The Lost Rivalry: Oklahoma Sooners vs Nebraska Cornhuskers

David Funk@davidfunk74Correspondent IOctober 28, 2008

Back when I was a kid in the 1980s, living in Midwest City, OK (a suburb of Oklahoma City, north of Norman), OU-Nebraska was the game everyone talked about in the neighborhood I lived in. I think Huskers fans would agree that they probably did the same thing in Nebraska back in the '70s and '80s. I know this from talking to people who lived in Oklahoma, before or since then, that people used to dream and live for college football and the rivalry game between Oklahoma and Nebraska. Yes, Texas has always been a rival of the Sooners. But since they were in a different conference at the time, that rivalry to me, took a backseat to OU's rivalry with Nebraska.

Back in the '70s and '80s, this was, for my money, the best rivalry in college football. Every time they played it was for the old, unofficial Big Eight Title. Whoever won would go on to win the conference and also contend for the National Championship. No other conference back then could say that one game every year between two teams would decide the conference champion. That is the truth.

The most memorable game between the two schools took place on Nov. 25, 1971, in the Game of the Century. The Cornhuskers won that game, 35-31, in route to winning the national championship.

From 1973 to 1988, when Switzer faced Osborne, the team who won that game took home the Big Eight Conference Title. Yes, it was a good rivalry before both Switzer and Osborne debuted as coaches in 1973, but it peaked when they went head to head. It only took Switzer two seasons to win a National Title in 1974 (shared with USC). He would go on to win two more in 1975 and 1985. It took Osborne longer than Switzer, but he built some great teams then, too. Then in the '90s, he had the best Husker teams. They won titles in 1994, 1995 and 1997 (shared with Michigan). Both of these legendary coaches took this rivalry to even greater heights that was never seen before between the two schools.

The expansion from the Big Eight to the Big 12 is obviously a big part of the reason for it being a lost rivalry. But part of it is both teams went through some very rough goings at different times, too. Oklahoma went into hibernation in the early '90s and Nebraska has not been the same since Osborne left. At least for Sooners fans, the Big 12 did help reignite the Sooners-Longhorns rivalry. The Red River Shootout is one of the greatest college football rivalries in the game today and in all of sports. Yes, at least in the last several seasons, the winner of the RRS, went on to play for the conference title against the North winner. But the games have also been to one-sided in recent years, too. The Oklahoma-Nebraska games were almost always close and that game DID decide who won the old Big Eight Title. There was no conference championship game, and the winner almost always contended for the national title.

Oklahoma and Nebraska have combined for 12 National Championships (Oklahoma has 7, Nebraska 5). I like the new Big 12 and all, but I will admit I wish they played each other every year. Nebraska will bounce back eventually with Osborne back in the program. Every great college team goes through times like these. Even when both schools are good, it won't be the same as before.

As a Sooner fan, the biggest memory for me in this great rivalry was 1987 (when I was 13 years old) when the Sooners traveled to Nebraska. I remember when everyone questioned Oklahoma's schedule prior to their meeting in Nebraska by saying they played too many cupcakes. The Sooners defense held Nebraska to only seven points and some nifty running by Sooners QB Charles Thompson led the Sooners to a 17-7 victory in Lincoln. The Sooners would go on to play in the Orange Bowl for the National Title in a 20-14 loss to the Miami Hurricanes. The game that year against the Huskers was the last hurrah for the Sooners for awhile.

I had moved to North Carolina in the summer of 1988, and it wasn't much longer after that the Sooners were slapped with probation because the program was getting out of control at the time. This caused Barry Switzer to step down as coach, and ultimately, the Sooners as a football program for quite sometime. It wasn't until Bob Stoops came along and brought the Sooners back to prominence when he took over in 1999. It was very sad for me, at the time, to see that happen to the Sooners and their fans after moving as a teenager as well as signifying the end of one of the greatest college football rivalries. But no one knew it at the time.

I still liked the 2000 game between the two schools because the Sooners had won against the No. 1 team in the country while on their journey back to national prominence in college football.

This is for Sooners and Nebraska fans, or college football fans: What was your greatest memory(s) in this great rivalry? And what does everyone think of this once great rivalry that is now lost? Sooners and Huskers fans can reply here. Here's some facts about the rivalry between the two schools:

-Oklahoma leads series 43-37-3.
-First Meeting: Nov. 23, 1912. Nebraska won 13-9.
-First Meeting in conference: Oct. 29, 1921. Nebraska won 44-0.
-Last Meeting: Dec. 2, 2006. Oklahoma won 21-7 in Big 12 Championship.
-Largest margin of victory: Oklahoma won by 48 points three times: 48-0 in 1949, 55-7 in 1954, and 54-6 in 1956. Nebraska won by 62 points in a 69-7 win on Nov. 1, 1997.
-Longest win streaks: Oklahoma won 16 games in row (1943-1958). Nebraska won 7 games in a row (1991-97).
-Nebraska went 16-3-3 in their first 22 games of this series. Oklahoma is 40-21 in the series since 1943.
-Oklahoma won the only bowl meeting between the two teams on Jan. 1, 1979, with a 31-24 win in the Orange Bowl.
-Barry Switzer went 12-5 against Tom Osborne. 11 of the 17 meetings between the two were decided by 10 points or less.
-Tom Osborne went 13-13 lifetime against Oklahoma.
-Bud Wilkinson went 14-3 lifetime against Nebraska.
-Oklahoma is 4-3 against Nebraska in Big 12 play.
-Nebraska is the only team in the series to have scored more than 60 points in game, having done so in 1996 (73-21) and 1997 (69-7).
-Nebraska shut out Oklahoma 10 times in the series - most recently in 1995, 37-0. Oklahoma has shut out Nebraska nine times with the most recent being in 1973, 27-0. Both teams battled to a 0-0 tie in 1937.
-38 games have been played at Oklahoma. Oklahoma is 22-16 at home against Nebraska.
-41 games have been played at Nebraska. Nebraska is 21-18-2 at home against Oklahoma.
-Oklahoma is 3-0-1 at neutral locations in this series.
-The teams combine for 12 National Titles: Oklahoma with seven: 1950, 1955-56, 1974-75, 1985, 2000. Nebraska with five: 1970-71, 1994-95, 1997.

Okay, now my pick for their game on Saturday......

Offenses will rule in this game like it has all year long in Big 12 play. Sam Bradford will continue to shine in this game, and Joe Ganz has played well for the Huskers this year. Nebraska can become bowl eligible with a win, and stay in the race for the North Division title. Nebraska gave up big plays in the first half last week against Baylor, but rebounded to win. Oklahoma got out to a hot start offensively against Kansas State last week and scored 55 points in the first half. The Huskers have a kickoff return and punt return touchdown on the season, an area Oklahoma has struggled in this year. Nebraska has to figure out a way to slow down the Sooners, and score on special teams and defense to have any chance in this game. I don't see Nebraska slowing the Sooners down, and getting in a shootout isn't the thing to do against Oklahoma. I think Nebraska will score points, but it won't be enough to win in Norman on Saturday.

Predicted score: Oklahoma 52, Nebraska 27

Photo courtesy of which shows the DVD of the rivalry between the two teams.

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