Georgia football will play Oklahoma for the first time ever on January 1st in the Rose Bowl. The winner will go on to play in the National Championship Game in Atlanta.
Georgia football has met Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, Clemson and LSU dozens of times. They’ve played, Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State, Texas, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Southern Cal., Florida State and Miami all at least once.
But to this point, there’s only one elite college football program that Georgia is yet to meet. And they’ll meet them in just two weeks in Pasadena, California. They are the Oklahoma Sooners.
Oklahoma has the fifth best record in the FBS with a record of 884-322-53. Their seven National Championships are seventh, as is their 50 appearances in bowl games. They also have 46 conference championships which is first in the FBS. Those 46 conference titles have come as a member of the Big 12, Big 8, Big 7, Big 6, Missouri Valley, and Southwest.
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Given the success of the Oklahoma program over the last century, you would think that the Dawgs and Sooners would have clashed at some point. And yet, they have not. How have these two avoided each other for so long?
For one, Georgia has only played in four bowl games against the conference Oklahoma belonged to. In 1959, the Bulldogs went 9-1 in the regular season and won the SEC Championship. But instead of meeting the Big 7 Champion Sooners in the Orange Bowl, they played Missouri who finished second. Oklahoma didn’t even play in a bowl game.
In 1969, Georgia played Nebraska, who shared the Big 8 Championship, in the Sun Bowl. Oklahoma only won six games so they weren’t invited to any bowl game.
It would be 40 years before Georgia met a team from the same conference as Oklahoma. That was in the 2009 when a 7-5 Bulldog team played a 6-6 Texas A&M team. The Sooners also ended the 2009 regular season 7-5, but they played Stanford in the Sun Bowl.
And last season, Georgia played TCU in the Liberty Bowl. The Sooners won the Big 12 and played Auburn in the Sugar Bowl.
Besides bowl games, the two just haven’t ever scheduled each other. Prior to the new millennium, cross-country match-ups were pretty rare for teams in conferences, especially larger conferences. Every conference Georgia has belonged to has featured at least 10 teams.
At its height, the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association had 21 teams. The Southern Conference had 23 teams when the SEC was formed in 1933. And the SEC had 13 teams in its first few years, 10 teams for three decades, 12 teams through the 1990’s and 2000’s, and now 14 teams.
When Georgia left the SIAA, they still had healthy relationships and rivalries with many of the schools that remained. And when UGA left the SoCon, the situation was the same. So Georgia continued to fill their schedules with teams like Virginia, Clemson, Chattanooga, Mercer, Furman, etc.
Oklahoma also continued playing teams they were mostly familiar with. They have very rarely played teams from outside the Midwest, just as Georgia has rarely played teams outside the Southeast.
Not counting Missouri and Texas A&M, Oklahoma has only played 36 games against SEC teams. Excluding Nebraska, the Sooners have only played 23 games against the Big 10. And excluding Colorado, they’ve only played 41 games the Pac 12.
You can now see why it has taken so long for Georgia and Oklahoma to meet. But what a way to finally get together. In the Rose Bowl, a semi-final game in the playoffs. No. 2 versus no. 3. An offense led by a Heisman winner on one side, a top-10 defense on the other.
It may be their first meeting, but Georgia versus Oklahoma is going to be one of the biggest games in the histories of each programs.