1. The Oklahoma Sooners began playing football in 1895. The program made its first move toward the big time in 1905 with the hiring of Hall of Fame head coach Bennie Owen. In 22 seasons at Oklahoma, Owen had a record of 122-54-16 (.677) and he brought the Sooners three conference titles (1915; 1918; 1920) and two undefeated seasons (8-0-0 in 1911; 10-0-0 in 1915).
2. Oklahoma's next step on the road to football powerhouse came in 1920 when the school became part of the Big Six Conference (then known as the Missouri Valley Conference), joining other core members Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State. The Big Six would eventually add Colorado (1947) and Oklahoma State (1958) and become the Big Eight. The Big Eight was one of the major football conferences, with the conference champion earning an automatic bid to the Orange Bowl beginning in 1968, and the eight-team lineup would remain stable for nearly forty years (more on that later).
3. Although the Sooners won a conference title in 1920, their first year in the soon-to-be Big Six, they did not win another title until 1938 (also the year of their first consensus All American, end Walter Roland "Waddy" Young). In the meantime, arch rival Nebraska dominated the conference, winning eleven titles during that span.
4. The balance of power in the Big Six began to shift in favor of the Sooners during the mid-1940s under the direction of head coach Dewey "Snorter" Luster (yes, that is the man's real name). Luster won conference titles in 1943 and 1944 before handing over the reins to Jim Tatum, who won another conference title in 1946, his only year on the job.
5. Buckeye fans look to 1951 as the year that Ohio State football finally "arrived" with the hiring of legendary head coach Woody Hayes. Sooner fans similarly look to 1947, when the school hired 31-year old Charles "Bud" Wilkinson as the head coach of the football team and athletic director. As a player for Bernie Bierman at the University of Minnesota, Wilkinson won national championships in 1934, 1935, and 1936. Wilkinson bounced around for a few years before landing a job as an assistant at Oklahoma in 1946. When Sooner head coach Jim Tatum abruptly quit, leaving Oklahoma for the apparently greener pastures of Maryland, Wilkinson stepped into his cleats. It was a move that would soon propel the Sooners to the very pinnacle of the college football world.
6. Wilkinson posted a 7-2-1 record in his inaugural season of 1947, and that would be his worst record during his first twelve years on the job. From 1947 to 1959, Wilkinson's record was an incredible 121-13-3 (.894), with a conference co-championship in 1947 and then twelve straight outright championships (1948 to 1959). Wilkinson would also win three undisputed national titles (1950, 1955, 1956), the first three in the history of Oklahoma football.
7. In 1953, Oklahoma lost its opener to Notre Dame (28-21) and then tied Pittsburgh (7-7) in week two. The Sooners would go on to win eight games in a row by a combined score of 258 to 55. With a record of 8-1-1, Oklahoma was invited to the Orange Bowl, where the #4 Sooners would face off against the #1 Maryland Terrapins, who were still coached by Wilkinson's former boss, Jim Tatum. In an epic contest, the Sooners shut out the previous unbeaten Terrapins, 7-0. However, because both the AP (writers) and the UP (coaches) polls awarded their titles prior to the bowl games, Maryland remains the national champion for 1953.
8. 1954 was the rare season that saw three major programs have perfect seasons. The Sooners went 10-0-0 and increased their overall winning streak to 19 games, but both Ohio State (10-0-0) and UCLA (9-0-0) also achieved perfection that year. The pollsters split their votes between Ohio State (AP champ) and UCLA (UP and FWAA champ), and Oklahoma finished a disappointing third in both major polls.
9. The Sooners kept on winning, posting perfect seasons in 1955 (11-0-0) and 1956 (10-0-0). Oklahoma out-scored its opponents 851 to 111 (40.5 to 5.3 on a per game basis) and earned undisputed national championships both years.
10. Oklahoma won its first seven games of 1957, increasing its overall winning streak to an FBS-record (still standing) 47 games. Then on November 16, 1957, the streak ended when Notre Dame invaded Norman, Oklahoma. Even though Notre Dame had been the last team to beat Oklahoma (way back on September 26, 1953), this Notre Dame squad was hardly in the same league as its predecessor. The 1957 Notre Dame team was mediocre, and they were fading fast as the season wound down. But this was still Notre Dame, and luck always seems to follow the Irish. Fresh off a pair of blow-out losses - 20 to 6 to Navy and 34 to 6 to Michigan State - Notre Dame somehow managed to play well above their heads and shut out #1 Oklahoma by the score of 7 to 0. Notre Dame would lose to Iowa the following week and finish their season with a 7-3 record. Oklahoma would win its remaining three games (including the Orange Bowl) and finish at 10-1-0.
