OSU football: How about Michigan in Stillwater on Sept. 3?
Some Pac-12 coaches have admitted that their league, because of the pandemic, is considering a conference-games-only model, which of course would affect more than just Pac-12 football teams. Like Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys host Oregon State on September 3, a Thursday night season opener that gets the jump by two days on every other Big 12 team. But if the Pac-12 declares no non-conference games, the Cowboys would be scrambling to find an opponent.
A variety of reports out of Alabama this week said that after the Pac-12 coaches’ statement, Alabama and TCU began talks about playing. On September 5, Alabama is scheduled to play Southern Cal in Arlington, Texas. That same day, TCU is scheduled to play at Cal-Berkeley. TCU playing Alabama in Arlington would be an easy and quick fix for that scheduling quagmire.
It’s all possibly for naught. It’s possible that the Pac-12 will go ahead and play its full schedule. It’s possible the Big 12, the SEC and the other conferences don’t start on time or adapt similar scheduling.
The Tuscaloosa News reported that Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne responded to Bama-TCU inquiries with this: “Our plan is to play USC.”
But it’s also quite possible that the Pac-12 and the other Power 5 conferences go opposite ways.
And if so, where does that leave the schools that have non-conference games scheduled with the Pac-12?
Besides Alabama and USC, teams that are scheduled to play Pac-12 opponents on September 3-5 are Michigan (at Washington), William & Mary (at Stanford), Colorado State (Colorado), Brigham Young (at Utah), Hawaii (UCLA), Portland State (at Arizona), North Dakota State (at Oregon), Utah State (Washington State) and Northern Arizona (at Arizona State).
Uh, are you thinking what I’m thinking? Michigan in Stillwater on September 3?
Most programs that have a home game scheduled for September 3-5 will not want to substitute with a road game. Travel already will be hairy for teams this season, without adding an extra road game.
Brigham Young would be a great addition to the OSU schedule, but BYU couldn’t be excited about it – a road game at Utah is a 45-minute bus ride with no overnight stay, rather than a two-hour plane trip and likely overnight stay. The other teams scheduled for road games that weekend against Pac-12 teams are Division I-AA programs – William & Mary, Portland State, North Dakota State and Northern Arizona.
North Dakota State is the perennial I-AA national champion and would give the Cowboys all they could handle (just ask Kansas State). But the others would cheapen OSU’s schedule and give the Cowboys two opening games against inferior competition (Western Illinois plays at OSU on September 12).
No, by far the easiest options are Michigan and Brigham Young, and Michigan makes the most sense. The Wolverines should be agreeable – they already have a monster road trip scheduled that day. Michigan-Washington in Seattle is a whale of a season opener; Michigan-Oklahoma State in Stillwater is no less so. What difference does it make to the Wolverines?
Selling Mike Gundy and Co. might be different. Getting Michigan to Stillwater would be great exposure for the Cowboys, but the game almost surely would be played without fans. That lessens the marketing boost for OSU. And playing Michigan is a far greater risk for a defeat than playing Oregon State.
But man, talk about getting the troops excited for the season. This shapes up as a special OSU season. A loss to Michigan would not derail the Cowboys’ Big 12 championship hopes (or even their College Football Playoff hopes, really). But a victory would zoom OSU into the national picture quickly. The reward is greater than the risk.
An OSU source said the school has not talked to Michigan about such a switch, and that’s not surprising. No one knows what lies ahead. But to not plan for such a scenario would be dereliction of duty.
Other weekends are affected, too. On September 12, Ohio State is scheduled to play at Oregon. No other Power 5 team is scheduled to play a Pac-12 opponent that weekend, though Houston plays at Washington State. An Ohio State-Houston game would be feasible, probably in Columbus, Ohio.
On September 19, Texas Tech is scheduled to host Arizona, Texas A&M is scheduled to host Colorado, Brigham Young is scheduled to play at Arizona State, Utah State is scheduled to play at Washington and Wyoming is scheduled to host Utah. A Tech-A&M showdown would be fun, but would either give up a home game? Why not play at JerryWorld in Arlington? Otherwise, perhaps Tech could entice BYU or Utah State to make the trip to Lubbock.
The only other Pac-12 dates with non-conference games are October 10 (Stanford at Notre Dame) and November 28 (BYU at Stanford; Notre Dame at USC). The latter could be easily solved with Notre Dame-BYU. The former? Well, I don’t have any easy solutions for the Fighting Irish.