Oklahoma football bookends the best 100 games of 2023, according to ESPN


The 2023 Oklahoma football season did not end the way the Sooners and their fans wanted it to, but there were a number of great moments as well as games.

The staff at ESPN has taken a look back at the 2023 college football season and undertaken the arduous and highly subjective exercise of ranking the top 100 games. The ranking probably doesn't mean a whole lot in retrospect, but it does provide a fun read and fills a football news void some seven-plus months before we get to enjoy college football again.

Four Oklahoma games from last season are listed in the ranking, including a game at both ends. Although not the No. 1 game of last season, the Oklahoma-Texas Red River Rivalry game, won in dramatic fashion by the Sooners, was a close second, according to staff writer Bill Connelly and the college football staff at ESPN.

The Red River game was second to the Iron Bowl game between Alabama and Auburn, won by Alabama. It's hard to argue with the choice of Alabama-Auburn as No. 1, but both that contest and the OU-Texas game of last season ended in almost unbelievable miracle finishes.

Sooner fans will long remember the three-yard touchdown pass by Dillon Gabriel to Nic Anderson in the back of the end zone with 15 seconds remaining, capping a 75-yard drive in the closing seconds to seize victory from the jaws of defeat, in the inimitable words from the opening sequence of ABC-TV's classic sports program "Wide World of Sports." Less than a minute before that, Texas had taken its first lead in the game, 30-27, on a field goal.

Texas had beaten Alabama at Alabama earlier in the season, so the Oklahoma win in the Red River Rivalry game was a statement win by a Sooner team that improved to 6-0 midway through the season and was blown out by the embarrassing score of 49-0 by Texas the year before.

The finish of the Alabama-Auburn Iron Bowl game admittedly was even more miraculous. Trailing 24-20 with 1:43 remaining in the game, Alabama was set up with a 1st-and-goal at the Auburn seven-yard line. Instead of advancing the ball forward, however, the Crimson Tide lost 18 yards on a bad snap and were pushed back five more yards on third down on a penalty for an illegal downfield pass. Faced with fourth down and 31 yards to go, Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe launched a last-chance pass that somehow found wide receiver Isaiah Bond in the back corner of the end zone to crush Auburn's upset bid.

Pretty hard to top those two games from last season for breathtaking drama and excitement. The Sooners also had the No. 100 game in the ESPN ranking (published on subscription-only ESPN+). That was Oklahoma's 31-29 win over UCF following a bye week after the win over archrival Texas. The Sooners moved to 7-0 after the win over UCF, but ESPN's Connelly called it a "warning sign" for the rest of the season. OU lost consecutive games after that -- at Kansas and at Oklahoma State -- which effectively eliminated the Sooners from Big 12 title consideration.

Oklahoma's 38-33 loss at Kansas was No. 22 in the ESPN ranking, and the Sooners 27-24 loss the following week at Oklahoma State was No. 21. What made those two games so gut-wrenching for Sooner fans was the OU was in position to win both games but couldn't get out of its own way both times because of poor game management and costly turnovers.

In all, 14 Big 12 games made the ranking, four of which involved Oklahoma. Interestingly, only 12 games involving teams from the SEC -- where Oklahoma and Texas will be starting next season -- made the ranking, but all 12 games were ranked in the top 50.