas has hosted have been on Thanksgiving Day.
Oklahoma's last Thursday game came in 1992, when the Sooners played at Texas Tech.
“We recognize all the new opportunities that present themselves, but also embrace the fact that — and I say this in the most respectful way; not arrogant — we love tradition,” Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said. “It's an opportunity we may consider from time to time, but I don't see us doing it on a regular basis.”
Castiglione said the only way the Sooners would ever host a Thursday game would be if the game was scheduled for Thanksgiving or another day when classes aren't in session.
The Sooners said as much during the last television rights negotiations.
“We're trying to be a great partner in our conference, and we recognize these opportunities can be good,” Castiglione said. “But it's just that we can't host one. It's just impossible. We have to use a lot of the area around the stadium that is also used when classes are in session. Not to mention when people are trying to teach, others are wanting to tailgate. Again, that's an important element of our game day experience.
“We don't want to inhibit people from enjoying the game day experience that is unique to Oklahoma.”
Oklahoma State's view has been different. Since 1993, the Cowboys have hosted five Thursday night games, including three since 2009.
“Being the only show on Thursday night, there are a lot of viewers out there,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said before the Cowboys hosted Arizona in 2011. “And it's not only for our football team, but it's for our university. When that logo's on the screen for three hours … we think it's an advantage.”
Next season, the Cowboys will host Texas Tech on Thursday, Sept. 25, in the Big 12 opener. The Sooners could also play on Thursday. Their game against Iowa State will be played either Thursday, Oct. 30, or Saturday, Nov. 1.
Kutcher said scheduling Thursday games could be cyclical.
“There's no doubt that teams who are trying to move up and make a name for themselves, they're more agreeable to getting on national TV and being the one so people can see them,” Kutcher said. “A team like Oklahoma — Oklahoma's one of the best programs in all of college football, so they can call their shots. A team like Baylor, they're a team on the rise. They want the national attention so they want that spotlight. If they do this for a couple more years, maybe they don't need that any more to get the attention.”