Oklahoma football: Streaks, stumbles, 1-2 showdowns in OU-Nebraska history

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 4: Linebacker Travis Lewis #28 of the Oklahoma Sooners wraps up I-back Roy Helu, Jr. #10 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, December 4, 2010 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Jackson Laizure/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 4: Linebacker Travis Lewis #28 of the Oklahoma Sooners wraps up I-back Roy Helu, Jr. #10 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, December 4, 2010 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Jackson Laizure/Getty Images) /

The last game in the historic Oklahoma football rivalry with Nebraska was 11 years ago, but before that the two longtime foes had gone to battle against each other 85 other times.

Although the historic Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry is over a century old, the series really didn’t take on national significance until the 1950s, after legendary head coach Bud Wilkinson arrived at Oklahoma and some of the greatest games in the history of the rivalry took place in the 1970s and 1980s between Barry Switzer and Nebraska’s Tom Osborne.

The first game in the series was played in 1912. The game was played at Nebraska, and the Cornhuskers prevailed 13-9. Four of the first six games between the two schools were played at Nebraska, and the Sooners only won once and played to a tie one other time.

Nebraska dominated the early years in the series, forging a 13-5 record along with three games that ended in a tie.

Success by OU head coaches vs. Nebraska

Of Oklahoma’s four legendary head coaches (Bennie Owen, Wilkinson, Switzer and the team’s winningest head coach Bob Stoops), each with over 100 wins to his credit at Oklahoma, Wilkinson was the most successful against the Huskers. Wilkinson won his first 12 games facing Nebraska before losing three of his final five. Overall, Wilkinson’s OU teams were 14-3 against the Cornhuskers.

Switzer won his first five games against the Huskers as the Sooners’ head coach (he was 4-3 against them as the OU offensive coordinator before becoming head coach) and ended up with a 12-5 record overall in games with Nebraska.

Oklahoma vs. Nebraska over the decades

Oklahoma’s best decade facing Nebraska was in the 1950s. Wilkinson’s 1950s Sooner teams won three national championships and were 9-1 against the Cornhuskers. The Sooners were 9-2 in games with Nebraska in the decade of the ’70s.

OU’s worst decade in games against the other Big Red was in the 1990s, when the Sooners were just 1-7 against Nebraska (when the Big 12 came into being in 1996, OU and Nebraska were in different divisions and did not play every year).

The Sooners lead the all-time series 45-38-3 and also own the largest win streak, 16 games from 1943 to 1958.

OU-Nebraska rivalry series as ranked teams

As ranked teams in the ’70s and ’80s when they played (one or both), Oklahoma’s record was 12-8 against Nebraska. Since the 1950s, when one or both OU and Nebraska were ranked at the time the game was played, the Sooners are 31-21 against their longtime rivals from Nebraska.

When either team was ranked No. 1 in the nation when playing each other, Oklahoma has won seven times. Nebraska has been on the winning side five times, including in the epic 1971 game, billed as the “Game of the Century.” When OU has been ranked No, 1 at the time of the Nebraska game, the Sooners have prevailed in three of the four games.

On two different occasions (1971 and 1987), the two teams faced each other as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country. Nebraska was the No, 1 team both times. As most everyone knows, the Cornhuskers held off No. 2 Oklahoma in the 1971 game, winning by four points, 35-31. The Sooners defeated No. 1 Nebraska 17-7 in 1987, in one of the classic games in this rivalry series.

Nineteen games in the Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry have been decided by seven or fewer points. Oklahoma has come out on top in 11 of those contests.

Big Eight was greatest era in OU-Nebraska rivalry history

Perhaps the greatest era in this storied rivalry, which has been in hiatus for a decade, was the Big Eight years, which spanned from 1959 through 1995. OU and Nebraska played a total of 37 times as members of the Big Eight, and the outcomes were fairly evenly split. The Sooners posted 20 win during that time, including 16 outright or share conference championships. Nebraska had 17 Big Eight wins over Oklahoma and won 20 conference titles.

To show you how these two national football powers dominated the 37-year history of the Big Eight Conference, 33 of the conference championships in football were either shared or won outright by Oklahoma or Nebraska. The Sooners and Cornhuskers shared four Big Eight titles.