Oklahoma football has never shied away from playing top-ranked, big-name opponents. The Sooners generally get a strong dose of that in the competitive Big 12 portion of the schedule, and they have also scheduled prominent opponents as part of the nonconference menu.
Before Texas joined the Big 12 in 1996, the Longhorns and Sooners played every season as nonconference Red River combatants; now they get to do so as part of the annual Big 12 scheduling.
During the Barry Switzer era, OU played ranked USC and Miami (Florida) several times and also played a couple of game against Ohio State, all as part of the nonconference portion of the schedule. The same applied to the Bob Stoops era, with OU playing a couple of games against a ranked Florida State team, as well as Notre Dame and also Ohio State, Alabama, Tennessee and Oregon.
Oklahoma also has future home-and-home nonconference series scheduled against the likes of Georgia, Michigan, LSU and Alabama. Although the scheduled games with Georgia, LSU and Alabama will likely be folded into conference games with the Sooners joining the SEC within the next three seasons.
The point of all this, again, being that Oklahoma is not afraid to play big teams in big games.
All of this got us to thinking about the new Brent Venables era of Sooner football and three games in the not-to-distant future that would be great to schedule and dynamite to see. You would figure that those future nonconference games with the three SEC schools would have to be reworked when OU becomes part of the SEC, so why not consider the following three teams as nonconference replacements?
Let’s begin with the obvious choice. OK, maybe not your obvious choice, but another obvious matchup that many would consider a natural. How great would it be to see a contest between Oklahoma and Clemson, with Venables getting the opportunity to take on his former team?
The Sooners have had two postseason meetings with the Clemson Tigers in the past eight years (2014 and 2015), and the Tigers shellacked the Sooners on both occasions, with Venables on the Clemson sideline.
OU and Clemson are actually scheduled to play each other in 2035 and 2036, but who really wants to wait that long to see Venables go up against his former employer?
And now for the other obvious dream game choice for Venables and the Sooners: the USC Trojans. As enticing a matchup as this game would present, I wouldn’t hold your breath that anything like this is going to happen anytime soon, at least not in the regular season. The best possibility would be in the postseason, possibly even in the College Football Playoff.
I can’t imagine there would be any interest on USC’s part to schedule a game against Oklahoma, particularly under the present circumstances and clearly not with the idea of having to come to Norman to play the game.
Just imagine what that scene would be like after Lincoln Riley walked away from OU in favor of putting down new roots in Southern California. In doing so, though, he also took with him a couple of key players as well as several highly rated OU recruiting commitments and assistant coaches.
But that’s exactly what would make a game between OU and USC so intriguing and must-see TV.
The third game that is intriguing to ponder would be a game with the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, and here’s why. The head coaches of both teams (Riley at OU and Brian Kelly at Notre Dame) left their respective schools ostensibly for greener pastures after successful 2021 seasons. Both OU and Notre Dame stayed close to home in naming their replacements.
Venables had been an assistant at Oklahoma for 12 seasons under Bob Stoops before taking the leaving to become defensive coordinator at Clemson, and Marcus Freeman was the defensive coordinator for the Irish under Kelly.
It is the first head-coaching job for both Venables and Freeman. They both rose through the ranks as defensive coaches, and both played linebacker in their college days. The parallels in their careers is one thing that makes this such an interesting matchup to contemplate, especially right now. Notre Dame has long been a thorn in Oklahoma’s side, however, having won eight of 10 games against the Sooners, including snapping OU’s NCAA-record 47-game winning streak back in 1957..
The Irish are one of just a very few teams who have played Oklahoma at least 10 times in history and have a winning record over the Sooners. I believe the OU brass would like every opportunity to further even that score and put a few more Ws in their column.
Of course, the reality is that none of these potential dream games is going to find its way onto the regular-season schedule anytime soon. But we can dare to dream, can’t we?
The postseason? Well, that’s another story. And that may be what keeps the dream alive.