Nostalgia plentiful as old Big 12's end nears

Bob Stoops remembers it well. The Oklahoma coach grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, alongside the Pelini family, far outside the proverbial footprint of the Big Eight.

It didn't matter. This time of year brought one of college football's premier rivalries, and Stoops was watching. He wasn't alone.

"Couldn’t wait for this game," Stoops said of the Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry. "Just watching the two teams in red and white go at it was really special, because it was always a great game, great players, great coaches.

"You have to admit, everybody was watching it around the country."

They saw the "Game of the Century" in 1971, when No. 1 Nebraska beat No. 2 Oklahoma, 35-31. From 1971-82, neither team entered the game ranked lower than No. 11. In the 1980s, the two teams met four consecutive times with both carrying top 5 rankings. That stretch birthed Oklahoma's "Sooner Magic."

Heisman winners like Johnny Rogers and Mike Rozier, among other legends like Turner Gill, Tommie Frazier and Roger Craig all helped build the rivalry across from Sooner legends like Steve Owens, Billy Sims, and Greg Pruitt, all Heisman-winning running backs.

The coaches littered throughout the series, including Nebraska's Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne and Oklahoma's Barry Switzer and Bud Wilkinson, are some of the best ever.

"I was always kind of an OU fan, their style of play, coach Switzer. And look at all the backs they had," Stoops said. "As a young kid, of course everybody’s watching those flashy guys, how fast they were. Couldn’t wait to watch the game."

The annual series died with the Big Eight and birth of divisions in the Big 12, but with Nebraska prepared to leave for the Big Ten in 2011, there's plenty of nostalgia for everyone building up to the last game ever in a 12-team Big 12.

Fittingly, Stoops said, between the Sooners and Huskers one more time.

"I feel fortunate to be a part of it. It’s exciting and it’s earned," he said. "Both of us have earned it through tough division fights."