- Associated Press - Thursday, September 2, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Coach Mike Riley and his No. 24 Oregon State players would like nothing better than to squeeze in a preseason tune-up before taking on No. 6 TCU Saturday night in Texas.

“I think that’d be awesome,” Riley said recently.

This might be Oregon State’s toughest game of the season and it will be the first time the Beavers have blocked or tackled an opponent since they played BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl in December.

While the NFL is considering cutting its exhibition schedule from four to two games (and lengthening its regular season), Riley and some other college coaches are in favor of a preseason game or even a scrimmage.

“It would be chance to see some new stuff and have your players have to adjust,” Riley said.

“What happens in the first game of the regular season, you take everything you’ve been working on and everything you do … and then you’ve got to make some adjustments.

“I think a preseason scrimmage would give you the chance to get through some of the those hurdles and get your team to understand that that’s the way it is every week. You’ve got to take what you do and adapt it.”

Of course, Oregon State is the exception among top teams in major college football, many of which will open the season this weekend toying with weak opponents and playing their starters for a half.

NCAA rules allow Division I college football teams to play 12 contests, including scrimmages against other teams. Since no school is about to give up a regular-season game to play a game that doesn’t count, the first step would be a rule change.

NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said in an e-mail that “there have not been any proposals from member schools or conferences to change the rule on scrimmages or exhibition football games.”

But maybe one might be coming.

Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez is a proponent of playing a preseason tuneup and apparently he’s turned his new boss, athletic director David Brandon, on to the idea.

“Our coaches and I believe this is something worth considering,” Brandon said. “We need to look at all of the issues carefully, and get input from other coaches and programs. However, it could be beneficial to provide a scrimmage opportunity versus another team during the preseason practice period to better prepare the team for competition. This would be for the same reasons that basketball, hockey, and other sports do the same thing.”

At the lower levels of college football, it’s not uncommon for teams to work in preseason intersquad scrimmages.

“We’re probably one of the only levels of football that doesn’t have preseason games,” said Rodriguez, whose first college head coaching job was at Division II Glenville State.

Indiana coach Bill Lynch also coached in Division II.

“We’d find another school that was close, so it was relatively inexpensive and I thought it was really good. We used to really kind of make a day of it and it was really a practice against each other broken down into individual drills as well as 11 on 11.

“Whether that would work at this level, I’m not sure. I’m sure there would be finances that would get involved and probably try to make it a money maker. But in terms of getting your team ready, it would be great.”

Rodriguez suggested limiting access so a preseason game doesn’t turn into “a big event.”

But there’s the problem.

As Ohio State coach Jim Tressel put it, “If we were to play a preseason game, there would be 100,000-some people here.”

When intrasquad spring games draw tens of thousands of fans at schools like Nebraska, Alabama and Ohio State, it seems inevitable that even a bulked-up practice would become a major deal at the football factories.

While Rodriguez said he thinks most coaches would welcome an exhibition game of sorts, certainly not everyone would.

Count Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh, who played in the NFL, and Arizona State’s Dennis Erickson, who has coached in the NFL, among those who would stay with the status quo.

“The uniqueness of college football is a good thing, understanding that your going to see more fumbled snaps, more blocked punts, more miscommunication in the secondary, more missed tackles in that first game.”

Erickson brought up the other big concern.

“To have it would be just an extra opportunity for guys to get hurt,” he said.

Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne isn’t much for the idea of playing a preseason game, though he suggested the possibility of bringing in another team during the spring.

“I would sure hate to see them do anything to lengthen the season right now,” he said.

At least one player, Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd agrees with that.

“No reason for an extra game,” he said. “I’m just ready for Purdue.”


AP Sports Writers Eric Olson in Lincoln, Neb., Larry Lage in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Rick Gano in South Bend, Ind., contributed to this report.

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