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What Could an Amended Oklahoma State 2020 Football Schedule Look Like?

Baylor the day after Christmas? Texas in January?

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It has become clear in recent days that heaven and earth will be moved to have a college (and professional) football season. I don’t know the specifics about the NFL, but the future of the sport in college could depend on it. Maybe that’s dramatic, maybe not, but don’t take it from me.

“We must play football, or college athletics will shrink before our eyes,” a Power Five AD told Brett McMurphy of Stadium. “The reality is, no matter what [kind of schedule] we end up with, there will not be a perfect solution.”

The amount of money at stake is staggering. Billions, according to USA Today. Probably somewhere north of $5 billion when you add it all up. Because universities “make so little profit” the appearance is that they live paycheck to paycheck year over year. When something disrupts the paycheck — like the coronavirus is poised to do this season — large-scale problems arise.

Football money comes in two broad forms. One, TV money. Two, gameday money. While the second is in flux because of social distancing measures that could last months (years?) the first could buttress a sport from complete disaster.

One solution to the problem of getting the season in is to potentially move it back from its original start date at the end of August. That’s what 75 percent of FBS athletic directors believe will happen in 2020. If this does happen, there are infinite scenarios. October starts, November starts, 12 games, nine games, only Bedlam games (kidding!), a spring slate, the title game in May. I mean, everything is in play.

So I wanted to explore what that might look like for Oklahoma State and whether any of this could actually benefit the Pokes, which were (are?) poised for a real Big 12 title run if and when the season is played. First, let’s look at the schedule as it stands right now.

Sept. 3 — Oregon State (Stillwater)
Sept. 12 — Tulsa (Stillwater)
Sept. 19 — W. Illinois (Stillwater)
Oct. 3 — TCU (Ft. Worth)
Oct. 10 — Iowa State (Stillwater)
Oct. 17 — Kansas (Lawrence)
Oct. 24 — Oklahoma (Norman)
Oct. 31 — Texas Tech (Stillwater)
Nov. 7 — Baylor (Waco)
Nov. 14 — West Virginia (Stillwater)
Nov. 21 — Kansas State (Manhattan)
Nov. 27 — Texas (Stillwater)

As of right now, I think the season will start at some point in October. It’s going to be nearly impossible to start it in late August because students at several schools aren’t allowed back on campus until just a few weeks before football starts. And if you bump it to January, you run into too many issues with the NFL Draft as well as safety concerns around ending the 2020 season three months before the 2021 season begins.

With an October start, you’re still able to get your 12-game slate in (which could be huge financially if fans aren’t allowed in the stands — see broad money points above).

–Pause–

Read that sentence above again, and then imagine showing it to yourself last December. It seems inconceivable that we’ve gotten to this position … and yet, here we are.

Anyway, I think because the fans-in-stands thing is up in the air, you have to give great effort to playing all 12 games on the schedule so you get your full allotment of TV money (for OSU, from the Big 12, this will be somewhere around $40 million next year, a number that also includes conference bowl revenue).

So let’s say you start Week 0 on Saturday, October 17. That would put OSU’s first game on Thursday, October 22 against Oregon State in Stillwater. From there, the schedule would look like this.

Oct. 22 — Oregon State (Stillwater)
Oct. 31 — Tulsa (Stillwater)
Nov. 7 — W. Illinois (Stillwater)
Nov. 21 — TCU (Ft. Worth)
Nov. 28 — Iowa State (Stillwater)
Dec. 5 — Kansas (Lawrence)
Dec. 12 — Oklahoma (Norman)
Dec. 19 — Texas Tech (Stillwater)
Dec. 26 — Baylor (Waco)
Jan. 2– West Virginia (Stillwater)
Jan. 9 — Kansas State (Manhattan)
Jan. 16 — Texas (Stillwater)

Bedlam in December!

In all seriousness, this is … not the worst schedule? January temperatures in Oklahoma are generally between 22-47 degrees — the coldest month of the year in OK — so that’s absolutely awful, but imagine the double-header possibilities in that month — Chuba Hubbard in the afternoon, Cade Cunningham at night! Plus, it already feels as if we should have more football in December than we actually do on the college front so it would be nice to actually have more football in December.

You could do the Big 12 title game (and other conference titles) at the end of January and onto the bowls and playoffs in February. This gives players the opportunity to get ready for the NFL Draft in April and provides ample time until the new season in August.

For Oklahoma State, it provides even more rest for Hubbard after a year in which he toiled as the featured everything for OSU, and it gives Tylan Wallace nearly a full year to rehab his knee following his injury last season. Plus, the colder it is the more OSU — with Spencer Sanders and Hubbard running the ball — benefits offensively.

There are myriad logistical issues with what I proposed above, including Christmas break, a multi-semester slate, running into other sports’ seasons, not having students in town to attend games (if they’re allowed to attend games?), but the overriding factor here is that the incentive to make this happen is 10x greater — maybe 100x greater — than making anything else happen. Other things will be sacrificed, football will be played as long as it is deemed safe for it to be played.

There are encouraging signs. As David Ubben pointed out here, schools are starting to show signs of life that an in-person fall semester will happen, and if an in-person fall semester happens, there will almost certainly be football at some point (fans or no fans).

The next few weeks will be fascinating as decisions will likely be made and rolled out about if and when college football is going to take place. I think an amended schedule could both benefit OSU in the short-term and also be kind of fun. Conference games the day after Christmas, a Big 12 title game followed by Cade in Allen Fieldhouse. I’m here for the unconventional. At this point, I’m here for anything at all.

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