Twenty-five years ago, the triple option offense ran rampant through the Big Eight Conference.
Oklahoma, Colorado and Nebraska all won national titles with the attack. In fact, from 1969 to 1990, teams running the triple option claimed 11 national championships. Including the Sooners in 1974, 1975 and 1985.
Today, however, the triple option in an endangered species.
The Air Force Academy, OU's opponent Saturday, is one of only four Bowl Subdivision programs that still run the triple option, along with Army, Navy and Georgia Tech.
Yet while the triple option has become scarce, the schools running the offense are doing so to great success.
Despite a surprising loss at Kansas last weekend, Georgia Tech has been prolific offensively since Paul Johnson brought the triple option from Navy to Atlanta three seasons ago. Last year, the Yellow Jackets advanced to the Orange Bowl after ranking second nationally in rushing while averaging almost 34 points a game.
With coach Ken Niumatalolo, Navy hasn't missed a beat, either, winning 10 games last season after destroying Missouri in the Texas Bowl.
And coming off an eight-win season, Air Force is off to a great start this year. The Academy, which leads the nation with 423 rushing yards a game, hammered BYU 35-14 last weekend to move to 2-0.
So with the triple option generating success, both past and present, why did it go out of style?
Sooner coach Bob Stoops has one theory.
"Most kids want to play in an NFL-style system," Stoops said. "Most kids want to be developed that way because they see themselves maybe having a future beyond college ball. It's kind of hard to recruit wide receivers when you are (running the triple option). It's also hard to recruit quarterbacks when you are doing that. That is probably a decent reason why.
"But the triple option has always been effective."
In the triple option, the quarterback has three options. To give the ball to the fullback on the dive. To keep the ball himself around the end. Or to pitch the ball to a back. All the while reading his "keys," which determine which option he chooses.
"One assignment that's not properly executed by one guy on the defense out of the 11, that can kill you," said OU safety Jonathan Nelson. "If you slip up one time, (the offense) will run for 30 yards."
In earnest, the triple option got its start in the 1960s, when Texas assistant Emory Bellard invented the wishbone.
But Barry Switzer elevated the offense with quarterback Jack Mildren in the early 1970s. From there, the triple option spread like a wildfire.
"It's a great offense," Switzer said. "Makes a defense play disciplined. Makes a defense think. Neutralizes great talent."
Like in 1980, when OU played North Carolina and Lawrence Taylor.
"Lawrence Taylor never made a tackle, and we rushed for 500 yards," said Switzer, whose Sooners won 41-7. "He never got near the ball. We didn't let him."
The triple option has been used out of various formations. OU's wishbone (a fullback and two halfbacks). Houston's veer (two halfbacks). Nebraska's I (a fullback and a tailback). And the flexbone (a fullback and two slotbacks), something the service academies have perfected in recent years.
Switzer says for teams that aren't as big, as strong or as fast as their opponents, it's the perfect equalizer.
"In a (normal) formation, you run off-tackle, everyone converges at the point of attack. Defensive ends, linebackers, safeties," Switzer said. "In the option, no one can converge on you. You have to stay disciplined. Someone has to cover the dive back, the quarterback, the pitch back."
"I think it's a great equalizer," Niumatalolo told reporters just before his Midshipmen took Ohio State to the wire in Ohio Stadium last season. "But do guys want to do it? It's a selfless offense. You've got to block for each other, you can't worry about who's getting the ball, and we're in the age of the spread offense, of throwing the ball all over the place."
The service academies have had success recruiting those types of players. Other schools, as Stoops points out, not so much. But that's not the only reason the triple option is no longer in vogue.
"Nowadays, athletic directors think that fans don't want to see the option, they want to see the ball in the air," said former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne, who won three titles with the triple option in the 1990s, in Sports Illustrated's profile of Georgia Tech last year. "You have young coaches not wanting to do it, because they are afraid they can't get jobs."
As pass-first spread offenses engulfed college football last decade, the triple option faded out.
Said OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables: "The triple option is boring. Everybody wants more. A self-absorbed society. It's about me. I want to pay my money and get excited and get entertained.
"The triple option doesn't do that for most people."
Switzer doesn't see the triple option making a comeback, either. Despite its track record. Despite what Georgia Tech has accomplished in recent years.
"Like (former OU assistant Larry) Lacewell used to say, 'The wishbone isn't dead. The coaches that know it are dead.' There are no disciples of it out there anymore," Switzer said. "Today, everybody wants to throw the football. That's the new thing. And those assistant coaches have gotten the head jobs. No one has gotten head jobs from option offenses."
But while a dinosaur, the triple option is not yet extinct.
Come Saturday, Air Force won't be as big as OU. Nor as strong nor as fast.
But the Falcons will have one thing that will give them a chance to win. The triple option.