Same with college football road games. They reveal the real deal in this oft-manufactured sport.
In some ways, the Cowboys can consider getting taken to the Tucson woodshed a blessing. That's tough medicine. But OSU's many holes — discipline, pass coverage, pass catching, kick and punt returns — have been exposed.
Sure, that's tough love. The lesson cost OSU a victory, but at least the Cowboys can go into conference play knowing a little more what it will take to compete. Since most of these guys were Big 12 champs a year ago, you'd think they already knew it, but coaches love to tell us every year, every team, is different. Who knows? Maybe they're telling the truth.
That's what makes OU's trip to El Paso so invaluable. If the Sooners had enticed the Miners to come to Norman, OU probably wins 42-7 and nobody is any the wiser. But go to UTEP, and the Sooners learned some hard truths.
To the Sooners' credit, they got out of the desert unscathed. The Cowboys were not so fortunate, and their rebound from that licking will be steep. But not impossible.
In 2002, before September was halfway home, OSU had lost at Louisiana Tech and been smoked at home by UCLA. But by season's end, the Cowboys might have been the Big 12's best team.
So teams can improve. To do so, you've got to know what to fix. Thanks to trips to the desert, both the Sooners and Cowboys know. In the case of OSU, the answer is, lots.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.