Big 12 Sports Articles

Oklahoma Sooners Historical Big 12 Run Still Well Shy of Big 8 Era

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Ohio State

Oklahoma’s football team has been rolling along the roads of the Big 12 Conference like a well-greased schooner. Sure, there have been bumps along the way, but driving a Conestoga wagon didn’t have smooth roads, either, in the 19th century. 

Now, in the 21st century, the Sooner Schooner has overcome these bumpy roads and are rolling toward history as the Sooners are favored to win their seventh straight league title in 2021. 

 

Historical Context

Only two other eras in Oklahoma football history have produced more successful streaks of claiming conference supremacy. From 1946 to 1959, OU captured the league crown (Big 6, which became Big 7, and then Big 8). That’s 14 consecutive years which consisted of a record of 78-2-2 under Jim Tatum (1946) and Bud Wilkinson (1947-59). 

Even when they made their amazing run in the 40s and 50s, the Sooners encountered some bumps along the way. After losing to Kansas in 1946, Oklahoma reeled off 75 straight games without a conference loss. The only blips were ties to Kansas in 1947 and Colorado in 1952. After tying the Buffaloes, Oklahoma won 45 straight in league action. A part of that incredible run was OU’s unprecedented 47-game winning streak against all opponents, a record that is likely never to be broken by a major college football team. Nebraska stopped the conference streak in 1959 but the Sooners still won the Big 8 title that year. 

The Sooners again reigned supreme in the Big 8 from 1972 to 1980 under Chuck Fairbanks (1972) and Barry Switzer (73-80). OU’s conference record in that stretch of nine years was 57-4. 

OU lost to Kansas for the only blemish in 1975 and the Sooners shared the conference championship with Nebraska. The next year, Oklahoma State and Colorado beat Oklahoma in back-to-back games, yet OU managed to earn a three-way tie with the Cowboys and Buffs as all three teams finished 5-2 in the conference. The Sooners lost to Nebraska in 1978 but split the title as the Huskers lost to Missouri a week later. 

 

Big 12 Era

So, that brings us to today. The Sooners possess six straight Big 12 Conference trophies. Since the league began in 1996, Oklahoma has won the conference 14 times. And, unlike the championships of the past eras, the Sooners had to endure an extra conference game. They are 11-1 in those games with four straight wins in the championship game. The string of six includes titles captured in 2015 and ’16 when no championship game was held. 

Under the leadership of Bob Stoops (2015-16) and Lincoln Riley (2017-present), OU is 51-6 in conference matchups (including the title games). In 2015, the Sooners won seven straight Big 12 games after losing to Texas. A year later, they were perfect in the conference. 

Lincoln Riley took Sooner Schooner reigns in 2017 and many wondered if he would stack up as Stoops’ successor after losing to Iowa State in Norman. OU reeled off eight straight in the conference to claim a third consecutive title. A year later, Texas handed OU its only Big 12 loss, but after winning its next six games, the Sooners got another crack at the Longhorns in the championship game. OU got revenge, 39-27. 

In 2019, the Sooners tripped up in the loss to Kansas State in Manhattan. Four wins later and Oklahoma was back in the championship game beating Baylor in overtime. 

Two straight conference losses to Kansas State and Iowa State early in the 2020 season had many crimson faithful worried. The Sooners rebounded with seven consecutive wins including a revenge victory over the Cyclones in the title tilt. 

So, you see, the Sooner Schooner has not always had an easy road to the top of the conference summit. They manage to get the job done, and a seventh straight championship title gets them halfway to the record of 14 in a row. The future looks bright to keep the wheels greased for more conference supremacy.

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