The Cowboys are in steady hands as long as their 56-year-old head coach wants the gig. He would be 61 and into his 24th season if he coached against Alabama in 2028.
Nick Saban’s Alabama retirement is good news for an Oklahoma football program hoping it doesn’t get its lunch money stolen by SEC bullies.
Is it good news for Oklahoma State?
Three years ago the Cowboys and Crimson Tide agreed on a 2028-29 home-and-home series. That was a terrific development for those of us starved for delicious September matchups, but probably not for Mike Gundy, who last coached a home-and-home of this magnitude in 2007 and ‘09 against Georgia.
That was Mark Richt Georgia. Those Bulldogs were very good but not up to Kirby Smart’s standards. OSU split those two games, winning the ‘09 rematch on a day Dez Bryant came up big and so did Boone Pickens Stadium on its grand reopening.
Had Saban kept at it the rest of this decade, the Cowboys would have begged for a split in 28-29. Now they’re on track to play Kalen DeBoer’s Crimson Tide and we’re left to wonder:
Can the Pokes actually think sweep? Must they remain worried about being swept? Or should we land back on a split?
The variables are the two head coaches and time.
DeBoer didn’t flinch his two years at Washington. The Huskies went 10-12 in Pac-12 games from 2019-21. They went 17-2, and 25-3 overall, under DeBoer.
There’s no rebuild at Alabama, just the preposterous task of replacing college football’s greatest coach. DeBoer’s track record is sparkly — he dug Fresno State out of a ditch the two years before taking over Washington — but nobody knows whether he’ll flinch in Tuscaloosa as Ray Perkins did replacing Bear Bryant, or thrive as Gene Stallings did replacing Bill Curry after Curry replaced Perkins.
Could be DeBoer does both, that he stumbles his first year or two while learning if he doesn’t roll out of bed singing “Sweet Home Alabama,” he’s liable to be roasted on the Paul Finebaum Show. Could be athletic director Greg Byrne allows him time to steady, and by that 2028 trip to Stillwater, the Tide is ranked No. 1 thanks to a backfield with more stars in their recruiting profile than OSU’s entire starting defense.
Saban went 7-6 his first year at Bama and won a national championship in year three. Smart went 8-5 his first year at Georgia and has done all right since.
Seems what the Cowboys need to do is wish upon a star and swap their Alabama series with their home-and-home against Oregon in 2025-26. Better to play the Tide while DeBoer is getting his bearings and put off the Ducks another three years in hopes that Dan Lanning might move on soon.
This being reality, the Pokes’ best play is to bank on stability.
Gundy bears down on his 20th OSU season. If we’ve been through a few sideshows involving him and other jobs, that nonsense appears to have stopped.
“This place is who I am,” Gundy said while approaching his 400th OSU game as player or coach last October, a more coherent ’23 moment than giving Ollie Gordon the ball, even.
There’s a decent chance Gundy does something else before retiring to his ranch, but it won’t be coaching football anyplace else. OSU fits him like his haircut.
He’ll wake up one morning and realize he’d be a natural on TV. Or decide it might be fun to run for state office. He wouldn’t be so terrific in that role, but he’d win an election sure as he wins a bowl game.
This is simply a matter of time.
The Cowboys are in steady hands as long as their 56-year-old head coach wants the gig. He would be 61 and into his 24th season if he coached against Alabama in 2028. That’s approaching Frank Beamer’s 29-season landmark for a head coach at his alma mater.
“I’ve been lucky that they’ve kept me around this long. They’ve had a number of chances to run me off and they haven’t done it…” Gundy said last October. “It’s been a great run. Knock on wood, still have my health, enjoy it, like being around the players, wake up and my brain’s working. Good times.”
Maybe Gundy takes Saban’s, or his buddy Bob Stoops’, cue and the good times stop between now and ’ ‘28. With his health and legacy intact.
He has hinted that might not come until his 60s. We’ll see. Time creeps up on us all.
For the sake of their nonconference schedule, the Cowboys need Gundy into his early 60s. Theirs isn’t the easiest job, as Gundy’s successor is certain to discover. If a succession happens before Alabama visits… whoa boy.
Best OSU can do in that scenario is hope DeBoer flinches.