OU football: Lincoln Riley would love to play Ohio State, but logistics make it impossible
NORMAN — Sign Lincoln Riley up for Oklahoma-Ohio State this weekend.
The Buckeyes’ annual clash with Michigan got wiped out early in the week, giving the Buckeyes a bye week, then Thursday the Sooners’ regular-season finale against West Virginia, scheduled for Saturday in Morgantown, was wiped out.
The Mountaineers shut down football operations for seven days due to COVID-19 issues.
“We would play,” Riley said when asked what his reaction would be if Ryan Day, Ohio State’s coach, called him wanting to schedule a game. “No doubt we would play.”
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But then reality set in a bit.
“From a competitive standpoint, we would love to play. There’s no doubt about it,” Riley said. “But I mean, the feasibility of doing something on that late a notice, with all the procedures and all that, I don’t see it happening.”
The Sooners were in the middle of their Thursday walk-through, which is narrowly focused on the upcoming opponent, when they received word that West Virginia was unable to play the game.
Riley called the team together, informed them of the news, and practice was over.
“I didn’t see much reason to continue,” Riley said. “I stopped and visited with the team about it. We popped back in here as a staff and started working on the next challenge.”
The OU-West Virginia game, which was originally scheduled for Nov. 28 before being postponed due to virus issues with the Sooners, was the first Big 12 conference game canceled this season. A bit later Thursday, the league announced the Texas-Kansas game, which had been moved from Nov. 21 already, would also be wiped out and declared a no-contest.
When the No. 11 Sooners take on No. 7 Iowa State at 11 a.m. Dec. 19 in Arlington for the Big 12 Championship, OU will have played just once in 27 days.
“It is what it is,” Riley said. “We can’t control it. But there is (concern). I’m glad we got some good, active work that we got this week.”
The Sooners lost 37-30 at Iowa State on Oct 3.
This season when Big 12 teams fall below one of several thresholds, the game can be declared a no-contest or moved to a later date. Teams that have fewer than 53 players (both scholarship and walk-ons) or have fewer than seven offensive linemen, four interior defensive linemen or one quarterback available can call off a game. Teams that fall below those benchmarks can also elect to play.
The West Virginia move makes the one game the Sooners have played recently even more important.
Had OU not been able to play last Saturday’s game against Baylor, a 27-14 Sooners win where they were without much of their secondary and some other key players due to COVID-19 tests and contact tracing issues, OU wouldn’t have been eligible to make the conference title game. No. 20 Texas, by virtue of its win over Oklahoma State on Oct. 31, would’ve been in the title game instead and the Sooners’ streak of five consecutive Big 12 titles would’ve ended.
That’s if the league stuck with its rules as written.
The Big Ten altered their league rules this week after the Ohio State-Michigan cancellation, allowing the Buckeyes to make the league championship game while only having played five games.
The Big 12 games are two of six featuring a ranked team to be called off this weekend. Others included No. 5 Texas A&M vs. Ole Miss, No. 8 Cincinnati at Tulsa and No. 12 Indiana at Purdue.
“We’re not going to worry about things that we can’t control,” Riley said. “We’ve had a really good week of work, which I think a lot of that’ll carry over. This is way different than a couple weeks ago when this happened, and we had to shut down.
“This is a totally different scenario. We’ve had some good work, really some strong practices the last couple of days. … Just made some big improvements, just generally as a football team or kind of regardless of opponent.”