In 2020, the Oklahoma Sooners won their 50th conference title, four more than second place Nebraska. In our Hang Half-a-Hundred on ‘Em series, SI Sooners takes a look back at every single conference championship winning season in OU history.
2020: Hanging Half-a-Hundred
Fighting through the pandemic, Lincoln Riley disproved the lunacy that he was more than just a transfer quarterback whisperer. With redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler taking the helm, Oklahoma’s collapse in the fourth quarter against Kansas State and loss in Ames at the hands of the Cyclones saw them start 0-2 in Big 12 play for the first time since 1998. With their backs against the wall against Texas, Riley gave Rattler a “timeout” after he surrendered another two turnovers in the first half. Returning to lead the offense after halftime, Rattler flipped the switch, beat Longhorns 53-45 in quadruple overtime and led the Sooners to eight straight wins to close the season. Avenging the loss at Iowa State in the title game in Dallas, Oklahoma’s ferocious pass rush and ball-hawking secondary helped seal the Big 12 Championship 27-21, clinching OU’s 50th conference championship. In the Cotton Bowl, Oklahoma boat-raced Florida, intercepting Kyle Trask on each of the first three possessions to beat the Gators 55-20.
2019: Hurts so Good
The Rattler era was delayed for a year with the arrival of Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts. The veteran quarterback came in and immediately instilled his workman-like attitude to an young offense, but it was the defensive turnaround under the guidance of Alex Grinch which stole the headlines and helped push the Sooners across the finish line in 2019. Hurts downed the ‘Horns in his first trip to the Cotton bowl 34-27, but two weeks later, Chris Klieman’s Kansas State Wildcats stunned the Sooners, handing OU its first true road loss in over five years. Three weeks later, Oklahoma’s Big 12 title hopes appeared to be on life support, as the Sooners went down 28-3 in Waco against Baylor. But in the second half, the offense came alive and engineered the biggest comeback in OU football history, silencing the Bears 34-31. The two teams would square off again in the conference title game in Dallas, where Rhamondre Stevenson’s touchdown run in overtime proved to be enough to crown Oklahoma Big 12 Champs for the fifth straight season. The season ended in disappointment after being routed by LSU in the Peach Bowl, but Hurts guided Oklahoma to another title season.
2018: Red River Rewind
Kyler Murray only had one year as the starting quarterback at Oklahoma, but he made it count. One of the most dynamic playmakers college football has ever seen, the Texas A&M transfer terrorized defenses both through the air and on the ground. After losing to Texas 48-45, Murray’s stellar play carried the Sooners through the back half of the season. Outdueling Taylor Cornelius’ Oklahoma State Cowboys 48-47, OU then visited Morgantown, where the Sooners and West Virginia lit up the scoreboard. Caleb Kelly and Curtis Bolton’s defensive scores helped lift OU to a 59-56 win, setting up a rematch with Texas for the Big 12 crown. Surviving a slow start, Murray and the offense came alive, avenging their prior loss to the Longhorns 39-27 and helping Murray secure Oklahoma’s second straight Heisman Trophy. Against Alabama in the College Football Playoff, Riley’s team would not survive their slow start, seeing their season end at the hands of the Crimson Tide in the Orange Bowl.
2017: Return of the Title Game
In Baker Mayfield’s final season as a Sooner, he would go on to secure his legacy as one of the most beloved Sooners in OU history. With Riley as the newly minted head coach, the Sooners swaggered into Columbus and beat Urban Meyer’s Ohio State 31-16 in their second game of the season. After dropping a shocker at home to Iowa State, Mayfield’s squad rebounded, beating Texas 29-24 and Oklahoma State 62-52 to qualify for the first Big 12 Championship game since 2010 — this time against TCU. Dominating the rematch, OU’s 41-17 win helped wrap up Mayfield’s Heisman Trophy and Oklahoma was awarded a bid to the College Football Playoff against Georgia. Going up 31-17 against the Bulldogs in the Rose Bowl, OU didn’t cope with Kirby Smart’s halftime adjustments and the Bulldogs dominated most of the second half, eventually emerging victorious 54-48 in double overtime — one of the most entertaining semifinals in playoff history.
2016: Baker Goes Back-to-Back
The 2016 season got off to perhaps the worst start imaginable, as the Sooners were upset against Houston and couldn’t keep pace with Ohio State to fall to 1-2 before conference play started. But after a bye week, Mayfield’s offense regrouped, outscoring TCU 52-46 in Ft. Worth to kick off a 10-game winning streak to close out the year. A back-and-forth Red River battle saw the Sooners beat the ‘Horns 45-40, and then Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes made history. In the greatest offensive display college football has ever seen, Oklahoma outlasted Texas Tech 66-59 as the two teams combined for 1,708 total yards from scrimmage. In OU’s regular season finale, a strong second half clinched the Big 12 Championship, topping Oklahoma State 38-20 before the Sooners dominated Auburn 35-19 in the Sugar Bowl to close out the season.
