On January 2 the Alabama Crimson Tide and Oklahoma Sooners, two of the most tradition-rich football programs in the nation, will face off for the first time since 2003.
Overall the two schools have only played each other four times in the history of the two programs. This game will be the third time that the two schools have met in a bowl game.
The two schools faced off for the first time in the 1962-63 Orange Bowl, where the Bear Bryant-led Crimson Tide shut out Oklahoma 17-0 with president John F. Kennedy in attendance.
Behind an incredible performance by Tide linebacker Lee Roy Jordan, who had a school record 31 tackles, the Tide dominated the Sooners.
The two programs would not meet again until the 1970 Bluebonnet Bowl in a very different situation.
When the two programs met a decade earlier both were Top 10 programs and national title contenders. By the 1970 Bluebonnet Bowl both were coming off mediocre seasons, with Alabama coming into the game with a 6-5 record and Oklahoma being 7-4.
It was a back and forth affair between the two programs, with Alabama led by legendary running back Johnny Musso. The Tide led by three points late in the game, until Oklahoma was able to connect on a 42 yard field goal to the tie game.
In an era before overtime, the game ended in a 24-24 tie to the disappointment of the teams and players alike.
The next year the Alabama football team was officially integrated, with its first scholarship black athlete, and Bryant installed the new wishbone offense, bringing the Tide back to prominence. Oklahoma also returned to prominence following the 1970 bowl game, and both Alabama and Oklahoma finished second in separate polls in 1971 (Alabama in the Coaches Poll and Oklahoma in the AP Poll).
The teams didn’t play again until 2002, with Alabama on probation from the NCAA and Oklahoma one of the top teams in the country.
The Sooners dominated Alabama in the first half, leading 23-3 as the third quarter began, but Alabama made a furious comeback, scoring 27 unanswered points and taking the lead 27-23 with just under 4 minutes remaining in the game.
After being completely shut down by the Alabama defense in the second half, the Oklahoma offense methodically drove down the field and scored on an 8 yard run with just 2 minutes left in the game to retake the lead 30-27.
Alabama QB Tyler Watts attempted to lead the Tide back downfield for at least a game-tying field goal, but near midfield Watts fumbled as he was sacked, and Oklahoma returned the fumble for a TD to seal the game.
Alabama’s dominant defense sacked Oklahoma quarterbacks 6 times on the day, with every one of their starting defensive lineman (Kenny King, Kindal Moorehead, Jarrett Johnson, and Antwan Odom) recording at least one sack in the game. However, the comeback was all for naught, and the Sooners eventually went on to win the Big XII Championship and the Rose Bowl, while Alabama ended up with 10 wins and would have played in the SEC Championship if not for serving NCAA probationl.
The next year Oklahoma traveled to Tuscaloosa, AL for the rematch and again it was a back and forth affair between the two programs. The teams traded field goals in the first half before Oklahoma quarterback Jason White hit a 46 yard TD late in the second quarter to give Oklahoma a comfortable 13-3 lead, but in the third quarter Brodie Croyle was able to hit Triandos Luke for a score to close the gap to 13-3. Late in the third Jason White hit his second 40+ yard TD to extend the lead to 20-10. Alabama added a field goal late in the game to come within 7 points, but was unable to recover an onside kick and Oklahoma walked out with its second straight victory over the Tide.
That was the last time these two storied programs faced each other on the football field, and now the two meet again, this time in the AllState Sugar Bowl.
An angry Alabama team is coming off a heartbreaking defeat to archrival Auburn, while Oklahoma is riding high after beating rival Oklahoma State and crushing OSU’s shot at a Big XII Championship.
Alabama must live with the fact that now Auburn will get a shot at Florida State in the BCS National Championship. The last two times Alabama had season-ending heartbreaks like this were two very different scenarios with very different outcomes.
In 2008 Alabama lost a heartbreaker in the SEC Championship to Florida and then watched Tim Tebow lead Florida over Oklahoma in the BCS Championship. A flat and lethargic looking Alabama that seemed to not even want to be there was then beaten by an overmatched Utah in the Sugar Bowl.
In 2010 Alabama closed out the season by blowing a 24 point lead over Auburn in the Iron Bowl and then watched Auburn win both the SEC and BCS National Championships. An angry, hungry Alabama team then dismantled co-Big 10 champion Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl, dominating the game from start to finish.
Will this team be dejected, disappointed, and uninspired, or will the Tide come out an angry, hungry, ferocious football team looking to send its special class of seniors off with a win in the Sugar Bowl for the first time since 1992? We’ll find out on January 2nd.