Big 12 Championship: OU’s history of same-season rematches a good one

NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 11: Tight end Grant Calcaterra
NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 11: Tight end Grant Calcaterra /

In the seven seasons since the last Big 12 Championship in football, the conference has been under widespread fire for being the only Power Five conference not to hold a 13th game for the purpose of crowning a champion.

The Big 12’s counter to that was their round-robin schedule in which everybody plays everybody every season. Conference officials used the tagline “One True Champion” in all of the Big 12 promotional materials, proclaiming that because of its balanced schedule, the Big 12 was able to crown a true conference champion without the need for a league championship game, or what they called a 13th data point.

That all sounded good in theory, but when TCU and Baylor tied at the top of the Big 12 standings in 2014, the first year of the new College Football Playoff format, the conference chose to honor both teams as co-champions, and that effectively knocked both schools out of Playoff contention.

Since the last Big 12 Football Championship, in 2010, Oklahoma has won two league titles outright (2015 and 2016) and shared one with Kansas State (2012). The Sooners also have the distinction of having played in the last Big 12 Championship game as well as in the return of the game this Saturday after its seven-year absence.

One thing the return of the conference championship game does, along with a balanced schedule, is guarantee a rematch between the two teams that finish at the top of the league standings. This could happen under the previous two-division conference structure – and it did a couple of times involving Oklahoma – but because of the unbalanced schedule that was played at that time, a same-season rematch for the conference championship was not a certainty.

The Sooners have fared well since the Big 12 came into existence when they have gone up against a team in the conference championship game that they had already played once that season. That has happened three times previously, and Oklahoma has come out on top on all three occasions.

In its national championship season in 2000, Oklahoma and Kansas State won their respective divisions and were paired in the Big 12 Championship. The Sooners beat then-No. 2 Kansas State, 41-31 at K-State that season. The rematch for the conference title, at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, was a much tighter affair.

The game was tied at 17 after three quarters. Both teams scored a touchdown in the final quarter, but a 46-yard field goal by OU’s Tim Duncan sealed a three-point win for the No. 1-ranked Sooners, preserving their undefeated season and sending them on to the BCS National Championship against Florida State.

Oklahoma played Colorado in the 2002 Big 12 Championship after having beaten the Buffaloes 27-11 in the regular season. The outcome wasn’t much different in the league championship game, played in Houston. The Sooners won the rematch as well, 29-7.

In the 2007 season, Oklahoma and Missouri met in mid-October in Norman, one week after the Red River Rivalry game between OU and Texas. There was some concern before the game with top-15-ranked Missouri, a favorite to win the Big 12’s North Division, that the No. 5 Sooners might suffer a letdown after an emotionally-charged rivalry win over Texas.

The Sooners pulled away in the second half, including an 18-point fourth quarter to win the regular-season encounter with Missouri, 41-31.

The same two teams met again on the first day of December that season in San Antonio in the Big 12 Championship. Only this time, Mizzou was the higher-ranked team, sitting at No. 1 in the nation. That couldn’t have been a bigger incentive for the ninth-ranked Sooners.

The rematch in the conference championship, with a spot waiting in the BCS Championship for top-ranked Missouri if they could beat Oklahoma and even the score from the earlier game that season, was close for a half. The two teams were tied at 14 apiece at the half.

The second half was all Oklahoma, though, as the Sooners outscored Missouri 24-3, with Sam Bradford throwing two touchdown passes. The final score was 38-17, as Oklahoma completed the season double-double and knocked the Tigers out of a chance to win their first national championship in football. Missouri finished 11-2 that season, both losses coming to Oklahoma.

The Sooners were also on the favorable end of another historic rematch in the same season, when long-time Big Eight rivals OU and Nebraska squared off in the 1978 Orange Bowl game.

Top-ranked Oklahoma suffered a heartbreaking 17-14 lost to No. 4 Nebraska, despite a 153-yard rushing performance by the great Billy Sims, who won the Heisman that season. The Sooners came into the game with a perfect 9-0 record.

As fate would have it, Oklahoma got another shot at the team that gave them their only loss in the 1978 season in the Orange Bowl. Nebraska and the Sooners were tied at seven-all after one quarter, but an OU touchdown in the second quarter put the Sooners up 14-7 at halftime, and a 17-point third-quarter explosion by Oklahoma put the game away. The Cornhuskers rallied in the final quarter, but fell short, 31-24, as the Sooners avenged their earlier loss to Nebraska.

History is on Oklahoma’s side this Saturday in its rematch with TCU, but we all know that past performance is not a good predictor of the future. The Sooners are going to have to go out and prove it on the field all by themselves on Saturday. It definitely helps in high-stakes games like this to have the best player in college football on your side.