11. Due to its loss to a less-than-impressive Notre Dame team, Oklahoma also lost its #1 ranking in both polls. And with that loss coming so late in the season, the Sooners had very little chance to regain the top spot prior to the final polls. The Sooners' stumble allowed Ohio State (9-1-0, with an opening game loss to TCU) and Auburn (10-0-0) into the national title picture, and those two teams split the 1957 national championship (Ohio State with the UP and FWAA titles, and Auburn with the AP title). Oklahoma would finish at #4 in both major polls.
12. Oklahoma would have another fine season in 1958, but a one-point loss to Texas in the Red River Shootout cost the Sooners another shot at a national championship. Although Oklahoma would finish the season with a record of 10-1-0 and a victory in the Orange Bowl, the Sooners finished #5 in both major polls. Louisiana State (11-0-0) took home both major national championships (8-1-1 Iowa won the FWAA title).
13. Wilkinson would win his 13th straight conference title in 1959, but his Sooners were out of the national title hunt after a 45-13 humiliation at the hands of Northwestern during week one of the season. The team would finish 7-3-0 and ranked #15 by the AP and #17 by the UPI.
14. Wilkinson suffered his first (and only) losing season in 1960, as the Sooners posted a dismal 3-6-1 record. The team improved somewhat in 1961 (5-5-0) before returning to the top of the Big Eight with conference titles in 1962 (8-3-0) and 1963 (8-2-0). But the 47-year old Wilkinson was burned out with coaching, and he left the Sooners after the 1963 season to try his hand at politics, color commentary, and a brief (and unsuccessful) stint in the NFL. Wilkinson would never return to college coaching. In just 17 seasons, Wilkinson's record at Oklahoma was 145-29-4 (.826) with 15 conference titles and three undisputed national championships. Bud Wilkinson is one of the true legends of college football, and he was inducted into the CFB Hall of Fame in 1969.
15. After Wilkinson retired, Gomer Jones became the next head coach at Oklahoma. Jones had been Wilkinsons's offensive line coach from 1947 to 1963, but he lasted only two years in the top spot (9-11-1 overall record). Jones played football at Ohio State and he was named a consensus All American as a lineman in 1935.
16. Chuck Fairbanks took over the storied Sooner program in 1967, and while he had some success he was unable to return Oklahoma to its glory days of the 1950s. Fairbanks won conference titles during his first two seasons, but his best team was undoubtedly the 1971 squad that finished 11-1-0 with a Sugar Bowl victory and the #2 ranking in the AP poll. The only blemish for the Sooners that year was a 35-31 loss in Week Ten to eventual national champion Nebraska in a contest that was dubbed The Game of the Century. #2 Oklahoma entered the game with the nation's top offense (472 yards rushing per game), while #1 Nebraska had the nation's best defense. Although Oklahoma led the game deep into the fourth quarter, Nebraska scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:38 left on the clock and the Sooners' final desperation drive came up short.
17. Fairbanks ran into trouble during the 1972 season. Although his team went 11-1-0 with a win over Penn State in the Sugar Bowl, the Sooners were subsequently forced to forfeit three victories due to using ineligible players (falsified academic transcripts). As a result of this scandal, which put the Sooners on probation for the next two seasons, Fairbanks resigned as Oklahoma's head coach and went to the NFL.
18. Barry Switzer took over the Oklahoma program prior to the 1973 season, and he promptly led the Sooners to a 32-1-1 record during his first three seasons. The 1973 team went 10-0-1 but finished #3 in the AP poll (behind #1 Notre Dame and #2 Ohio State). The 1974 Oklahoma team went 11-0-0 and won the AP national championship, but it was ineligible for the coaches title because the team was on probation. Ohio State and Southern Cal met in the Rose Bowl to decide the coaches national championship, with the Trojans edging the Buckeyes, 18-17, on a late touchdown and 2-point conversion.
