How Does Big 12's Decision Impact Oklahoma's Schedule?

Parker Thune

There will be no trip to West Point in 2020 for Oklahoma.

What we already imagined was true became official Tuesday morning, as confirmed that Army and Oklahoma will not play on Sept. 26.

The long-anticipated back end of the Sooners' home-and-home with the Black Knights had been on the schedule since 2009. Though both schools will no doubt engage in an effort to play the game at some point down the road, it's nonetheless an unfortunate casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the Big 12's decision Monday night to move to a 9+1 schedule format, the Sooners' tilt with Missouri State on Aug. 29 is also very much in limbo. Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione worked tirelessly to obtain a waiver from the NCAA to play the game on that date, but the conference's planned start date may compel Castiglione to change direction yet again with regard to the Sooners' schedule.

“We appreciate the donors, ticket holders, partners and fans who have been so patient and supportive through these unprecedented times," said Castiglione in a university press release Tuesday morning. "Our staff has prepared for a number of different scenarios and we will be ready when the season begins. Our new schedule is being finalized along with all of the details that will be associated with stadium access and operation. We expect to have that information completed soon and will communicate it as quickly as possible. In the meantime, we remain very enthusiastic as we look forward to another great season of Sooner football.”

It remains to be seen exactly what the Big 12 will do with its conference schedule. Oklahoma play-by-play announcer Toby Rowland tweeted Tuesday that the conference's official start date will likely either be Sept. 19 or Sept. 26.

Here's where things get tricky: if the Big 12 chooses Sept. 26 as its start date, it's not clear who Oklahoma would play in their presumed Sept. 12 opener. It wouldn't be Missouri State, as the Bears are scheduled to host Montana that day.

The Aug. 29 opener looks like a pipe dream at this point; it's a virtual impossibility that the Sooners would play an FCS opponent and then wait at least three weeks - and possibly four weeks - for their next competition. If the conference chooses to open play on Sept. 19, the Sooners and Bears would more than likely attempt to move their game back to its original Sept. 5 date.

So let's step into the realm of the hypothetical for a moment. Suppose the Missouri State game is no longer on the table. Who might the Sooners attempt to schedule for their only nonconference matchup? Let's look at the potential opponents that would make sense from a geographical standpoint. 

Within state lines, the Sooners' only nonconference Division I foe is the University of Tulsa. However, a source from within the TU athletic department told SI Sooners that the Golden Hurricane intend to retain their Sept. 12 contest with Oklahoma State. That all but eliminates the Sooners' most logical option.

Let's jump down to the DFW metroplex. SMU already has Stephen F. Austin booked for Sept. 12, so a showdown with the Mustangs isn't a possibility. However, North Texas does have an open date on Sept. 12. The Mean Green were originally set to take on Texas A&M in a Friday night battle on Sept. 11, but those plans fell by the wayside when the SEC announced a 10-game conference-only schedule for its teams in 2020.

However, North Texas is a member of Conference USA, which hasn't announced any plans to revise their conference schedule in the 2020 season. Thus, if Oklahoma is looking for a quick fix, it probably doesn't come by way of the Mean Green. They'd likely have to wait out a ruling from Conference USA before they could safely book a matchup with Seth Littrell's team.

Meanwhile, Tarleton State, a former Division II powerhouse, is set to join the FCS in 2020. The Texans will make a four-year transition to the Western Athletic Conference in the FBS, but until 2024, they're officially independent.

Here's what that means: in the eyes of the NCAA, Tarleton State has no current conference affiliation, and won't be subject to any sweeping verdict on scheduling from a higher authority. However, they're scheduled to visit Murray State on Sept. 12. The Racers play in the Ohio Valley Conference, so unless the OVC moves to a conference-only schedule very soon, Tarleton State is essentially in the same boat as North Texas.

All things considered, the best option for Oklahoma looks like Arkansas State. The Red Wolves don't have a game scheduled for the weekend of Sept. 12, and the Sun Belt issued a very intriguing directive for its programs this morning. The conference announced that its teams are welcome to play up to a full 12-game schedule, which will include 8 conference games.

Thus, Sun Belt teams are at their leisure to schedule up to 4 nonconference games. Arkansas State currently has 10 games on its schedule, with open dates on Sept. 12 and Sept. 19. It's unclear if or how the Sun Belt's new plan will affect the Red Wolves' schedule any further, but assuming Sept. 12 remains an open date for ASU, it stands to reason that they'd pursue an opponent to fill that date.

Why not Oklahoma?

Obviously, before the Sooners close the window on their contest with Missouri State, they'll have to wait out the full details of the Big 12's plan. But if the date with the Bears falls through, Joe Castiglione and the Oklahoma athletic department could presumably book the Red Wolves today if they wanted to.

It's become clear that in 2020, nothing is a safe bet or a sure thing. But if the Big 12 decides to open play on Sept. 26, expect Oklahoma to move quickly to secure a new nonconference opponent, and don't be shocked if that opponent is Arkansas State.

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