NORMAN — If Oklahoma is still in the running for the conference or national titles by mid-November, the Sooners will certainly be tested by their stretch run.
The Big 12 football schedule was released Tuesday morning, and OU learned it will finish the conference season with a Nov. 17 trip to West Virginia, a Thanksgiving week home game against Oklahoma State and then a Dec. 1 finale against TCU in Fort Worth.
OSU is the defending Big 12 champ, and newcomers West Virginia and TCU could each receive strong consideration to be favorites in the league in 2012.
OU opens its Big 12 schedule Sept. 22 against Kansas State. As it currently stands, it would be off the following week but then have no breaks for the remainder of the schedule, playing nine consecutive weeks.
Oklahoma is scheduled to play at Texas Tech on Oct. 6, against Texas in Dallas on Oct. 13, host Kansas on Oct. 20, host Notre Dame on Oct. 27, play at Iowa State on Nov. 3, host Baylor on Nov. 10 – and then enter the gauntlet of West Virginia, OSU and TCU.
The release from the Big 12 did allow for some wiggle room, saying the “dates are subject to change as adjustments are expected to accommodate television partners' requests. Television selections for the first three weeks of the season, and special dates are due to the conference (by) July 1.”
It's unclear whether that disclaimer pertains to moving games within a given week, or moving games altogether – but the door appears left open to all options.
Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione did say last week that the league's ADs were hopeful that the schedule could be released without games being moved from one part of the season to another. That, he said, was a big reason why the schedule announcement was protracted.
A release Tuesday from OU said it will reveal its non-conference schedule at a later date, but the mystery is slowly being unlocked.
The Oct. 27 Notre Dame date has long been locked. Sources have not resisted the idea, first reported Friday by CBS Sports, that OU might travel to play UTEP for its Sept. 1 opener. Those sources said OU would be resigned to play an FCS team for its other void, either on Sept. 8 or Sept. 15.
The Orlando Sentinel reported Tuesday afternoon that Florida A&M will likely travel to Owen Field to play the Sooners on Sept. 8, in what would be OU's home opener.
Many associate the Rattlers with the “Marching 100” band, but it is currently suspended due to a hazing scandal.
The newspaper learned about the FAMU-OU game because it was listed on an FSU administrator's internal website. The Seminoles had reached out to OU, among a reported 50 other schools, after West Virginia dropped FSU from its schedule.
Castiglione confirmed last week that he had heard from FSU, but the game did not fit for OU, due to travel considerations and the fact that the schedule already included Notre Dame.
Even if the Sooners hosted the Seminoles this season, they would then have to travel to South Bend and Tallahassee in 2013. And OU just traveled to FSU in 2011, so another trip in 2012 did not make sense.
Additionally, Texas A&M was briefly considered for the other non-conference game, but it did not add up for similar reasons. The Aggies either would have had to travel to Norman for a second straight year, or OU would have had non-conference trips to College Station and Notre Dame in 2013.
Some things fell into place, as expected. The OU-Texas game was moved back a week to Oct. 13, which is the more traditional timing of the Red River Rivalry. The state fair dictated that move, in part.
Additionally, the Sooners avoided having to return to any road sites from 2011. Included, Oklahoma State will play in Norman for the first time since 2009. Bedlam was most likely aligned when it was, two days after Thanksgiving, because it's difficult to schedule successful games during the holiday weekend.
TCU presents an intriguing way for OU to wrap its season. The teams were originally scheduled to play a September out-of-conference game, but now it'll be the conference finale at revamped Amon G. Carter Stadium on the west side of the Metroplex.
The Sooners went 6-3 in the Big 12 a year ago, finishing 10-3 overall. They had a stunning home loss to Texas Tech before falling to Baylor and Oklahoma State on the road to finish in a tie for third.