Tramel: Could OU football play North Texas or Houston?
Big 12 presidents meet Monday, ostensibly to decide on a format for the imperiled football season. Among the models – and perhaps the most likely – is a plus-one format. Nine conference games, with play starting September 26, plus one non-conference game, likely set for September 12.
Other plans could be adopted. Or the dates could be different. Who knows?
But if something close to that format is selected, OSU likely would be set – the Cowboys host Tulsa on September 12, and that’s the perfect non-conference game for these pandemic times. In-state, 70 miles apart, not even an overnight stay, administrators who are quite familiar with each other and should be able to work through protocol requirements for testing and the such.
As for OU, it’s not quite so easy. The Sooners’ September 12 home game against Tennessee was canceled after the SEC adopted a conference-only model. OU is scheduled to host Missouri State on August 29, a game moved up from September 5. The Bears still could be a Sooner opponent on either of those dates, but September 12 problematic, since Missouri State is scheduled to host Montana on that day.
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OU’s other non-conference game, September 26 at Army, is in peril, as much for the date as for the logistics of playing in a state that at least for now requires a quarantine for visitors from certain states, including Oklahoma.
So if the Sooners go hunting for a September 12 opponent, who might be available?
How about North Texas? The Mean Green was scheduled to play at Texas A&M on September 12; that game was canceled by the SEC’s decision.
UNT makes a lot of sense. It would be replacing A&M with OU, similarly-sized programs with a similar distance from Denton, Texas. It’s 152 miles from Denton to Norman. Owen Field sits about a mile from Interstate 35. North Texas’ Apogee Stadium sits between the I-35’s, right at the junction where the freeway breaks into 35W and 35E.
North Texas, coached by former OU fullback Seth Littrell, was 4-8 last season, including 3-5 in Conference USA. But the Mean Green was 9-4 and 9-5 the previous two seasons. Littrell’s four-year record is 27-25, including 18-14 in Conference USA.
North Texas is the most geographic-sensible potential option for the Sooners. Of course, UNT makes sense as an opponent for a lot of Big 12 schools.
So does Houston. The Cougars’ game at Washington State scheduled for September 12 was canceled. UofH could be in the market for a game. Houston opened the 2019 season at OU.
September 12 is the optimal date for the plus-one non-conference game because it would give teams a Saturday off before conference play begins, to deal with potential COVID issues.
Besides OSU-Tulsa, other Big 12 games on September 12 are Iowa State-Ball State, Kansas State-North Dakota and West Virginia-Eastern Kentucky.
Both of TCU’s first two non-conference games have been canceled; the Frogs are left with their Iron Skillet game against SMU, scheduled for September 26. Rearranging that game would be difficult; SMU is scheduled to play Stephen F. Austin on September 12.
Texas’ game at LSU on September 12 was canceled. The Longhorns have South Florida on September 5 and Texas-El Paso on September 19. If the Big 12 makes September 12 the launch date, South Florida could be available to play, since its game that day against Bethune-Cookman was canceled.
Baylor and Kansas are scheduled to play September 12. That game is expected to be moved, probably to September 26.
Baylor is scheduled to play Louisiana Tech on September 26. Louisiana Tech is scheduled to play a Conference USA game against Southern Miss on September 12.
Kansas is scheduled to play Southern Illinois on August 29 and Coastal Carolina on September 26. Southern Illinois is not scheduled to play on September 12.
Texas Tech’s games against Alabama State and Arizona have been canceled. The Red Raiders are scheduled to play Texas-El Paso on September 5. The Miners are scheduled to play Nevada on September 12.
So TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech and Texas all could be courting Houston or North Texas for a non-conference game.
Other mid-major opponents whose September 12 games were canceled include Houston, Brigham Young, Memphis, Tulane, New Mexico, Appalachian State, Central Michigan, Ohio, Ball State, Northern Illinois, Connecticut, Western Kentucky, Fresno State, Nevada-Las Vegas and Colorado State.
If the Big 12 allows September 19 games, teams that have a void are Arkansas State, BYU, San Diego State, Wyoming, Utah State, Air Force, San Jose State, Hawaii, Toledo, Bowling Green, Ball State, Central Michigan, Buffalo, Kent State, Temple, South Alabama and Rice.