The summer caravans are in full swing with coaches making the rounds like revival preachers. They speak to this group and that almost nightly in the hopes of firing up the fan base before summer practice begins.
Usually the speeches don’t amount to much — a lot of “we couldn’t do it without the fans” platitudes and boilerplate answers to questions most coaches can see coming from the parking lot.
But Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops turned his Monday night appearance on the Sooner Caravan into a news-making event when he went on a tear about the SEC.
“Well, it depends on what gap you’re talking about,” Stoops told Tulsa World Sports in answer to a question about the gap between the SEC and other conferences. “What are the bottom six (SEC teams) doing?”
The first answer that comes to mind is: they’re getting players drafted in the NFL. The SEC just sent a record 63 players to the NFL, a number which more than doubles any other conference. Not all of those came from the top three or four teams, either. Every SEC program except Ole Miss had at least one player drafted.
And, while they might fall into what Stoops considers the “bottom six” of the SEC, the Rebels finished 7-6 and beat Pittsburgh handily in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas and Kentucky and Missouri — the five SEC teams that finished with losing records last season — had 12 players taken in this year’s draft.
But Stoops had more to say. He continued to tell Tulsa World Sports, “So they’ve had the best team in college football. They haven’t had the whole conference. Because, again, half of them haven’t done much at all. I’m just asking you. You tell me.”
Well, let’s look into that.
Of the five teams that ended 2012 with losing records, one of them, Auburn, was among those national championship winners of which Stoops spoke. Another, Missouri, was new to the SEC, coming out of Oklahoma’s own Big 12 Conference where they finished 8-5 in 2011.
Arkansas went through a storm called Bobby Petrino, but prior to that scandal the Hogs were 11-2 in 2011 and ranked No. 5 in the country at the end of the year.
So, since the tense of Stoops’ statement indicates that he was not referring to a single season, one must ask: whom exactly is he referring to as the “bottom six?”
Vanderbilt, the historical cellar-dweller in the conference, finished last year 9-4 and beat NC State in the Music City Bowl, while Ole Miss, the worst team in the conference in 2011 with a 2-10 record, came roaring back with a winning season under new head coach Hugh Freeze.
“It depends on who you want to listen to,” Stoops continued. “Listen, they’ve had the best team in college football, meaning they’ve won the national championship. That doesn’t mean everything else is always the best. So you’re listening to a lot of propaganda that gets fed out to you. You’re more than smart enough to figure it out. Again, you can look at the top two, three, four, five, six teams, and you can look at the bottom six, seven, eight, whatever they are. How well are they all doing?
“What’d we (the Big 12) have, eight of 10 teams in bowl games this year? Again, you figure it all out.”
Indeed, the numbers don’t lie. But only one of those eight Big 12 teams played an SEC opponent. It was Stoops’ own Oklahoma Sooners that took on the Aggies of Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.