We’re moving right along in our Countdown to Kickoff, and as of today there are 74 days left until Lincoln and the boys take to Owen Field! For this edition of the countdown series, let’s reflect on the first national championship of the Barry Switzer era: the 1974 Oklahoma Sooners.
Oklahoma Sooners head coach Barry Switzer, 1974 pic.twitter.com/lLNUxRuJln— SportsPaper (@SportsPaperInfo) February 3, 2016
They’ve been referred to as ‘The Best Team You’ll Never See’, a reference to the fact that OU’s games couldn’t be televised that season. And let me tell you, the tale of the 1974 Oklahoma Sooners is a doozy. To date, that team represents the last instance when a team has claimed a national championship without making a postseason bowl appearance. The reason Switzer’s ‘74 Sooners missed the postseason was because Oklahoma was in its second season of serving a two-year postseason ban due to recruiting violations committed during the Chuck Fairbanks era.
As per probational penalties, Oklahoma’s games were not allowed to be broadcast on national networks. Many people never even watched the team that would eventually lay claim to the national title in 1974, which is crazy to even think about in this day and age. After going 11-0, Oklahoma was the only undefeated team in the nation and was ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll. All that was enough to earn the program’s fourth national title.
So who exactly were these juggernauts that played outside the limelight and won in the dark? In Switzer’s second year at the helm, his team featured eight All-Americans, including Sooner legends like running back Joe Washington, quarterback Steve Davis, linebacker Rod Shoate, and the terrifying tandem of D-line brothers Lee Roy and Dewey Selmon. Oklahoma’s wishbone offense annihilated opponents, and its defense avalanched any and all would-be threats.
On the season, the only game where the final margin was even close was at the Cotton Bowl against the rival Texas Longhorns. Oklahoma trailed by three going into the fourth quarter, but a reverse to Billy Brooks led to a 40 yard TD. Minutes later, a late Rod Shoate fumble recovery allowed Sooner kicker Tony DiRienzo to clinch Oklahoma’s 16-13 victory.
The season finale came at home against in-state rival Oklahoma State. The final score was 44-13, but what folks who watched the 1974 edition of Bedlam will remember most was this epic Joe Washington punt return down the sideline. It looked like little Joe was going to be swallowed up in a mass of humanity, but sure enough, he found just enough of an opening, and the rest is history.
It’s a shame the 1974 team didn’t get to enjoy the exposure other teams do, especially over the course of an undefeated, national championship winning season. Still, those Sooners, their opponents, the voters, and everybody else knew who the best team in the nation was that year, and there should be no dispute about that.
But wait, there’s more! As a bonus, I also want to highlight Cody Ford, the mammoth redshirt junior offensive lineman who has played most of his career at left guard. After three consecutive starts to open the 2016 season, Ford was hampered by a leg injury. It nearly took a full year for Ford to recover, but he came all the way back and produced some solid snaps in 12 appearances last season. This past spring, Ford switched over to the tackle spot and flourished as he was one of the best-performing O-linemen on the team. Look for him to continue mauling feeble defensive linemen this fall, no matter where he lines up.
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