OU football: Few schools have dominated a conference like OU has dominated the Big 12
Parity at long last has come to Big 12 football.
The conference is trotting out a different team every year to play Oklahoma in the conference championship game. TCU in 2017. Texas in 2018. Now Baylor in 2019. If this cycle continues, it will get to every team in the league soon enough.
But championship parity? The kind we see in most other leagues? It fled the scene. Flew the coop. Took the last train for the coast. Look elsewhere if that kind of parity trips your trigger.
The Sooners have won four straight Big 12 titles and can make it five straight Saturday by beating Baylor at JerryWorld in Arlington. And if OU indeed wins, a temporary suspension of all College Football Playoff talk is in order. That would be for later Saturday night or even Sunday morning. In the immediate aftermath of a victory, should it happen, celebrating the Big 12 trophy is in order.
Five straight outright Big 12 titles is tall cotton.
The Pac-12 or its predecessors never have had a member win five straight outright football titles. Southern Cal (1966-69) and California (1920-23) each have won four.
The Big Ten, in business since the 19th century, never has had a school win more than two straight outright football championships.
The late Big East, lorded over by Miami, never had a school win more than three straight outright championships; Miami won three in a row 2000-02.
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The SEC has had one fivepeat – Alabama in 1971-75, with the Bear Bryant wishbone.
The old Southwest Conference had one fivepeat – Texas in 1969-73, with the Darrell Royal wishbone.
Neither Barry Switzer’s nor Bob Stoops fabulous Sooner teams won more than three straight outright conference titles. Bob Devaney’s nor Tom Osborne’s Nebraska juggernauts never won more than four straight Big Eight titles.
For conference supremacy, the hallmark is Bud Wilkinson, whose OU teams won 12 straight Big Seven titles (1948-59). These Sooners aren’t even halfway to Wilkinson, but otherwise, their domination of the conference since Lincoln Riley arrived in 2015 as offensive coordinator and eventually head coach is historic.
It’s not necessarily healthy for the conference. The Big 12 would much rather be like the SEC, where Alabama won a national title without even winning its division in 2017, and where Saturday LSU could be the third SEC school in three seasons to win the trophy.
But that’s a Big 12 problem, not an OU problem. The Sooners’ job is to be the best they can be; the Big 12’s job is to keep up.
OU’s dominance gets lost because of the Sooners’ playoff failures – semifinal losses in 2015, 2017 and 2018. Compare that to Clemson, which like OU is working on a run of four straight outright conference titles, an ACC record, and can also reach five in a row Saturday, when Clemson plays Virginia in the ACC title game Saturday.
One big difference, of course. Clemson won national titles in 2016 and 2018, plus made the national championship game in 2015 and the playoff in 2017. So everyone talks about Clemson’s playoff success and OU’s playoff futility, overlooking the novelty of their conference dominance.
The playoff is at the forefront of most Sooner minds, even if Jalen Hurts trotted out the “rat poison” phrase Saturday night for the first time in what must have been a month. Before the four-team playoff, and certainly before the two-team Bowl Championship Series, college football was a conference championship sport.
It meant more to win the Big Eight or the SEC or the Big Ten or the Pac in football than in basketball. Meant more to win those titles than any professional regular-season achievement, at least since baseball expanded its playoffs and rendered the pennant races not quite the Holy Grail they were for decades.
So we all get it. The playoff is paramount. But on some level, playing for hardware, playing for a conference championship still matters, even if it doesn’t come with an automatic playoff berth, which this one might not.
After the Sooners beat OSU 34-16 Saturday night, OU tailback Kennedy Brooks was asked if he’s ready for another showdown with Baylor, whom the Sooners beat in mid-November 34-31 with a comeback for the ages.
“Oh yeah, of course, man,” Brooks said. “It's another opportunity to win the Big 12, so I can't wait.”
Well said. The playoff news for the OU-Baylor winner arrives at noon Sunday. Analyze it and debate it and pray the rosary over it. Just don’t forget to celebrate the victory that makes it all possible.
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.
No. 7 OU vs. No. 9 Baylor
When: 11 a.m., Saturday
Where: AT&T Stadium; Arlington, Texas
TV: ABC (Cox 8)
Radio: KRXO-FM 107.7