STILLWATER – Mike Gundy's casual demeanor quickly flips tense when the topic turns to scheduling.
But then, nothing seemingly agitates Gundy more than that one topic, which regularly sends the Cowboys coach into his spiel on why taking on challenges in the nonconference portion of schedule makes no sense. It was that one topic, presumably, at the crux of Gundy's rub with athletic director Mike Holder and his interest – real or imagined – in the Tennessee and Arkansas jobs last winter.
And with Oklahoma State just days away from a testy opener against Mississippi State in Houston, the Cowboys coach still hasn't warmed to the matchup.
Lamenting the long-term affects of preparing to play a physical foe like the Bulldogs in the opener, which requires a more grueling month of August, Gundy sounded concerns about his team's well being come November and after.
“We have to put more time in, and we have to have more drill work and competition where there's guys that are hitting each other,” Gundy said, “than what we would if we weren't playing an opponent of that type until the middle of September.
“It's almost like being in a Little League baseball tournament and you have to throw your ace in the first game. Instead of saving him until you get to the winners bracket final. We have to throw him in the first game.”
Oh, Gundy vows to have his team ready come Saturday, when this Big 12/SEC clash fills ABC's premium 2:30 p.m. time slot. But like it or welcome it, he won't. Gundy has a philosophy, a belief, and he's sticking to it.
Meanwhile, over in the enemy's camp, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen has fully embraced the opportunity, even with a rugged SEC schedule waiting down the line.
Reports in and around Starkville have Mullen using such words as “excited,” “motivated,” “challenge” and “honor” to describe the date with OSU.
Mullen said he also believes that this level of opener spices up the preseason.
“I think starting with a big-time game really draws that urgency from Day 1 that the clock is ticking to kickoff,” Mullen said.
To that end, OSU's players agree.
A year ago, they were prepping for Savannah State.
“It makes fall camp a lot better, in my opinion,” said Cowboys receiver Charlie Moore. “Taking nothing from last year, but you're about to play at team that's coming with it. It adds a little tempo to the fall camp and you start working on a Mississippi State than you would another team.