Opening Chattanooga wasn't No. 4 Sooners' plan Print
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Tuesday, 26 August 2008 13:29
NCAAF Headline News

 NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Considering the timing, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops didn't want to show any disrespect toward his team's opponent for this weekend.
His Sooners, ranked fourth in the nation entering the season, have hardly made a habit of padding their win total against lower division opponents since Stoops arrived in Norman in 1999. But with Chattanooga of the Championship Subdivision coming to town on Saturday, Stoops didn't think it was the right time to say whether he agreed with the notion of a football powerhouse playing a school with far less resources.
``We're getting ready to play one, so that's not a fair question,'' Stoops said Tuesday.
The Sooners' season opener against Chattanooga - coming off a 2-9 season - has been highly criticized in some circles as a symbol of weak scheduling, but that's hardly what athletic director Joe Castiglione had in mind.
Oklahoma intended to play Middle Tennessee this season, and while the Blue Raiders don't exactly rate among the nation's elite, they are at least a fellow Bowl Subdivision foe. The game would have been the second between the teams in recent years, following a 59-0 shutout by the Sooners in 2006, and it would have fit into Castiglione's philosophy of avoiding lower division teams.
The Sooners typically have played at least one BCS conference opponent - and sometimes two - in recent seasons before heading into Big 12 play. Castiglione has already lined up series against LSU, Tennessee, Notre Dame, Florida State and Ohio State and recent nonconference opponents included Miami, UCLA, Oregon and Alabama.
This year's other nonconference opponents are Cincinnati and Washington, BCS conference schools, and TCU, which won in its last two trips to Norman.
Around the BCS opponents, Castiglione has always scheduled other Bowl Subdivision teams. The last second-tier opponent on the schedule was Illinois State in Stoops' first game as Oklahoma's coach nine years ago.
Chattanooga came into the picture last fall after Middle Tennessee didn't sign a contract after reaching a verbal agreement with the Sooners. Castiglione said he tried to line up a top-tier replacement, but no Bowl Subdivision teams were willing to play in Norman. Going on the road would have left the Sooners below Castiglione's mandatory six home games, because it's Oklahoma's turn to lose a home game because of the annual Red River Rivalry series with Texas in Dallas.
``Throughout the country, I think it's been obvious to everybody in a lot of situations sometimes you're left without a game because somebody pulls out or changes the contract on you and things need to be adjusted, and there's not a lot of people always willing to go play you,'' Stoops said.
``In the end, you do the best you can to get a strong schedule or one that the fans are going to enjoy. You do the best you can, and I think over the years ours has been pretty good.''
Castiglione said he thinks more Championship Subdivision opponents could be in the Sooners' future because fewer teams are willing to come to Norman instead of playing a game that could help get them into a bowl.
The game is the first chance for Oklahoma's players to get back on the field since a disappointing 48-28 Fiesta Bowl loss to West Virginia, and not sandwiched between the more eye-catching opponents on their schedule.
``Being the first game, everyone's ready to play,'' quarterback Sam Bradford said. ``There should be absolutely no problems for us getting motivated to go out there and play on Saturday.''
 

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