Teams from the Southeastern Conference have won the past seven national titles. That pretty much ends any argument about which conference is the best in college football.
Well, Bob Stoops likes to argue.
The Oklahoma coach was feeling his oats this week at a fan caravan appearance in Tulsa. Despite evidence to the contrary, he’s not willing to concede the title of best conference to the SEC.
“So they’ve had the best team in college football,” Stoops said, in comments reported by the Tulsa World. “They haven’t had the whole conference. Because, again, half of ‘em haven’t done much at all. I’m just asking you. You tell me.”
True, the seven straight BCS titles have been spread out amongst just four teams: Alabama (3), Florida (2), LSU and Auburn.
Of course, the 2012 BCS title game was a head-to-head matchup of SEC teams, Alabama and LSU. And in some years, the SEC Championship Game is basically a national semifinal, if not a better matchup than the BCS title game.
Stoops is not impressed.
“It depends on who you want to listen to,” Stoops said. “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.”
Stoops has a point in that there was a considerable dropoff after the top three teams in each SEC division last year.
His argument is that, top to bottom, the Big 12 is a stronger league than the SEC. And last season the Big 12 arguably had better teams in the lower rungs than the SEC, although that’s not really an enviable position to defend.
SEC supporters will immediately point to the fact that Stoops’ own Oklahoma team, which finished 8-1 in the Big12 and tied for the conference championship, was spanked by Texas A&M, 41-13, in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.
Texas A&M tied for second in the SEC West.
But Stoops is proposing that the measure of a conference should be how all its teams perform, not just the top tier.
Were Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU, West Virginia, Iowa State and Kansas better last year than the likes of Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Auburn?
Tough call, especially since the SEC has four more teams than the Big 12.
SEC teams play only eight conference games, giving them four opportunities to fatten up on weak non-conference competition. The Big 12 can’t exactly brag about its own non-conference scheduling, although its teams do play nine conference games.
Last season, the SEC had nine bowl teams, the same as the Big 12. Of course, that means that 90 percent of the Big 12’s teams earned bowl bids compared to 64 percent for the SEC.
Yet does it really mean that much to have nine bowl teams when your conference has eight bowl tie-ins? You’re basically guaranteed a bowl in the Big 12 if you win six games, and it doesn’t matter if three of those wins are against weak non-conferences foes and a fourth is against 1-11 Kansas.
Of the Big 12’s nine bowl teams, five of them – more than half – finished 4-5 or worse in conference play.
Out of the SEC’s nine bowl teams, only two had non-winning records in conference play: Mississippi State was 4-4 and Ole Miss was 3-5. Every other SEC bowl team was 5-3 or better in conference play.
As for how those teams fared in bowl games, the SEC was 6-3 and the Big 12 was 4-5.
A couple of SEC teams didn’t look good in their bowl games. Florida was outclassed by Louisville in the Sugar Bowl, 33-23, and Mississippi State took a 34-20 knock from Northwestern in the Gator.
But in the only bowl game that really mattered, the national championship game, Alabama steamrolled previously unbeaten Notre Dame, 42-14.
The Crimson Tide’s dominant performance is the image most college football fans have burned into their memory banks. Stoops wants to remind folks – especially recruits – that not every team in the SEC is as good as Alabama.
“So you’re listening to a lot of propaganda that gets fed out to you,” Stoops said. “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? (Actually, nine of 10). Again, you figure it all out.”
Trust us, Bob, the SEC’s many rabid followers are devising every performance measure possible to refute your stance. Everything from strength of schedule, head-to-head performance and even the number of NFL draft picks produced.
What you can’t scientifically measure is pride in your own conference, and you’ve got to give Stoops full credit for that.