Because we’re still a good 50 days off from the kickoff of the new college football season, why not stir up a little controversy to kind of get things kick started. The Southeastern Conference, from which seven consecutive and eight of the past 10 BCS national champions have come, has on that basis pretty clearly established itself as the king of the mountain in college football. Some will no doublt debate this, but the facts pretty strongly speak for themselves.
But Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, who himself coached in the SEC for three seasons as the defensive coordinator at Florida (1996-98) under Steve Spurrier, isn’t so quick to buy in to that argument. Stoops is well aware of the current string of national championships the top teams in the SEC have rung up in recent years, but he also believes that it is the cream of the crop in that conference, the Alabamas, the LSUs, the Floridas, that have fueled all the hype – or what Stoops refers to as “propaganda.”
“So they’ve had the best team in college football. They haven’t had the whole conference,” Stoops told a reporter for the Tulsa World newspaper recently. “Ypu 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?”
This may sound like sour grapes from a coach who has lost two BCS Championships and three three major postseason bowl games to SEC teams in the past 10 seasons. The Sooners lost to LSU in the 2003 national championship game and to Florida in the same game in 2008, and last season suffered a big-time thrashing to Johnny “Football” Manziel and former Big 12 foe and new SEC member Texas A&M. But Stoops does make a good point about the strength of the bottom feeders in both leagues.
The botton four teams in the Big 12 last season (TCU, West Virginia, Iowa State and Kansas) went a combined 21-30, and three of the four were bowl-eligible, with six or more wins, and played in postseason bowl games. By comparison, the four worst teams in the SEC in 2012 (Tennessee, Arkansas, Auburn and Kentucky) were a combined 14-34, and none of the four were bowl eligible.
Stoops is not alone in his comparison of the have nots in both power conferences. Charlie Weis, who is in his second year as head coach at Kansas after spending 2011 as defensive coordinator at Florida in the SEC, is in the same camp as Stoops. “Do you know the stats? In the SEC, the record of the good guys and the bad guys?” the Kansas coach asked in an interview with ESPN.com
“I’m just saying, you look at the bottom of our league and the bottom of their league, just going off the numbers, there’s validity in what he said” Weis said. “I’m just going based off the numbers. I mean, I’m a numbers guy. Just based off the numbers, you’d have to say he’s got a point.”
Kansas was the only Big 12 team that did not go to a bowl game last season. That’s 90 percent, nine out of 10 teams, that went bowling from the Big 12, a league record. Nine SEC teams also went to postseason bowls last season. But if you go by the numbers, as KU’s Weis likes to do, five of the nine SEC bowl teams in the 2012 season won their games, including the Big One (the BCS Championship), compared with just four Big 12 teams.
While the Big 12 may, indeed, feature more parity from top to bottom in the conference, it is only fair to point out that the SEC also has four more teams than the 10-team structure in the Big 12. If you knock out the bottom four teams in the SEC, though, and compare the best 10 teams in the SEC against the 10 Big 12 teams, the story is much different.
As a Big 12 guy myself (although I have to admit that I like the old Big Eight Conference more), my heart went “Yeah!” when I heard what Stoops and later Weis had to say. But my head won’t allow me to foolishly believe that the Big 12 – or any of the other BCS conferences, for that matter – hold a candle to the SEC when it comes to consistent high performance on the gridiron.
The brutal truth is: The Big 12 cannot, and should not, make any such claim until the best of the Big 12 has beaten the best in the SEC in a regular-season matchup or, even better, in a major bowl game. The forthcoming bowl agreement between the two leagues, which commences with the 2014 season, will help give more clarity to this debate.
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The more difficult question is: After the SEC, which conference has a legitimate claim on the second best football conference in the land?