Sooners show they're serious about scheduling elite teams out of conference

Brett Deering

Many of the top college teams in the country talk about needing to play quality opponents in the nonconference schedule, but Bob Stoops and the Sooners are actually walking the talk.

Bob Stoops has always said that to be the best, you have to play the best. And the Sooners are doing just that, scheduling home and away non-conference games with some of the country's best and most historic college football programs in the coming years.

Recently, the University of Oklahoma athletic department announced scheduling agreements with Louisiana State University, Tennessee and Ohio State for two football games to be played in future years through the remainder of the decade..

The Tennessee two-game home-and-away series will begin with a game at Oklahoma in the 2014 season and the Sooners will travel to Knoxville to play the Volunteers in 2015. Similarly, Oklahoma will host Ohio State in a non-conference game during the 2016 season, and the following year, the Sooners and Buckeyes will do battle in Columbus.

The Tigers of LSU will come to Norman for the first time ever in the fall of 2018, and OU will return the favor a year later, in 2019, and make the Sooners first visit to Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.

In the case of all three future opponents, Oklahoma has played each team only twice all time, and the Sooners have split their two games with each school.

Of the three major football schools OU has scheduled future games with, Ohio State has the most all-time wins with 837 through the 2012 season, six more than the Sooners' total of 831. Tennessee has 799 all-time wins and LSU has 743. Oklahoma owns the most national titles of the four elite national programs. Ohio State is next with five, LSU has two and Tennessee has captured two national championships.

While a number of the country's top college programs have been accused through the years of scheduling so-called cupcake opponents in the nonconference portion of their fall football schedules, critics haven't been able to say that about Oklahoma's scheduling process, especially during the time athletic director Joe Castiglione and coach Bob Stoops have been at OU.

In recent seasons, the Sooners have played two-game series with the University of Miami (2007 and 2009), Florida State (2010-11), and in September this year (Sept. 28) OU will complete the second half of a two-game home-and-away series with the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. The Irish came to Norman this past fall and handed the Sooners their second loss of the season and their ninth victory over OU in 10 all-time meetings.

Future games with Army and longtime conference rival Nebraska are also on the calendar for six to 10 years out.

Under the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) process for determining a national championship in college football, it has been as much about whom you beat (as well as to whom you lose) as how many games you win. Even with the transition to a playoff format to determine the top team in college football, who you play - and defeat - will still be a critical component in determining the playoff teams. By scheduling marquee matchups out of conference, Oklahoma is ensuring that its football team will be in a position to control its own destiny in future years with a schedule that features quality opponents and is as competitive as any school in the country.

One thing doesn't change, however: You still have to win to advance, but you can't lay claim to the title of being the best if you don't play and beat the best.

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