Missouri State, Grambling State, Savannah State, Lamar, Missouri State, Central Arkansas.
What do all those schools have in common? They are all FCS (formally Division 1-AA) football teams that have played Oklahoma State since 2008.
These games need to stop.
Playing these cupcakes has been an issue for OSU football for years, in my opinion. Playing weak FCS teams is a lose-lose situation for many reasons. If my beloved Cowboys blow them out of the water, our starters get little viable Division I-caliber experience. If the games are close, it can shake team and fan confidence.
If we lose, well … it’s catastrophic.
The main issue I have with scheduling cupcakes is how it fails to really prepare OSU teams for the competition they face the rest of the season. Let’s look at the 2012 and 2013 campaigns for the Cowboys.
In 2012, we were coming off the historic Fiesta Bowl victory over Stanford. Our next regular season began with a game against Savannah State. The final score was 84-0. Freshman QB Wes Lunt started the game and played less than a quarter against a team that had a losing record in the FCS division. The Cowboy defense, meanwhile, matched up against an offense that was nothing close to that of a Big 12 squad.
The following game, OSU traveled to Arizona of the PAC-Whatever-It-Was-Back-Then. After we went up by 14 in the first quarter, OSU fell off the rails and the game became a train wreck. Arizona pushed back and we were not ready. The Cowboys suffered 167 yards in penalties, made four turnovers and appeared undisciplined all-around. Going into a road game against a Power-5 team when your starters have played less than a quarter is a recipe for disaster, and it showed.
In 2013, after playing Mississippi State and the University of Texas-San Antonio, we played Lamar, another overmatched team that OSU dominated. Following an open week, OSU’s next game was West Virginia, and we lost again. In this game, we got down quickly and were lifeless pretty much the whole time. What made this loss so terrible is we finished that season 10-3. If we had beaten West Virginia, we would have won the Big 12 title because Baylor’s only loss was to us.
Playing these FCS teams before we play major-conference opponents has worked out poorly for us in recent history.
But at least the 2012 and 2013 FCS games were blowouts. When a game like we had against Central Arkansas popped up this year, it really shook the fan-base’s confidence.
At halftime, we were only up 10. We eventually won 32-8, but it did not feel like a victory. In my mind, it almost felt like a loss, considering FCS-school Samford had beaten Central Arkansas so easily.
Losing confidence is one thing, but losing an FCS game would be unfathomable at this point in OSU’s program history. We have yet to lose to an FCS team, but every time we play one we are taking a chance of becoming the next Michigan circa 2007.
It looks like coach Mike Gundy and athletic director Mike Holder are scheduling better teams, because in the coming years we play teams like Pitt, Boise State, and Oregon State. On the down side, however, we still play a game against the FCS Southeastern Louisiana State Lions in 2016.
Better scheduling would not only be good for the team, but I feel it will also be a plus for the fans who don’t want to see blow outs against cupcakes or, much worse, struggles against the same weak opponents.