Barry Switzer was promoted to head coach in January 1973. When the Switzer era began that September, OU’s second game was in the Los Angeles Coliseum. Against top-ranked Southern Cal.
The Trojans of John McKay and Pat Haden and Anthony Davis and Lynn Swann and Richard Wood and Gary Jeter.
Some look at such tests as barriers to success. That’s misguided. Such games are gateways to success.
Lincoln Riley was promoted to head coach on June 7. When the Riley era begins in September, OU’s second game will be in Ohio Stadium, against mighty Ohio State. The Buckeyes of Urban Meyer and J.T. Barrett and Jamarco Jones and Mike Weber and Tyquan Lewis.
Forty-four years ago, Switzer’s Sooners made everyone realize that things were going to be just fine without Chuck Fairbanks, when they outplayed USC before settling for a 7-7 tie in the Coliseum.
Now Riley’s Sooners can do the same against Ohio State.
Games like Oklahoma-Ohio State are not impediments. They are opportunity.
When OU announced Riley’s hiring, the released statement from Riley contained 132 words. Two of those words were “opportunity.”
“…honored to be given this opportunity…”
“…grateful … for believing in me and affording me this opportunity.”
We sometimes use “opportunity” as a synonym for “job.” But the Oklahoma job comes with many an opportunity. Starting with games like Ohio State, which are what make college football great.
And the same is true of Big 12 football in general. The beleaguered conference has upgraded its scheduling. The Big 12 has given itself more opportunity for success.
In my annual rankings of non-conference scheduling among the 64 Power-5 Conference schools, the Big 12 acquits itself better than in years past, when it consistently ranked with the SEC below the other Power-5 conferences.
— In 2017, 33.3 percent of the Big 12’s non-conference games are against Power-5 foes. Only the ACC has a higher percentage (.393)
— The Big 12 plays 23.3 percent of its non-conference games against lower-division opponents. That’s seven of 30 games. A year ago, the Big 12 played eight games I-AA teams. Every little bit helps. The Big 12’s figure is better than the SEC’s (25 percent) but still far below the Big Ten, which is playing just two of 42 non-conference games against lower-division teams. The ACC (23.2 percent) and Pac-12 (22.2 percent) closely mirror the Big 12’s number.
The Big 12 still could improve its scheduling prowess. OU-Ohio State, Texas-Southern Cal and West Virginia-Virginia Tech are the league’s only games against traditional powers. And the Big 12 could improve on scheduling competitive mid-majors.
This season, OSU-Tulsa and Texas Tech-Houston are the only games against teams outside the Power-5 that hold much interest.
But for the most part, the Big 12 has improved its scheduling, as was urged by the conference a few years ago.
For too long, Big 12 schools looked at scheduling as a way to build up victories instead of build up reputations. The conference paid a heavy price, none moreso than in 2014, when Baylor clearly would have made the College Football Playoff had it not played SMU, Northwestern State of Louisiana and Buffalo in the non-conference.
That mindset is starting to change. I’ve got Texas (sixth), OU (10th), OSU (17th), Texas Tech (20th) and West Virginia (25th) in the top 25 of non-conference schedules. That’s excellent representation for a 10-team conference.
That’s the only way the Big 12 can get back to higher ground in college football. The Big 12 has to win its way there, by taking advantage of opportunity.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel