Guerry Clegg

Guerry Clegg: Bob Stoops should re-think his complaints about SEC

That Bob Stoops, he sure is a touchy fellow, isn't he?

The Oklahoma coach seems to have a serious case of the hates for the SEC.

When he's not surviving that Big 12 gauntlet of Kansas and Iowa State or those non-conference heavyweights like Tulsa and Louisiana-Monroe, Stoops likes to take shots at the SEC for being overhyped. Because, you know, seven consecutive national championships -- and nearly an eighth -- is such a small sample size to validate the SEC as the premier conference in college football.

Stoops' blood pressure simmered over again last week. ESPN just had a round-robin of football coaches parade through headquarters. They call it the car wash. The SEC coaches came through Monday and Tuesday, followed Big 12 coaches the next day.

Alabama coach Nick Saban made the mistake of seemingly making an excuse for the Sooners' 45-31 butt-whoopin' of the Crimson Tide last season in the Sugar Bowl. Saban said his players treated the Sugar Bowl like "a consolation game."

Never mind that Saban was right. When you're on track to play for your third national championship in four years and you suddenly don't even win your own division -- heck, your own state for that matter -- playing in the Sugar Bowl suddenly feels a little less satisfying.

Still, Saban should never have gone there. A simple "we got our butts whipped" would have sufficed. So Stoops' indignation on that point was justified.

"They didn't look like it was a consolation game on that first drive when they scored a touchdown and everyone thought they were going to rout us," Stoops said. "I've been in plenty of those (non-national title games). We've played in a bunch of national championship games, right? That's a good one."

Touche.

But that's where Stoops should have stopped. Instead, he used the opportunity to dredge up his old argument about the SEC's reputation being a bunch of "propaganda."

"They said 'the SEC this, the SEC that,' " Stoops said. "I said, 'You talk like all 14 teams are this, that and the other thing.' I said, 'You have to give credit to the first one or two that have won the national championship, but don't act like they're all doing that.'

"The year I said that, the bottom half of the league was like 0-36 against the top half of the league. The bottom half of the league isn't beating anybody. So they jumped on that I was getting on the bottom half of the league. Things circle and people only say what they want to hear. What I said wasn't false. The bottom half wasn't beating many people. That was my only point."

Again, Stoops is not completely off base. There are delusional fans who think the worst SEC teams would contend in some of the other major conferences. That, of course, is nonsense. Tennessee played Oregon twice in four years and got waxed both times. Kentucky has lost three straight and seven of 11 to Louisville.

But no credible media members, and certainly no coaches, make such exaggerated claims. The problem is Stoops fails to apply logic. Tennessee has been one of those "bottom half" teams. The Volunteers finished 2-6 in SEC play. They played Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Missouri and Auburn -- in succession.

Then Stoops went off on the SEC playing a weaker schedule than Big 12 teams.

"Think about it: mathematically we play everybody, they (the SEC) don't play everybody," Stoops said. "For instance Texas A&M. They play eight conference games. They have Lamar, Rice, SMU and Louisiana Monroe. Boy those are all a bunch of toughies, right?

"We have nine conference games. So if (Texas A&M) was fortunate enough to be in the SEC championship game, they would play nine conference games at the end of the day and they have all those four 'toughies' to go with it.

"We have nine conference games and we're playing Tennessee. In a few years we have Ohio State, we just came off a series with Notre Dame and Florida State. So that's like 10 conference games. If you're playing a tough non-conference schedule to go with nine (Big 12) games, that's a tough schedule."

So, wait a minute. The SEC's "bottom half" teams aren't any good, according to Stoops. Tennessee is one of those teams. And Stoops wants to take credit for playing the Volunteers. Didn't he just say those "bottom half" teams are not as good as advertised?

So why does he give Oklahoma credit for playing Tennessee, but doesn't give Tennessee credit for playing Oklahoma? Who deserves more credit -- Oklahoma for playing a "bottom-half" SEC team, or Tennessee for playing a Big 12 heavyweight?

Stoops picked on A&M's schedule, but said nothing about Baylor's non-conference schedule -- SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo. What about Iowa State's non-conference schedule? North Dakota State, Iowa and Toledo. Oklahoma's other two non-conference opponents are Louisiana Tech and Tulsa.

Georgia opens with Clemson and finishes with Georgia Tech. In recent years, the Bulldogs have played Boise State, Oklahoma State and Arizona State. Florida plays Florida State -- every year. South Carolina plays Clemson -- every year. Alabama opens with West Virginia and Auburn travels to Kansas State, both of whom hail from, um, the Big 12.

As you said, Bob, think about it.

-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at sports@ledger-enquirer.com

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