NORMAN — In the news conference following No. 8 Oklahoma's 52-7 rout of Kansas, coach Bob Stoops labeled his team's next game as “probably the most anticipated game since 2000 when Nebraska came in here.”
After practice Wednesday, Stoops expanded a bit on that, adding that he feels that way because that's “the overall feeling of everybody.”
Here are the five most anticipated home games of the Bob Stoops era, which began in 1999.
1. NEBRASKA, OCT. 28, 2000
By the time the Sooners reached this point on their schedule, they were ranked second in the BCS standings and a legitimate national-title contender in Stoops' second season. Nebraska came in ranked No. 1. Oklahoma hadn't beaten the Cornhuskers since 1990, and the Big 12 Conference's two divisions and scheduling had taken some bite out of the once-great rivalry. Oklahoma had an opportunity to be ranked No. 1 for the first time in years and the OU-Nebraska game felt like something special again. The Cornhuskers took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but quarterback Josh Heupel and Oklahoma exploded for 24 second-quarter points and went on to win 31-14. A little over two months later, the Sooners won their seventh national title.
2. NOTRE DAME, OCT. 27, 2012
The Sooners are 1-8 all-time against Notre Dame, which hasn't played on Owen Field since 1966. But that isn't the game in Norman the Irish are remembered for; in 1957, of course, Notre Dame left Norman with a 7-0 victory that snapped a 47-game winning streak that still stands to this day. Oklahoma traveled to South Bend, Ind., in 1999 — Stoops' first year on the job — and lost 34-30. The two schools worked to reach a deal for a home-and-home series, and finally did in 2007. Notre Dame went 16-21 over the next three seasons, but now that the Irish appear to finally be a true title contender again, the excitement surrounding Saturday's game has increased exponentially. Current players don't seem to know or care much about the Sooners' history with Notre Dame, but fans — and coaches, to some degree — are excited by the two traditional powers meeting. While downplaying the games from decades ago, Stoops did call the matchup “great for college football.” ESPN College GameDay will set up in the South Oval, creating even more excitement around the clash of teams ranked in the top 10 of the BCS standings.
3. TEXAS TECH, NOV. 22, 2008
Stoops called out his home crowd — “I don't think we've ever been known as an overly ruckus crowd,” he said the week of the game — and the fans responded to the challenge; they were loud and crazy from before kickoff until after the final seconds ticked off the clock in Oklahoma's 65-21 rout of unbeaten, second-ranked Texas Tech. The most memorable moment from the game came just before halftime, with OU leading 42-7, when House of Pain's “Jump Around” blared throughout the stadium. Sooner players and fans all jumped around together, celebrating the stunning rout and what it could mean. The Red Raiders had beaten Texas, which beat OU, so the Sooners' convincing win created a three-way tie atop the Big 12 South standings. Because Oklahoma ended the regular season with the highest BCS ranking, it played for — and won — the Big 12 title, and went on to lose in the national championship game to Florida.
4. OKLAHOMA STATE, NOV. 1, 2003
Under coach Les Miles, Oklahoma State had stunned the Sooners in two straight seasons. Miles poured some gasoline on the rivalry fire after the Cowboys' win the week before Bedlam, when he said of the Sooners, “They're the best team in college football ... we're told.” A couple days later, Miles uttered one of his more infamous quotes during his time in Stillwater: “Next Saturday two teams are going to play. One is maybe the best team in college football and the other one is a darn good football team. We're going to play to figure out which one is which.” With GameDay in Norman, the No. 1 Sooners routed No. 14 Oklahoma State 52-9 to start a Bedlam win streak that lasted until last season.
5. ALABAMA, SEPT. 7, 2002
The storied Alabama Crimson Tide made their first-ever trip to Norman in 2002. The Crimson Tide faithful came in droves, creating an exciting atmosphere for the battle of traditional powerhouses. The Tide was in its second year under Dennis Franchione, and certainly wasn't on par with the elite, Bear Bryant- or Nick Saban-coached 'Bama squads. But it turned into a heck of a game, with the Tide holding a 27-23 lead in the fourth quarter before running back Renaldo Works' last-minute heroics pushed the Sooners over the top. Oklahoma returned the favor, making its first-ever trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala., the next year in what became another close, memorable contest.