NORMAN — For 55 years, Sooner fans have felt united about Notre Dame football.
Call it hatred. Call it resentment. Call it a serious hankering for payback.
We owe you one, OU says en masse to all things Fighting Irish, remembering the day the Earth stood still. Notre Dame beat the Sooners 7-0 on Nov. 16, 1957, ending a 47-game OU winning streak that seemed 1,047 to anyone with a crimson bent.
Five times since, the Sooners have had their bats against the Irish. 1961, 1962, 1966, 1968, 1999. Five times the Sooners whiffed.
But the Irish cometh again, Saturday at Owen Field, and Notre Dame comes with a peace offering: a big-time ball team.
When the OU-Notre Dame revival was scheduled, Oct. 27, 2012, was marked as a special day. But no one figured the Fighting Irish to be relevant. No one figured the Fighting Irish to bring along Lee Corso and the national press and the weight of all those glorious games in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Notre Dame hasn't been nationally relevant in a decade or more. Even in early September, this one shaped up as the Sooners vs. the Ghosts of Notre Dame.
Instead, the Irish are unbeaten, ranked fifth and offer the eighth-ranked Sooners a chance for more than just vengeance for their fathers. Notre Dame offers the Sooners a chance to pad their BCS resume.
Notre Dame ends the curse of cushy superpowers on Owen Field. In the Bob Stoops era, OU has scheduled big names that have been big duds.
Alabama came in 2002 with a team that finished 10-3 but didn't win the SEC West. UCLA arrived in 2003 with a team ended up 6-7. Oregon showed up in 2004 with a team that fell to 5-6.
Washington was the 2006 fodder; those Huskies were a 5-7 team. Miami, another program that historically bedevils OU, stopped by in 2007, got licked 51-13 and staggered to 5-7. In 2010, Florida State took a 47-17 hammering and finished 10-4.
Truth is, for such a storied piece of real estate, Owen Field hasn't hosted many showdowns. Only 18 times has OU hosted a game matching top-10 teams, and 14 of those were conference affairs. Often Nebraska, with an occasional Texas Tech, Missouri and OSU tossed in.
Only four times has OU hosted a nonconference game when both teams were ranked in the AP top 10:
1986: No. 1 OU beat No. 4 UCLA 38-3.
1983: No. 6 Ohio State beat No. 2 OU 24-14.
1966: No. 1 Notre Dame at No. 10 OU 38-0.
1953: No. 1 Notre Dame beat No. 6 OU 28-21.
That's it. That's what makes Saturday night so special. The spectacle of college football's biggest name coming to Norman. The history of the series, which so haunts the Sooners. Plus the fact that this is a virtual Big Bowl elimination game.
There was no such animal when Bud Wilkinson and Frank Leahy and Ara Parseghian strolled the sidelines in OU-Notre Dame games past. When Billy Vessels and Johnny Lattner, Paul Hornung and Tommy McDonald, Clendon Thomas and Dick Lynch, competed in games that never will be forgotten.
But the concept was the same. A game that could make or break a season. A game that will live forever, win or lose. Particularly if you lose.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.