What has been rumored for weeks is now official: Mississippi State will open its 2013 football season against Oklahoma State. The game will be played Aug. 31 at Reliant Stadium, home of the NFL’s Houston Texans, and is being tabbed as the inaugural Texas Kickoff Classic.
Oklahoma State announced the game on its website this morning. The game will be on one of the ESPN networks, as it is the “creator of the game,” per the news release.
“We thought it fit into our philosophy we talked about, having seven home games, making sure it’s smart financially,” MSU athletics director Scott Stricklin told the Journal. “Coach (Dan) Mullen was part of the process. I said, ‘OK, Dan, this is a tougher non-conference game, how do you think it affects the bowl eligibility piece?’ He felt like we’d be able to get to where we needed to get to on that piece. We hit all of our markers as far as what we needed from a non-conference setup, and so we decided to do it.”
MSU said that its athletic ticket office has already begun accepting orders for the Texas Kick Off Classic. With prices ranging from $45 to $125, MSU’s allotment includes 10,500 tickets with 9,700 located along the sideline. A detailed seating map will be available at HailState.com.
This date opened up for MSU after it had to drop Mississippi Valley State from the schedule. It will be MSU’s first regular season game against a team from another BCS conference since 2009, when it played Georgia Tech at home and lost 42-31.
Stricklin has stated before that he feels no real need to schedule BCS teams in non-conference play, saying more than once that he’s quite happy playing such teams in a bowl game. But he thought now was a good time to have such a game.
“You look at our team, we’ll have a fifth-year senior quarterback next year (Tyler Russell), a lot of guys coming back. The timing’s going to be right in a lot of ways.”
This will be the fifth meeting between the schools, with the first four split evenly. The last meeting was in 1999 in Starkville, as MSU won 29-11 en route to a program-best 8-0 start. The last time the Bulldogs faced a Big 12 team was the 2000 Independence Bowl against Texas A&M, a.k.a. the Snow Bowl.
“We’re excited to open the season in Houston,” OSU athletics director Mike Holder said in the release. “We have a growing number of Texans attending Oklahoma State and a large alumni base in the area. We will be playing a high-profile season opener in a great stadium. I think our fans will be eager for this matchup all summer.”
Stricklin said on Twitter that MSU will still have seven home games next season, which means something will have to be changed about the current schedule (MVSU was going to be a home game). State will play the usual four SEC home games … unless the SEC shakes things up with a nine-game league schedule, which means some teams would get five home games.
Right now there are only two non-SEC home games on MSU’s schedule. Here’s what that 2013 non-conference slate looks like, subject to change, I suppose:
• Aug. 31, Oklahoma State (Houston)
• Sept. 7, at UAB
• Sept. 21, Troy
• Oct. 12, Bowling Green
I spoke with Stricklin earlier this year about future non-conference schedules, and he checked off on the info I had. He would not say today whether that above schedule is accurate.
“When we get our league schedule announced, we’ll put our whole schedule out there. I’d rather just wait and talk about all the other moving parts at that time,” he said. “We’re going to have seven home games.”
Oklahoma State has been a traditional power in the Big 12. It went 12-1 last year and beat Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl. The Cowboys are off to a slow start this year, with a 2-2 mark (0-1 Big 12).
“They’ve got a great program. They play in a good league,” Stricklin said. “It’s going to be a game that generates a lot of preseason interest. Because of that, being that first weekend, it gives us an opportunity to get a lot of exposure that first weekend.”