NORMAN — The inclination Oklahoma had played itself into a BCS bowl game with Saturday’s victory over Oklahoma State proved to be right.
Sunday, the Sooners accepted a bid to face Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl Jan. 2 in New Orleans.
“Two of the more storied programs, when you look at the championships and Heismans and all of that stuff. It’s two great traditions for sure,” OU coach Bob Stoops said Sunday night.
The 11th-ranked Sooners (10-2) and the third-ranked Crimson Tide (12-1) have combined for 16 national championships since 1950. The Sooners have seven. Alabama has won nine, including three of the previous four. They’ve also combined for 62 bowl victories — OU 27, Alabama 35 — during their histories.
However, this will be just the fifth meeting between the programs.
OU claimed a regular-season home-and-home series in 2001 and 2002. The last bowl meeting was the 1970 Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl, which ended in a 24-24 tie. Alabama victory came in the 1963 Orange Bowl with a 17-0 win.
“Yeah, that is odd,” Stoops said when asked why OU and Alabama hadn’t crossed paths more often over the years. “I guess it goes back to the old bowl matchups and where you used to go. That’s probably why. Yeah, pretty unusual when you think of all the great teams each of them have had. In today’s world they probably would have gotten together more often, with the BCS, the way things are now. If they had it back then they probably would have met more often.”
The Sugar Bowl appearance will be Alabama’s 14th. It’s the most of any program in the game’s 80-year history and it was a forgone conclusion after it lost to Auburn on Nov. 30. They finished No. 3 in the BCS standings and the BCS bowl bid was automatic.
“We’re happy to have the opportunity to play in the Sugar Bowl,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “They’ve had a great tradition with the SEC and with the University of Alabama in the past, and we certainly are excited about having the opportunity to be there and playing a great team with a great tradition like University of Oklahoma who has a great coach in Bob Stoops. It sounds to me like it’s a great game.”
It came down to the Sooners and Oregon for the last at-large spot. Both teams finished the regular season 10-2. The Ducks were one spot ahead of OU’s final BCS standings at No. 10. But the several factors gave the Sooners the nod. Geography was certainly one. OU’s large fan base has a much easier time getting to New Orleans. The fact the Big 12 Conference will have an automatic bid to the game beginning next year helped as well.
But Sugar Bowl Chief Executive Officer Paul Hoolahan said Sunday night, the way the Sooners closed the season was a factor too.
“Certainly as you look at all of those and you weigh all of those variables and you try to do an effective evaluation, you want to look at the end and see how all of it comes out,” he said. “I think when you take a look at the way Oklahoma performed, and their last games particularly on the road and this particular game this weekend against No. 6 Oklahoma State, it’s hard not to be impressed with the way they’ve been performing of late.”
The trip will be OU’s first to New Orleans and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome since losing to LSU in the 2003 national championship game. This will be their seventh appearance in the bowl game. OU is 4-2 in its first six trips. The seventh will against the program that is every bit the Sooners’ equal in terms of tradition and has been the college football’s most dominant since 2009.
“We understand what a challenge it is. But we’re excited about it,” Stoops said. “Again, I want to just appreciate my players’ efforts, coaching staff’s efforts to give us this opportunity and chance, but again, just incredible respect for what Alabama, Coach Saban and his staff and players have been able to do over the last several years.”
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