Oklahoma football: Sooners a regular fixture in Big 12 title game

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 02: The Oklahoma Sooners pose for a team photo after winning the Big 12 Championship against the TCU Horned Frogs 41-17 at AT&T Stadium on December 2, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 02: The Oklahoma Sooners pose for a team photo after winning the Big 12 Championship against the TCU Horned Frogs 41-17 at AT&T Stadium on December 2, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) /

Since 2000, the Big 12 Championship game has been a natural extension of the Oklahoma football season.

The Sooners have won 12 Big 12 championships, beginning with their 2000 national championship season. That’s nine more than the next closest team, Texas, which owns three Big 12 titles in football.

There have been 17 Big 12 Championship games played in the 23-year history of the conference. This season marks the 24th in the conference’s history and the 18th time the Big 12 has held a championship game in football. Oklahoma has played in 10 of those championship games and won nine.

The only Big 12 title game that the Sooners lost was in 2003, when top-ranked and undefeated Oklahoma was stunned by Kansas State, which dominated the Sooners for a 35-7 victory behind a 235-yard rushing performance by K-State running back Darren Sproles.

When conference realignment reduced the conference membership to 10 teams, the Big 12 discontinued its divisional structure as well as the conference championship game in football. Beginning with the 2011 season, Big 12 teams all played each other as part of a round-robin, regular-season schedule, with the team owning the best record after nine games being crowned the league champion.

That worked all right in 2011, with Oklahoma State winning the league outright with an 8-1 record, but in 2012 and again in 2014, two teams ended the season with the same conference record and were declared co-champions. The Sooners were the beneficiaries of one of those two co-championships, sharing the conference title with Kansas State in 2012, both with 8-1 records.

During the six seasons (2011-16) in which the Big 12 did not hold a championship game, Oklahoma won outright or shared the league crown three times (2012, 2015 and 2016).

The Big 12 reinstated its championship game in the 2017 season, largely to regain a level playing field with the other Power Five Conferences and because of the weight placed on winning a 13th game in a conference championship by the College Football Playoff selection committee.

The fact that the Big 12 did not hold a conference championship game in 2012 was one of the reasons given for why TCU, which was the third ranked team the week before the final Playoff rankings came out in 2014, dropped out of the top four in the final standings, despite posting a decisive 55-3 win over Iowa State the same weekend that the other Power Five conference championships were played.

Counting the 2015 and ’16 seasons, during the time the Big 12 championship game had been discontinued and Oklahoma’s back to back wins in 2017 and ’18 seasons, the first two years after the reinstatement of the championship game, the Sooners have won four consecutive Big 12 titles.

And on Saturday against Baylor, the four-time defending Big 12 champions will try to make it five in a row.

If the Sooners are going to win a fifth consecutive conference title, they will have to defeat Baylor for a second time this season, something that, as we’ve noted, is extremely difficult to do.

Here is what we consider to be the five best Oklahoma wins in a Big 12 Conference Championship game. Interestingly, in three of these games, the Sooners had to defeat their opponent a second time that season to capture the conference crown.

(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) /

2000 — Oklahoma 27, Kansas State 24

Oklahoma had beaten then-No. 2 Kansas State in Manhattan that season, 41-31, and faced Bill Snyder’s Wildcats again in the Big 12 Championship game that same season. The Sooners came into the championship game with an unblemished 12-0 record and ranked No. 1 in the country. K-State was ranked eighth.

OU quarterback Josh Heupel (now the head coach at Central Florida) threw back-to-back first-quarter interceptions on successive Sooner possessions, the second of which led to a Kansas State touchdown and a 7-3 Wildcat lead. The Sooners scored right before the half to tie the game at 10 apiece at the halfway mark.

Midway through the third quarter, Heupel led OU on a 69-yard scoring drive to recapture the lead at 17-10. Shortly thereafter, K-State’s Aaron Lockett returned a punt 58 yards for a touchdown to tie the score.

On the second play of the fourth quarter, Heupel rifled a 17-yard scoring pass to Andre Woolfolk to put the Sooners back on top, 24-17. Tim Duncan kicked a 46-yard field goal with 1:25 to go, his second in the game, to stretch the OU lead to 27-17.

Kansas State scored a touchdown with six seconds left to finish out the scoring. The Sooners covered the ensuing onside kick and held on to defeat the Wildcats for a second time in the 2000 season. OU went on to play Florida State in the BCS National Championship that season and capture the school’s seventh national title in football.