- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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Call this one big. Oklahoma's showdown at fifth-ranked Florida State on Saturday is -- without question -- the biggest nonconference game of the Bob Stoops era.
It's the biggest nonconference road game for the Sooners in almost 25 years, and one of the five biggest in program history.
"It's great for college football," Stoops said. "It's great exposure. Everyone is going to talk about your program for a week leading up to the game. Fans love it -- we'll have a bunch going down there. These are exciting weekends for people."
True, Stoops has been in plenty of big games at OU. Four national championship appearances. Eight Big 12 title games. Top-10 tilts against Texas, Nebraska, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Missouri.
But Stoops never has coached in a nonconference game the magnitude of this one.
Eleven times in 12 seasons the Sooners have gone on the road in nonconference play under Stoops. Only two of those opponents -- No. 17 Miami in 2009 and No. 18 Oregon in 2006 -- were ranked, and OU lost each by a point.
Neither Miami nor Oregon, however, was a serious national title contender -- which, this season, the Seminoles appear to be. The Hurricanes had been routed by Virginia Tech the week before. The Ducks would finish the season with a mediocre 7-6 record.
The last time OU faced a national-title contender on the road in the nonconference was USC in 1988. The Sooners were ranked third; USC was fifth. The Trojans prevailed 23-7 and nearly played for the national championship but lost to Notre Dame in the regular-season finale. Instead, the Irish won the national title.
OU has faced only six other top-five nonconference opponents on the road in its modern history. USC three other times (1981, '73, '63), and Miami (1986), Notre Dame (1968) and Ohio State (1977). In those games, the Sooners went 2-4-1, including three losses in the 1980s.
OU's last road win over a top-five nonconference opponent came against the Buckeyes in that '77 classic. After the Sooners recovered an onside kick, Uwe Von Schamann nailed a 41-yard field goal to cap one of the greatest comebacks in school history.
The victory catapulted the Sooners all the way to the Orange Bowl, with the chance at a national championship still within reach.
Saturday's showdown in Tallahassee could do the same.
Jake Trotter covers University of Oklahoma football for SoonerNation.
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1hAdam Rubin and Kieran Darcy