Photo courtesy of University of Alabama.
In the 1963 Orange Bowl, Oklahoma struggled to stop Alabama’s Lee Roy Jordan.
Before the marriage of convenience known as the Big 12 came into being in the mid-1990s, the old Big Eight conference defined football in the Great Plains.
For most of its history, the league was dominated by Oklahoma and Nebraska, with some occasional good teams fielded by the other six, including Missouri, which memorably handed Paul “Bear“ Bryant with one of his worst defeats, a 35-10 debacle in the 1968 Gator Bowl.
In 1971, the Big Eight pulled off the rarest of achievements, producing the top three teams in the final Associated Press rankings: Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Colorado.
But the old Big Eight is but a memory now, first expanded to include the most prominent members of the old Southwest Conference and now, contracted with the defections of Nebraska to the Big Ten, Colorado to the Pac-12 and Missouri to the Southeastern Conference.
As No. 1 Alabama travels to Columbia to help welcome Missouri to the SEC, join us as we look back at Six Bama Heroes Against the Old Big Eight…
Lee Roy Jordan
Jan. 1, 1963
Unstoppable. That’s the most appropriate word to describe Lee Roy Jordan on the final day of his remarkable college career. Alabama played a virtually flawless game in routing Big Eight champion Oklahoma, 17-0, in the 1963 Orange Bowl, including an impressive performance by sophomore quarterback Joe Namath. But it was Jordan’s zealous pursuit of Sooner ballcarriers that lingered. Jordan finished with a bowl record 31 tackles and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Jan. 1, 1966
Confronted with a larger and very gifted Nebraska team, Paul “Bear” Bryant pulled quarterback Steve Sloan aside during a Miami boat ride several days before the 1966 Orange Bowl and delivered a shocking instruction: Feel free to pass from any situation. And that’s exactly what he did. Playing one of the greatest games of his career, Sloan put on an aerial show while leading Alabama to a 39-28 upset over the Cornhuskers, setting Orange Bowl records for completions (20) and yards (296). The upset culminated the Tide’s unlikely comeback from a loss and a tie to capture the 1965 national championship. Shelving Bama’s conservative philosophy, if only for the night, Sloan repeatedly connected with split end Ray Perkins and lineman Jerry Duncan, who kept surprising the Huskers with the tackle eligible, one of Bryant’s favorite gadget plays.
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