Oklahoma will host FCS opponent Missouri State in the 2020 season opener, according to FBSchedules.com.
Playing a lower-level opponent isn’t the best look for the Big 12’s premier football program, but it is now part of the scheduling poison that college football blueblood’s must endure.
OU in 2020 also plays a home game against Tennessee and a road game at Army, so adding an easy victory — a tune-up game — was smartly the top priority for athletic director Joe Castiglione to round out the schedule.
But an FCS team? And a bad one at that?
With Castiglione and Bob Stoops working in tandem, the Sooners never made a habit out of playing opponents from the NCAA Division I’s lower tier (Football Championship Subdivision, formerly I-AA). OU hasn’t played an FCS opponent since 2012; the last one before that was in 2009. They’re usually a last resort.
But this news will mark the second year in a row for OU to stage such a game. Oklahoma hosts South Dakota in 2019.
According to FBSchedules.com, OU will pay Missouri State $600,000 for coming to Norman, per the game contract between the schools.
That’s actually not a lot of money in today’s scheduling climate. To bring UTEP to Norman for last year’s season opener, the Sooners paid the Miners $600,000. That game wasn’t competitive (OU won 56-7), but at least it was against a fellow member of the Football Bowl Subdivision. (UTEP comes back in 2022, for a price tag of $700,000.)
UTEP, it turns out, was a bargain.
OU also paid Tulane $1.2 million for last year’s game in Norman for a 56-14 beatdown. The Green Wave essentially got double the profit to score double the touchdowns, but that contract was much more representative of the financial guarantee most mid-major FBS schools are demanding to come to Norman. (It also was part of a three-game series; the next two will be played in New Orleans in 2021 and in Norman in 2024.)
While OU won its third consecutive Big 12 Conference championship and made its second appearance in the College Football Playoff, Missouri State was just 3-8 last year. Even worse, FCS teams are restricted to 63 scholarships, compared with 85 for FBS teams. The Sooners’ last four games against FCS opponents produced an average score of 60-4.
Fans don’t want to watch the Sooners pulverize a bad team with limited scholarships.
But the College Football Playoff selection committee doesn’t seem to mind one bit.
Of the 16 teams that made the playoff in the first four seasons of the CFP, 12 played an FCS opponent. Clearly, taking a week off in the middle of the season doesn’t impair one’s chances of landing a spot in the bracket.
Armed with that knowledge, and with the bargain-basement price tag of hosting an FCS, Castiglione made the right call.
That won’t make it any more fun to watch.
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard every weekday on The Franchise in Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. with co-host Lauren Rew. In Oklahoma City, catch him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10:25 and every Friday afternoon at 4:05. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.