Sept. 13, 2008
By Jeff Bechthold
As in many recent seasons, much has been made of the Huskies' challenging schedule this season. Various publications, on-line services and bloggers have called it the most difficult in the nation.
With the usual rigors of the Pac-10 Conference slate and visits from traditionally strong teams like Brigham Young, Oklahoma and Notre Dame, it's no wonder that this season's schedule has been so widely noted.
And while some may question the wisdom of such a schedule, the fact is that playing the "big teams" has become a tradition for the Washington football program. It's a tradition that has provided many of the great highlights in Montlake lore.
Of recent vintage, who can forget the Huskies' thrill-packed win over Miami early in the 2000 season? For fans of a certain age, is there any better purple-and-gold memory than the nationally televised night game vs. Nebraska in 1992? Has Husky Stadium ever been louder than the seconds after Tommie Smith sacked the Cornhusker quarterback for a safety?
The modern era of UW football has brought previous visits from BYU and Notre Dame, as well as well-known programs like Ohio State, Michigan, Colorado, Nebraska, Miami and Texas A&M. But, this is the first-ever visit to Seattle by the Sooners.
A brief glance at the history of Sooner football is full of impressive statistics and history - likely more than the average Husky fan would have realized.
For starters, Oklahoma can lay claim to seven recognized national championships since 1950, and in nine other seasons, one or more other rankings services have crowned the Sooners, though they weren't the consensus champs.
There are four Heisman Trophy winners who have worn the Sooner uniform: Billy Vessels (1952), Steve Owens (1969), Billy Sims (1978) and Jason White (2003).
Oklahoma players have also won five Outland Trophies, three Lombardi Awards and every other major honor from the Butkus to the O'Brien to the Maxwell and the Thorpe, for a total of 63 national awards.
So, like so many big non-conference Saturdays at Husky Stadium, today's game has that aura of grandeur that has become so familiar.
What's more is that, as the nation's No. 3-ranked team, the Sooners are the highest-ranked non-conference team to visit Husky Stadium since a No. 1 Ohio State team visited in 1969. This year's OU unit is only the fourth non-conference team ranked in the top five ever to play the Dawgs on Montlake.
Washington and Oklahoma haven't shared much in terms of their history over the years, with some very notable exceptions. First and foremost to most would be their meeting in the 1985 Orange Bowl, with national championship implications on the line for both teams. Had Brigham Young lost its Holiday Bowl game vs. Michigan, the winner of the Orange Bowl would most likely have won the championship.
Alas, the Huskies beat the Sooners that night in Miami, but BYU emerged as the consensus national champion, amid considerable controversy.
The other notable OU-UW connection is the fact that the Huskies have long held the NCAA record for the longest unbeaten streak while Oklahoma is well remembered for the longest winning streak in major college history.
The Huskies, under Coach Gilmour Dobie, went unbeaten for a stretch of 63 games from 1907 to 1917, winning 59 and tying four before suffering a loss early in the '17 season (after Dobie's departure). It's a record that still stands today, nearly a century later.
Oklahoma, on the other hand, posted an amazing 47 consecutive victories under Coach Bud Wilkinson until falling to Notre Dame in November of 1957. It's a streak that has never really been challenged.
So, the stage is set. Another big-time Saturday at Husky Stadium. Enjoy.