Historically in the Big 12 Conference, no football team has gone big-game hunting as often as Oklahoma.
With two-game series, one at each stadium, against the likes of Alabama; Oregon; UCLA; Miami, Fla.; Washington; Florida State and now the back end of Notre Dame on Saturday in the Bob Stoops era, the Sooners have a different philosophy than most. Stoops and athletic director Joe Castiglione, who collaborate on the schedule, actually see playing good teams as a benefit.
If records were equal between teams jockeying for Bowl Championship Series ranking position, the team with the better schedule would get the nod, “if we beat them,” Stoops said. “And it has helped us.”
In 2003 and 2004, when Oklahoma battled others for BCS position, the Sooners reached the national championship game both times in part because a better schedule strength was reflected in computer rankings. Oklahoma beat Alabama and UCLA in 2003 and Oregon in 2004.
Playing a competitive nonleague schedule may become even more important after this season, when a selection committee, and not BCS standings, will shape the four-team College Football Playoff semifinals.
“We keep saying strength of schedule is going to matter more,” Stoops said.
Bullish as he is on those games, Stoops said he or the players don’t get wide-eyed at these venues and treats them as business trips.
“We go to a lot of places,” Stoops said. “We don’t do these trips to tour.”
That will be the case this weekend in South Bend, Ind., although if there’s one opponent outside of the annual clashes with Texas and Oklahoma State that Sooners fans would love to beat, it’s the Irish.
Notre Dame has played a historical thorn in the Sooners’ side, dating to 1957 when the Irish ended Oklahoma’s 47-game winning streak with a 7-0 decision.
Notre Dame was an 18-point underdog that day. The Sooners’ previous loss, in 1953, was to Notre Dame. Oklahoma tied Pittsburgh the next week, then won 47 straight, which remains the sport’s longest streak.
Those games got plenty of play last season when the teams met in Norman, and Notre Dame continued its hex on the Sooners with a defensive-fueled 30-13 victory. The Heisman candidacy of Irish linebacker Manti T’eo got kickstarted that night with a diving interception, two tackles for loss and a sack of Landry Jones as Notre Dame improved its all-time record over Oklahoma to 9-1 with the victory.