Stoops says SEC strength driven by 'propaganda'; Is he right?
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here hasn’t been much bad news for the SEC lately.
Just going back to January, Alabama thumped Notre Dame 42-14 to gave the conference its seventh national championship in a row.
Less than a month later, SEC schools were dominating National Signing Day headlines. When the dust settled and all the LOIs were in, league members held five of the top 10 and 13 of the top 30 spots in Rivals.com’s final team recruiting rankings.
Next came the NFL Draft. With a record 63 of the league’s players selected, an almost unfathomable one in every four players drafted played at an SEC school.
All the while, the media drumbeat pronouncing the SEC’s reign over college football has grown steadily louder.
With last week’s announcement of the SEC television network, a joint venture between the league and media behemoth ESPN, the crescendo reached its peak.
Could the gap between the SEC and the rest of the college football world get even wider?
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was asked that very question during a recent stop of the Sooner Caravan in Tulsa. He’s not so sure one exists at all.
“Well, it depends on what gap you’re talking about,” Stoops said. “What are the bottom six doing?”
He didn’t stop there. Here are Stoop’s comments about the SEC via Tulsa World columnist John Hoover:
“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.”
“So they’ve had the best team in college football,” Stoops said. “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.”
“So you’re listening to a lot of propaganda that gets fed out to you,” he 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? Again, you figure it all out.”
Is he right?
Like a lot of arguments that can’t be settled on the field or compared apples-to-apples, it depends on how you look at it.
While it’s not exactly fair to compare the bottom six teams in a 14-team conference with the last four in a 10-team league, the bottom rung SEC teams were clearly pretty bad. Kentucky and Auburn both went 0-8 in league play, and neither team had remarkable non-conference win.
On the other hand, Arkansas (4-8, 2-6), Tennessee (5-7, 1-7) and Missouri (5-7, 2-6) had non-conference wins over Tulsa, N.C. State, Arizona State and Central Florida — all bowl-bound teams in other conferences. Ole Miss, the SEC’s sixth-worst team, finished 7-6 and beat Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl 38-17.
At 1-11 and 0-9 in conference play, Kansas was as bad or worse than the SEC cellar dwellers. West Virginia, Iowa State and TCU all made bowl appearances, but went 0-3 in those games.
West Virginia lost to Syracuse 38-14 in Pinstripe Bowl, while Iowa State lost 31-17 to Tulsa in the Liberty Bowl (the same Tulsa team that Arkansas beat) and TCU lost 17-16 to Michigan State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. The Spartans went 3-5 in the Big Ten.
Even though Stoops referenced the SEC’s bottom six teams in his comments, the real answer why the SEC’s bottom half looks weaker may actually lie with teams in the upper half of both leagues.
Kansas State and Oklahoma were clearly the class of the Big 12, both finishing with 8-1 conference records. But the Big 12’s next six teams all finished either 5-4 or 4-5 in league play, and many of those losses were to each other. Texas lost to West Virginia and TCU. Oklahoma State lost to Baylor and Texas. Baylor lost to TCU, West Virginia, Texas and Iowa State. Texas Tech lost to Texas, Oklahoma State and Baylor. You get the picture.
The top eight Big 12 teams went 4-4 in bowl games, including Texas A&M’s 41-13 thrashing of Oklahoma in the Cotton.
In the SEC, Alabama, Georgia and Florida finished 7-1 in conference play, and three others — South Carolina, LSU and Texas A&M — went 6-2. Those six SEC teams went a combined 4-2 in bowls.
Could it be that the upper half of the SEC being as strong as it is makes life tougher for the lower half of the league than it does in the Big 12, where there’s much more parity among the middle eight teams?
As flawed as the logic may be, it’s not exactly a stretch to imagine Tennessee or Missouri winning another game to become bowl eligible had they been playing in a different league. Both the Vols and Tigers suffered four of their seven losses at the hands of Florida, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina. Would any of the Big 12’s bottom four beaten any of those teams? Obviously, no one can say for sure, but it’s doubtful.
Regardless, it’s hard to blame Stoops for saying what he did. He’s no doubt sick of hearing the media talk about the SEC’s dominance, not to mention having to battle it on the recruiting trail.
But until somebody topples the king from atop the mountain, that’s the way it’s going to be.
Florida coach Will Muschamp, who has a little experience with both leagues, had his own take on Stoops’ remarks.
“I’d be saying the same thing if I were in the Big 12,” he joked. “I said it for three years.”
Photo credit: Tom Uhlman / AP