One of the best historic rivalries is Oklahoma vs Nebraska. The two programs have rich history and plenty of memorable games. After Nebraska left for the Big Ten in 2011 the programs rivalry entered a hiatus. The two schools final game as Big 12 members came in the 2010 Big 12 Championship. Oklahoma would win by a score of 23-20. The rivalry was renewed and the schools scheduled a home and home series for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. This rivalry game is one I have circled on my calendar to make sure I enjoy since we do not know the next time the programs will face each other. Number 24 in our series 99 Things is the Oklahoma vs Nebraska game on September 17.
Oklahoma and Nebraska have met a total of 87 times in their history. The programs have combined for 1,836 wins, 775 draft picks, 136 consensus All-Americans and 10 Heisman winners. Both schools have a long history of success even if Nebraska has struggled over the past decade. From 1971 to 1980, both programs were ranked in the top 10 for every matchup except one where Nebraska ranked 11th. Oklahoma and Nebraska actually met in the 1979 Orange Bowl after Nebraska upset top ranked Oklahoma in mid November. The 1971 matchup was dubbed “The Game of the Century” as Nebraska was ranked number one and Oklahoma was ranked number two. The Cornhuskers defeated the Sooners by a score of 35-31. Nebraska would proceed to win the National Championship finishing a perfect 13-0.
The 2022 matchup will look much different from the 2021 game. Last year Spencer Rattler and Adrian Martinez started for the two programs. This year is likely to be Dillion Gabriel and Casey Thompson. Rattler transferred from Oklahoma to South Carolina while Martinez left Nebraska for Kansas State. Oklahoma is also led by Brent Venables after Lincoln Riley left for sunny southern California. Last year’s matchup was a low scoring affair with the Sooners coming out on top by a score of 23-16. Martinez was efficient completing 19 of 25 passes for 289 yards. An untimely interception in the fourth quarter set the Cornhuskers back and ultimately was one of the reasons for their loss. Oklahoma found success on the ground rushing with Eric Gray and Kennedy Brooks combining for 159 yards.
This year’s matchup also has a much different storyline entering the game. Scott Frost is entering his fifth season at Nebraska and has yet to have a winning record and reach a bowl game. He is on the hot seat and a win over Oklahoma would be monumental in order for him to retain his job. Nebraska needs to find success early and a win over Oklahoma would give the program a jolt of energy. Venables is entering his first season as a college football head coach. He spent the last portion of his career as the Clemson defensive coordinator helping the Tigers win two national championships. Now he has his own program and needs to show what he can do with total control. Venables was an assistant at Oklahoma from 1999 to 2011 so he understands the culture and expectations of leading the Sooners.
FanDuel currently lists Oklahoma a 5.5 point favorite over the Cornhuskers. Last year Oklahoma entered the game as a 22.5 point favorite. Most experts believe Nebraska has improved throughout the offseason in talent and with coaching. Frost hired Mark Whipple to be the offensive coordinator after leading Pitt to one of their most successful offenses in the program’s history. Whipple has received credit for helping to develop Jordan Addison and Kenny Pickett. Venables hired Jeff Lebby to be his offensive coordinator after running a successful offense at Ole Miss. Lebby helped Ole Miss average over 490 yards of total offense in each of his two seasons in Oxford. Ole Miss had one of the best offenses in the SEC with Lebby as their offensive coordinator. Last year’s matchup was a defensive battle but this year has the chance to be an offensive shootout. Can Nebraska pull the upset and give them momentum for the rest of the season?