19. In 1975, the Sooners continued their dominance of college football until Week Nine of the season when the team was inexplicably blown out by the lowly Kansas Jayhawks, 23-3, in Norman. The Sooners' loss propelled the Ohio State Buckeyes to the #1 spot in both major polls. The Buckeyes would remain atop the polls until the Rose Bowl, when they lost in equally inexplicable fashion to a mediocre UCLA team that they had already blown out earlier in the season. With the Buckeyes' loss in the Rose Bowl, and the Sooners' victory over the Michigan Woiverines in the Orange Bowl, Oklahoma earned its fifth national championship for the 1975 season.
20. Switzer would keep Oklahoma relevant for the next nine seasons, with an overall record of 83-22-3 (.782), but the Sooners would remain just outside of national championship contention. Switzer finally broke through in 1985, when the Sooners went 11-1-0 and earned their sixth national championship after a victory over Penn State in the Orange Bowl.
21. Switzer went 31-5 over the next three season but failed to win another national championship. He left Oklahoma after the 1988 season with an overall record of 157-29-4 (.837) and three national championships (1974, 1975, 1985). Switzer was replaced by Gary Gibbs.
22. From 1989 to 1998, the triumvirate of Gary Gibbs, Howard Schnellenberger, and John Blake ran the Oklahoma program into the ground. During that ten-year period, Oklahoma went 61-50-3 (.548) with no conference championships, no major bowl appearances, and no consensus All Americans.
23. In 1996, the Big Eight Conference merged with the Southwest Conference to form the Big Twelve. The four new members were Texas, Texas A+M, Texas Tech, and Baylor. The new conference proved unstable and soon suffered four defections: Nebraska (a founding member in 1907) bolted to the Big Ten; Colorado left for the PAC-12; and Missouri (another founding member) and Texas A+M headed to the SEC. The Big Twelve added Texas Christian and West Virginia as replacements in 2012, and the conference has been looking to expand further ever since.
24. Oklahoma finally got things right in 1999 with the hiring of Bob Stoops as the Sooners' head football coach. In his second season in Norman, Stoops went 13-0-0 and won the BCS national championship, the Sooners seventh and to date last national title.
25. Stoops is now in his 18th year as head coach of Oklahoma and he has a fine overall record of 180-47 (.793 winning percentage). However, since his championship run in 2000, Stoops's career at Oklahoma has been notable for his failure to win big games. Stoops is just 7-8 in bowl games, including 3-6 in BCS bowls and playoff games, and 0-3 in BCS championship games (2003, 2004, 2008).
26. Ohio State and Oklahoma have played just twice previously. The first meeting occurred on September 24, 1977, in Columbus. #4 Ohio State led #3 Oklahoma 28-20 entering the fourth quarter, and the Buckeyes were firmly in control when quarterback Greg Castignola fumbled near midfield with 6:23 left in the game. The Sooners recovered and drove 57 yards in 12 plays, scoring a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line to cut the score to 28-26. The ensuing two-point conversion failed, and the Buckeyes were 1:29 away from victory. All they needed to do was recover the inevitable on-side kick.... But of course they failed to do so, and Oklahoma was able to kick the game-winning field goal with just three seconds left on the clock. Final Score: Oklahoma 29, Ohio State 28.
27. The Buckeyes got revenge in the second meeting between the two teams. On September 17, 1983, #6 Ohio State beat #2 Oklahoma in Norman by the final score of 24-14. The game was played on Yon Kippur, and the Buckeyes were appropriately led by tight end John Frank, a member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, who hauled in 7 passes for 108 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
28. Oklahoma's all-time record is 862-320-53, for a .719 winning percentage. The Sooners have the fourth-best winning percentage in major college football (behind Notre Dame, Michigan, and Ohio State), and their win total puts them in seventh place (behind Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas, Nebraska, and Alabama).
29. The Sooners have seven AP national championships - 1950, 1955, 1956, 1974, 1975, 1985, 2000 - which places them third behind Alabama (10) and Notre Dame (8), and just ahead of Ohio State, Southern Cal, and Miami (5 each)
30. As you would expect from such a successful program, Oklahoma has many legendary players, including 76 consensus All Americans, 29 of whom were unanimous selections. Twenty-six Sooners are in the College Football Hall of Fame. Five Sooners have won the Heisman Trophy - Billy Vessels (1952); Steve Owens (1969); Billy Sims (1978); Jason White (2003); and Sam Bradford (2008).
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