2015: The Birth of a Legend
In 2015 Mayfield, the now two-time walk-on, won the starting quarterback job and quickly got to work writing his name into the OU record books. Brash and confident, the new-look Oklahoma offense sputtered in its trip to Knoxville in the first major test for Mayfield and his new offensive coordinator, Lincoln Riley. Down to their final few chances, Mayfield kick-started the offense in the fourth quarter, coming back to conquer Rocky Top 31-24. A few weeks later, Oklahoma would fall to Texas 24-17 before ripping their way through most of the conference. Behind a big night from Sterling Shepard, the Sooners handed Baylor their first loss in their new stadium on the banks of the Brazos River, but a Mayfield concussion led to Oklahoma eeking out a win against TCU when Stephen Parker batted away a 2-point conversion pass to seal the 30-29 victory. Clemson beat OU 37-17 in the Sooners’ first trip to the College Football Playoff, but 2015 laid the foundation for the ensuring stranglehold OU placed on the Big 12.
2012: Landry’s Last Ride
The Sooners entered the 2012 season with massive expectations. After a slow start at UTEP in the season opener, a series of errors deep in OU territory would cost Oklahoma against Kansas State in Week 3, falling 24-19. Landry Jones and Co. would erase the concerns against Texas, however, dominating their rivals 63-21 behind four Blake Bell touchdowns out of the “Belldozer” package. Two weeks later, Oklahoma hosted ESPN’s College Gameday as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish made the trip to Norman. In front of a striped stadium and a raucous crowd, the visitors contained OU’s explosive offense to win 30-13. Brennan Clay’s walk-off touchdown in overtime secured the win over Oklahoma State in the regular season finale and forced a tie with K-State for the league crown,, but the Sooners season would end in disappointment, suffering a 41-13 loss at the hands of Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
2010: One Final Battle of the Big Reds
Oklahoma set the tone for the 2010 season early with a 47-17 beatdown of Florida State, holding quarterback Christian Ponder to just 113 passing yards for the afternoon. A hard-fought 28-20 victory over Texas had Bob Stoops’ squad on pace to contend for a national title, but OU’s season unraveled over the course of three short weeks. First, Oklahoma came up short in Columbia, losing to the Missouri Tigers 36-27 after giving up a kickoff return for a touchdown on the opening play. Then, Von Miller’s Texas A&M Aggies upset OU two weeks later 33-19, forcing Jones to throw an interception and surrender a fumble. OU would rebound and beat Oklahoma State 47-41 in the regular season finale, setting up a battle against Nebraska in what was going to be the last Big 12 Championship game for the foreseeable future. Falling behind 17-0, linebacker Travis Lewis helped rally the defense, sparking a 23-3 close to the game and giving Oklahoma a 23-20 win and the last laugh over their historic rival — for the time being. A leisurely 48-20 win over Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl ended the season on a high.
2008: The Three-Way Tie
Sam Bradford would win a Heisman Trophy in 2008 and lead the Sooners back to the National Championship Game, but not before plenty of controversy swept across the Big 12 South. Falling to Colt McCoy’s Texas Longhorns 45-35 in one of the great duels of OU-Texas history, an historic run by the Oklahoma offense would carry the Sooners through the rest of the season. As Bradford led OU to five straight 60-point outputs, former Stoops offensive coordinator Mike Leach would do the Sooners a major favor. His Texas Tech Red Raiders beat Texas 39-33, headlined by Michael Crabtree’s late-game heroics, setting up the potential for a three-way tie atop the Big 12 South standings. After OU slaughtered the Red Raiders 65-21 in what would become known as the “Jump Around” game, Oklahoma vaulted to the top of the BCS Rankings, handing them the tiebreaker and the berth to the Big 12 Championship game. Bradford handled Missouri 65-21, but the loss of DeMarco Murray on the opening kickoff return led to the Sooners failing to execute in the red zone and ultimately fall short of the big prize, losing to Tim Tebow’s Florida Gators 24-14 in the BCS National Championship Game.
2007: The Emergence of Bradford
Oklahoma fans were excited for the debut of Bradford, a local product, at quarterback. They didn’t have to wait long to dream of just how good the Putnam City North Panther could be. Dismantling North Texas 79-10, the Sooners would roll until they met up with the Colorado Buffalos. With Bradford throwing a pair of interceptions, a big third quarter helped Colorado pull the 27-24 upset in Boulder. Both OU and Texas entered the Cotton Bowl with a loss, but Bradford was the one who made enough plays to help Oklahoma circle the wagons and rebound with a 28-21 victory. Navigating a chaotic college football season, OU looked to be climbing its way back into national title contention, but Bradford suffered a concussion at Texas Tech, and the No. 3-ranked Sooners were upset 34-27. Despite Bradford’s absence, Oklahoma might have survived save for some undisciplined penalties at crucial moments against the Red Raiders. Oklahoma then beat Oklahoma State, and dominated the No. 1-ranked Missouri Tigers in the Big 12 Championship, securing back-to-back confernece titles for the first time in the history of the league.