Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma teams won 47 consecutive games from 1953 until 1957. The Sooners began the 1953 season with a 28-21 loss to Notre Dame and a 7-7 tie with Pittsburgh. OU then won eight in a row, including 6-0 in the Big Seven Conference.
As conference champion, Oklahoma played unbeaten National Champion Maryland in the Orange Bowl. A 7-0 Oklahoma victory did not cost Maryland the national title because at the time the final AP writers’ poll and UPI coaches’ poll came at the end of the regular season. Oklahoma finished fourth in the AP and fifth in the UPI.
Big Seven teams were Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Colorado and Iowa State. It became the Big Eight in 1957 with the addition of Oklahoma State.
The Sooners went 10-0 in 1954, finishing third in both polls, but did not play in a bowl because the Big Seven had a no repeater rule for the Orange Bowl. The AP had unbeaten Ohio State first and unbeaten UCLA second. The order was reversed by UPI.
Oklahoma won the National Championship in 1955 with a 10-0 record, then beat unbeaten and third-ranked Maryland 20-6 in the Orange Bowl.
Wilkinson had his best team in 1956 that repeated as National Champion. The Sooners were one of history’s most dominant teams, going 10-0 and outscoring opponents 456-51, to stretch the winning streak to 40 games. Oklahoma had five shutouts, including 45-0 against Texas and 40-0 against Notre Dame. Again, there was no bowl game.
It was a senior dominated team, led by All Americans Tommy McDonald and Jerry Tubbs. At a time when freshmen were ineligible for varsity sports, the seniors graduated with a 31-0 record.
A much younger team won its first seven in 1957 to make it 47 in a row. Oklahoma was a 19-point favorite at home against Notre Dame, which was coming off a 34-6 loss to Michigan State.
It was a defensive battle, scoreless going into the fourth quarter thanks to an Oklahoma goal line stand near the end of the first half.
Starting at its own 20, Notre Dame put together a methodical 20-play fourth quarter drive on the running of quarterback Bob Williams and fullback Nick Pietrosante. With four minutes left, the Irish faced a fourth down at the OU three. Coach Terry Brennan passed up a field goal attempt and Dick Lynch, later an all-pro cornerback with the Giants, took a pitch from Williams around right end for the TD that game Notre Dame a 7-0 victory.
Oklahoma’s last threat ended with an end zone interception by Williams in the final minute.
The Sooners won their last two regular season games to finish fourth in both polls, then clobbered Duke 48-21 in the Orange Bowl.
A week after the upset, Notre Dame was defeated by Iowa 21-13. The Irish finished 7-3, ranked ninth by UPI and 10th by AP, with losses to third-ranked Michigan State, fifth-ranked Navy and sixth-ranked Iowa.
Notre Dame also had victories at both ends of UCLA’s record winning streak in basketball. The Bruins lost to Notre Dame in 1971, then won 88 in a row, including 1971, ’72 and’73 National Championships, before a one-point loss to the Irish in 1974.
It can be said with certainty that nobody will better Oklahoma’s 47-game streak. The Sooners benefited from playing in a weak conference and a bowl every other year. No other conference team finished higher than 20th during the five years of the streak.