NORMAN — Sam Rampey is relieved to be living in Oklahoma, for at least one reason. Everywhere else he goes, he hears about it. People ridiculing Ohio State, his Ohio State, for its bowl-game blunders and big-game blowouts.
"Sometimes it’s not even football fans saying things,” said Rampey, a native of Dayton, Ohio, who bleeds scarlet, with a touch of gray. "But I don’t catch any grief in Oklahoma.” In the Sooner State, folks not only understand Rampey, they empathize. Oklahoma and Ohio State have much in common: storied college football programs, each boasting seven national titles. Ohio-bred coaches who have resurrected dominance at both schools this decade, bringing home national championships in just their second seasons on the job. But lately, fans of OU and Ohio State are joined by another, more infamous commonality: being No. 2. Of the last six BCS National Championships, five have been lost by either OU or Ohio State. And only one of those defeats came by less than double digits. It goes beyond that. Ohio State has lost five straight to Top 5 teams. OU hasn’t won a BCS bowl game since 2002. It’s hard to believe with all the promise the two programs held at the beginning of the decade. Bob Stoops’ Sooners, coming from nowhere to shock high-powered Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Two years later, Jim Tressel’s Buckeyes, overcoming long odds to topple defending champ Miami in overtime. "Both national championships were like movie screenplays,” said Shaun McGinnis, a Buckeye grad now residing in Norman. Since, games on the big screen have become horror flicks, beginning with Kansas State’s 35-7 hammering of OU in the 2003 Big 12 Championship. "I sat there watching on TV dumbfounded, horrified by what an utter wipeout it was of a team that was on its way to the national title game,” said ESPN commentator Skip Bayless, who grew up in Oklahoma City and remains an avid Sooner fan. "It was one of the all-time embarrassments as a fan to have to sit and watch. "From that point on, it’s been big-game loss after big-game loss. ” Same goes for Ohio State. The Buckeyes waltzed into the 2006 season national championship game against Florida, and appeared destined for another title after Ted Ginn Jr. took the opening kickoff to the house. Buckeye fans have yet to see a big-game highlight worth remembering since. "It’s such a big heartbreak,” McGinnis said. "In all honesty, the games were more fun when we were 9-3 and didn’t expect so much all the time. "The programs are at that level where all you can be is disappointed because the expectation is always to win.” Sooner fans feel his pain. Of more than 100 OU fans polled last weekend during Meet The Sooners Day, one-third said they’d rather see OU win the Cotton Bowl this season than lose the national title game again. "Another loss in the BCS title game would be devastating,” said Jon Parke of Yukon. Not long ago, it seemed OU was invincible in the big game. Even against Ohio State. In 1977, Bayless traveled to Columbus to cover the first meeting between OU and Ohio State for the Los Angeles Times. The night before, Bayless had a drink at the team hotel with longtime friend and OU graduate assistant coach Gary Gibbs. "He looked me right in the eye,” Bayless recalled, "and said, ‘If it comes down to the last second, you can book it, we will win this game because of who we are and what we believe we are. We’re mentally tougher than they are.’ It gave me goosebumps.” The next day, after missing a 2-point conversion to tie, the Sooners recovered an onside kick down 28-26 to give Uwe von Schamann a shot to win the game with a 41-yard field goal.