Saturday’s Orange Bowl marks the sixth meeting between Alabama and Oklahoma, but the stakes are the highest in this one. The two schools have met three times in the postseason and twice in the regular season, with Oklahoma holding a 3-1-1 lead in the series. Here's a brief history of their matchups.
Alabama 17, Oklahoma 0
Jan. 1, 1963 — Miami, Fla.
When the schools first met in the Orange Bowl, they already had nine claimed national titles between them. The 8-2 Sooners had won the Big 8 outright, while the 9-1 Crimson Tide had lost 7-6 to Georgia Tech and finished second in the SEC to an undefeated Ole Miss team. With President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the stands, the Crimson Tide shut out the Sooners as sophomore quarterback Joe Namath led an offense that methodically built a 17-point lead. “That’s Namath – N-a-m-a-t-h,” said Bear Bryant in the locker room after the game. “But don’t worry about it. You’ll learn how to spell his name in the next few years.”
Oklahoma 24, Alabama 24
Dec. 31, 1970 — Houston, Texas
Oklahoma installed the wishbone attack early in the season and had gone 7-4 as it worked to adjust to the new offense. Alabama had just suffered its second straight six-win season. Both accepted a bid in the now-defunct Bluebonnet Bowl. Oklahoma jumped out to 21-7 second-quarter lead but Alabama came back to take a 24-21 lead in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma kicker Bruce Derr tied the game with a 42-yard field goal with 59 seconds left for the one tie in the series. Better things were still to come for both programs. Oklahoma would come into its own with the wishbone and win two national championships in the 1970s. Alabama installed the same offense in 1971 and won three national championships in the '70s.
Oklahoma 37, Alabama 27
Sept. 7, 2002 — Norman, Okla.
In the first regular-season meeting between the two schools, Sooner quarterback Jason White blew out his knee early in the game and Nate Hybl came off the bench to replace him. Oklahoma took a 23-3 halftime lead, but Alabama battled back to take a 27-23 advantage in the fourth quarter. Hybl then led the Sooners on an 80-yard drive that culminated in an eight-yard touchdown run by Kejuan Jones. Alabama quarterback Tyler Watts fumbled the ball on the next possession and Sooners defensive back Eric Bassey returned it for a touchdown to extend the winning lead. Oklahoma would go 12-2 and win the Big 12, while Alabama finished 10-3.
Oklahoma 20, Alabama 13
Sept. 6, 2003 — Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Oklahoma sacked Alabama quarterback Brodie Coyle five times and intercepted him twice. The Sooners never trailed the Crimson Tide, but the 20-13 win was the closest of Oklahoma’s 12-0 start for the season. They lost to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship Game and then to LSU in the Sugar Bowl, thus dashing their national championship hopes. Meanwhile, Alabama went 4-9 under first-year head coach Mike Shula.
Oklahoma 45, Alabama 31
Jan. 2, 2014 — New Orleans
Alabama entered the game having just lost its chance at a third straight national championship to Auburn with the famous “Kick Six.” Oklahoma entered the game ranked 11th and a 17.5-point underdog. However, the Sooners overwhelmed the Crimson Tide, taking a 31-17 lead and never relinquishing it to close out the BCS Bowl era. The next year brought the College Football Playoff. Alabama has been every season and this year marks Oklahoma’s third trip to the semifinal.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.