By Bill Steigerwald
STILLWATER – On paper, it’s one of the biggest mismatches of the college football season.
Playing its first game since winning the Fiesta Bowl and finishing last season with the No. 3 ranking, defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma State will host struggling Savannah State tonight.
It’s one of the biggest of the big boys picking a fight with one of the meekest kids in school, with only a $385,000 payday making up for the black eye that’s expected to be delivered.
For the 19th-ranked Cowboys, it may be the perfect way to open up the season after losing record-setting quarterback Brandon Weeden and two-time All-American receiver Justin Blackmon in the first round of the NFL draft. Freshman quarterback Wes Lunt will have a seemingly low pressure environment to take his first collegiate snaps and throw passes to a largely unproven receiving corps.
And Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy makes no apologies for the game that serves a purpose for both schools.
The youthful Cowboys get an early tuneup before next week’s road trip to Arizona. Savannah State, which has gone just 4-72 against FCS competition over the past 10 years, gets a chance to play one of college football’s powers in its first game ever against a Bowl Subdivision opponent and a hefty sum to deposit in its bank account.
“They’re going to balance a lot of their budget at that athletic department based on our games. That would be my guess,” Gundy said. “But then for us, when they ask me (who to schedule), I say: ‘I want to play the three easiest teams we can play and then play conference.’ That’s what I tell them every time.”
Gundy says he doesn’t exert much control over Oklahoma State’s schedule, leaving that to others who have to handle the athletic department budget and deal with the backlash from fans. But he sees no point in going with a more difficult nonconference schedule, particularly since the Big 12 went to playing nine league games last season.
“If you add another heavy hitter, supposedly, that makes it difficult on you because it is what it is: The more of those games you play, the better chance you have of something (bad) happening,” Gundy said.
Savannah State vs. No. 19 OSU
Time: 6 p.m.
TV: Fox College Sports