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How many National Championships should Oklahoma really be claiming?

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Oklahoma

Oklahoma Sooners football has a deep rooted history, with tradition, staggeringly dominant numbers, several unbeaten years and 7 claimed national championships. The Sooners, however, have been glorified as champions more times than that, and they should start recognizing those championships. Alabama, Notre Dame, and Michigan claim several national championships that were not awarded by the AP poll. Oklahoma should begin claiming some of their rightfully earned titles.

Alabama and Notre Dame also claim several questionable championships throughout their years. While many other schools do as well, it’s different when a program of their caliber do. While I believe there are 8 national championship seasons the Sooners currently don’t claim that they should, there is also one title OU claims that they should not. In all OU, should be claiming 14 national titles, and well dive into which ones and why.

Oklahoma currently claims 7 titles; 1950, 1955,1956, 1974, 1975, 1985 and 2000. The NCAA recognizes the Sooners for 17 titles, and when accounting for each poll in history the Sooners account for plenty more than that. Out of the 7 titles the Sooners claim, the only one I have an issue with is 1950. Oklahoma went undefeated until their close bowl game loss to Kentucky. While I don’t think they should claim it, OU does have its reasons: no team finished unbeaten and OU dominated mostly everyone. But when you end up with an identical record to a team that beat you in a bowl game, the title is theirs. The AP poll awarded Oklahoma this championship before the bowls were played.

Now let’s get to the national titles the Sooners should be claiming.

Let’s begin with 1911. This is the first undefeated team in Oklahoma Sooners history. In 1911, the title was awarded to Princeton, though there were several unbeaten teams. The AP poll didn’t exist at this time, and most publications were severely biased towards east coast teams, though in 1911 OU was considered the best team in the Southwest. OU dominated opponents. No team scored a touchdown all season on the Sooners, as they averaged a dominating 35.25 ppg to their opponents 1.8. OU shut out 5 of the 8 teams on their schedule, including a season opening win against Kingfisher College 104-0. When a team dominates in such a fashion its hard not award them a national title. In this era it isn’t uncommon for more than one or even two teams to be declared champions; Oklahoma’s dominant 8-0 season wasn’t good enough for many major publications, but several smaller ones did take notice.

In 1915, OU was named the National Champions by the Billingsly Report, so for the first time a major publication gave the Sooners the nod they deserved back in 1911. While Pittsburgh and Cornell claim the title, the publications consider all 3 to be champions. Oklahoma stood alone, as the only team to record 10 wins. OU finished 10-0, shutting out 5 opponents, and another 100+ point victory this time vs Northwestern Oklahoma State 102-0. Bennie Owens’ squad smacked teams around to the average of 38.5 ppg. Once again, when you dominate teams the way these Sooners did, it’s hard to deny them a title. Beating teams by an average of 33 points, and being the only 10-0 squad? It leaves very little doubt in my mind.

Let’s move on to 1918. Oklahoma opened the season blasting the Razorbacks of Arkansas 103-0. Bennie Owen seemed to make a habit of putting up over a hundred on folks in his tenure in Norman. This Sooners squad only played 6 games, but rolled their opponents by an average score of 46.3-1.2. This was arguably Coach Owen’s best team. Unfortunately, the Sooners did not get a chance to play the 9-0 Longhorns to settle things, despite being contracted to the same leagues. Keep in mind, during this time college football was very east coast biased. Analysts often didn’t bother considering teams west of the Mississippi. While it may be absurd to claim a title when a team only played 6 games in a season, keep in mind in 1918 the major publications turned a blind eye to the Sooners and Longhorns, and instead awarded the title to 4-1 Pittsburgh, and 5-0 Michigan. If there is one thing OU and UT could agree on, it’s that the major publications were wrong in 1918. Many small branch media outlets selected OU and Texas as champs, but none of which were taken very seriously.

We now skip ahead to 1949, and jump into the Bud Wilkinson era. It was the legendary Sooner coach’s third season in Norman, and he led the Sooners to an unrivaled 11-0 season. The major publications rated the Sooners #2 behind a Notre Dame team that didn’t even play in a bowl game. The Sooners dominated opponents outscoring them 399-88, including an eye popping 35-0 route of LSU in the Sugar Bowl, even with LSU player Piggy Barnes spying on the Sooners bowl practices. This may have been the best team Bud Wilkinson ever had. And they truly were champions, despite only being named as such by minor publications.

Only a few years later in 1954, the Oklahoma Sooners began non-conference play defeating three-consecutive ranked teams, and also defeated quality league foes Kansas State and Colorado. This squad outperformed teams an average of 30.4 ppg to 6.2. While the Sooners spent a majority of the 1954 season ranked #1 in the AP poll, eventually both Ohio State and UCLA were moved ahead. Major publications, once again, had an unbeaten Sooners team uncrowned. UCLA and Ohio State split the two major polls. However Oklahoma would win unanimously the next two seasons, but it should have been three.

Fast forward to 1967. This year was pretty much a two-man race between USC and Oklahoma. Both teams played several quality opponents, won their bowl games, and lost a game. When running the team’s numbers, they were identical. OU lost to rival Texas 9-7, while leading until a late Texas TD. The Sooners missed two field goals that would’ve given them the win. USC was shut out by Oregon State 3-0. OU lost early on, and USC lost in November.  The Sooners had 1 major poll vote them as a national champion, (Poling). USC won the other major publications votes. When looking at the information, it’s fairly easy to understand why this should be a split title between Oklahoma and USC.

Onto 1973, which was a wild year in college football. Back then overtime did not exist. A team had to win in regulation or it was a tie. The Sooners finished 10-0-1, with several major publications considering them national champions, besides the AP and Coaches. Publications to name Oklahoma national champs included Devold, Dankel, Football Research, and Sagarin. The Sooners played 7 ranked teams during this unbeaten year, and defeated opponents by an average of 36.4-12. In their one tie of the season, OU traveled to #1 USC, the defending champions, and despite dominating the box score 330-161 in total yards, OU missed two field goals resulting in a 7-7 result. Notre Dame and Alabama split the AP and Coaches Polls, even though Notre Dame defeated Alabama in the bowl season 24-23. Notre Dame finished 11-0. But with two unbeaten teams, and the Irish and Crimson Tide combining to play 4 ranked teams, OU should clearly be claiming this title, alongside Notre Dame, while the Tide should not.

In 1978, Oklahoma was the only team to beat every team on its schedule this season. But somehow the AP and Coaches Polls didn’t take notice, while the others did. Devold, Dankel, FACT, Helms, Litkenhous, Matthews, Poling and Sagarin all consider OU the 1978 national champions, and the Sooners should consider themselves champs as well.  OU crushed teams by an average of 39.3-14.5. Alabama and Southern Cal ended up splitting the two major polls (AP, Coaches). But USC lost to an unranked Arizona State team by double digits on the road, while Alabama fell victim to the Trojans by double digits at home. Oklahoma lost to bitter rival Nebraska on the road 17-14, though they avenged their loss in their Orange Bowl rematch with the Huskers. Not only should Oklahoma be claiming a piece of history here in 1978, but it seems to me they should have been the unanimous selection for a title.

In the end, only the university can decide which championships to claim and which ones to not. The College Football Playoff era (and the BCS era before it) have clearly produced more clear cut champions than the poll era did, which is great for fans. But there’s no doubt that when looking back into the poll era, the Sooners are leaving quite a few national titles on the table. It’s time to get those back, while maybe adding another one to the coffers in 2018. What do ya think, Mr. Mayfield?

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