The Oklahoma State (along with the rest of the rest of the Big 12) 2017 football schedule was released on Tuesday. While we knew who we would play and where, it was the when we learned. That included the (not so) surprising decision by the league to move Bedlam up a few weeks.
After a few days to digest the Cowboys 12-game schedule, four of us got together and gathered our thoughts.
- We’ve known this for a while, but why in the world is Oklahoma State traveling to South Alabama? OSU is arguably a top-20 football program over the last five years. Great programs don’t play games like this. All it does is create a real nice recipe for disaster. Keep in mind, South Alabama beat Mississippi State in Starkville this season...
- Bedlam being a month earlier is a great thing. Or is it? Look at it this way: OU historically plays their best football late in the season. That’s the product of good coaching and talent. With no bye week to prepare for OSU, it could create an unfamiliar Bedlam environment for OSU. Maybe unfamiliar is their best chance at finally knocking off OU. That said ... OSU played their best football at the end of the season, too. Catching OU before they’re gelling could mean you catch them before you’re gelling... It will be a very interesting game.
- The Big 12 road schedule is no slouch. The downside to getting KSU, Baylor, TCU and OU at home every other year is that you have to travel to Morgantown, Ames and Lubbock, to name a few. All three of those destinations have been traps for Oklahoma State in the past. That said, you’ve got to win the games you’re supposed to win, and I would imagine they’ll be favored in all of those road games.
- Kind of a weak non-conference schedule. It’s better than the basketball non-conference though. With the criteria of the College Football Playoff changing every day, I'd much rather start out 3-0 than schedule heavy non-conference and start out 0-3, or 1-2 like OU did last year. It would be nice to see another mid-tier Power 5 team though, and get rid of either Tulsa or (preferably) South Alabama. A Group of 5 member wouldn’t be as bad either, but it would have to be one of the better ones, because the Committee showed that, at least this year, winning your conference doesn’t matter. Your overall record and strength of schedule are ultimately the deciding factor (Hi Ohio State).
- I like Bedlam being earlier. Especially if the championship once again is the Battle for Oklahoma. Would we call it Bedlam again? Bedlam 2.0? I kinda like Battle of Oklahoma myself, but I've never been one who gets to name things. Anyway, I am NOT one of those in favor of having Homecoming be the Bedlam game. Traditionally, you schedule someone you think you can beat on Homecoming, so the football game isn’t ruined by a loss. At least, that’s how it always appeared to work to me. Did you know Illinois football was scheduled four times to go on the road and be the Homecoming game. You know why? BECAUSE THEY ARE GARBAGE. Not quite Kansas bad, but not good. Gundy is 2-10 in Bedlam games. If we do get the Gooners for Homecoming, and they come in and embarrass us for the third year in a row, those same people that are saying how cool it would be to have Homecoming Bedlam will be the same ones saying “What the hell were they thinking scheduling OU for Homecoming?”
- The home schedule is much nicer this year. In 2015 the home schedule was loaded, and I mean LOADED, with TCU, Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, and Bedlam all in Stillwater. So, naturally, 2016 was very weak for home games. It's nice to see a good balance of home and away for 2017. We bring Tulsa into Stillwater in non-conference (which is apparently a newfound rivalry). Then in conference play, we bring in TCU, Baylor, and OU, before finishing out with the state of Kansas, and (hopefully) a trip to Arlington for the Big 12 Championship Game. While 2015 was fun, 2016 was a bit of a disappointment for home games. 2017 should be a LOT better.
- Will Oklahoma State end up with a Thursday night game? The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel reminded me that the Big 12 is contractually obligated to play four non-Saturday games a year. OSU last played a week-night conference game in 2014 against Texas Tech. They played a Thursday night season-opener at Central Michigan in 2015, but that wasn’t forced by the league. If the Cowboys do get stuck with a Thursday/Friday game, I hope it’s either the season-opener against Tulsa or the Baylor game that falls after the bye-week. Otherwise the Cowboys are going to have to play on a short week. In this league, with as much as the defenses are on the field, that could spell disaster, especially if the Cowboys have to go on the road (unless it’s Kansas).
- That final stretch of games could be harder than we think. When I first saw the schedule, I thought the end of the season was a gift (for health, not kickoff times). Ending the season against Iowa State, Kansas State, and Kansas should be nice. However, all three of those teams performed much better at the end of this season than they did at the beginning. Granted, so did OSU, but a road game against an improving Iowa State team at the end of the year could be dangerous. Head coach Matt Campbell seemed to be figuring things out at the end of the season. The Cowboys have played close games with Kansas State more often than not. Kansas? Ok, maybe that one doesn’t scare me that much.
- October will make or break the season. Much has been said about Mason Rudolph on the road. October contains back-to-back road games against Texas (who I do believe will be a lot better next year) and West Virginia (who shouldn’t drop off that much from this season). Those games are sandwiched by home games against Baylor (who the hell knows) and OU. That’s a rough schedule. If OSU can make it through the month with no more than one loss (or zero losses) 2017 could be a GREAT season!
- The non-conference slate offers a pair of 2016 bowl teams. While neither of those games is a marquee matchup, I really like the idea of kicking off the season with an in-state program that could potentially give us fits. You don’t want to lose that game, but going up against the nearest Group of 5 program has a lot more upside after this season than it used to. Two weeks later boasts a road game at Pitt that could be interesting. This years Panthers struggled to find its identity early but improved greatly after the loss in Stillwater and wound up ranked in the final Top 25. Pitt has since lost it’s offensive coordinator to LSU, but it’s still a dangerous program. It should be a good, balanced test for the next iteration of the Glenn Spencer defense.
- An earlier than normal Bedlam means a relatively lackluster end to the season. The danger with the final trio of November games is any one of these teams can surprise you. Kansas State traditionally plays the Cowboys strong. Iowa State and Kansas haven’t had much to play for lately and would probably enter with a “go for broke” attitude and gameplan. On paper, there isn’t much to gain from these games other than victories in each would set OSU on an upward trajectory heading into the conference championship. History demands I go ahead and circle that November date in Ames and hope the coaches and players do the same.
- How will opening the Big 12 slate with the Texas contingent affect recruiting in the state? Gundy and his staff have recruited Texas pretty well. OSU has more players from Texas than any other non-Texas school. With games against all four Texas schools to start the conference schedule (sandwiched around a BYE week), it will be important to leave a lasting impression that the program continues to offer highly regarded Texas players an environment where these can showcase their talent outside the intense pressure added with all the eyes of their home state upon them. But perhaps we’ll uncover some gems in Iowa and Kansas to close out the season.