The Big 12 is always comparing itself to the SEC in football. And why not? You can’t aspire to be the best if you don’t measure yourself against the best.
The SEC arguably is the strongest football conference in the landscape that is college football, even though there are some Big 12 coaches who don’t totally buy in to that conclusion.
Whichever side of this ongoing debate you fall on, there isn’t much compelling evidence in the won-lost columns to suggest that the Big 12 is better than, or even comparable to, teams in the SEC in football - at least not among the elite teams in both conferences.
Seven national champions in the last eight years pretty much speaks for itself. And if you go back to the first season for the Big 12 (1996), SEC schools have logged 11 national champions in football to three for the Big 12 during that time frame.
If you consider pure wins and losses in head-to-head matchups between schools from the two conferences, since 1996, the Big 12 is 23-34 against teams from the SEC, including bowl games. All-time, dating back to 1933, when a team from the then Big Six played a team from what is now the SEC for the first time, the SEC has won 78 of the 149 meetings and there have been six ties (a winning percentage of 55 percent excluding ties), according to the sports research website mcubed,net.
That first meeting, in the early 1930s, was between Oklahoma and Vanderbilt, and the two teams played to a scoreless tie.
But this piece is not about how the Big 12 has fared against football teams out of the SEC. We know that not all of the good teams in college football every year belong to the Southeast Conference. There are some outstanding teams outside of that conference, as well.
Unfortunately for the Big 12, outside of Bob Stoops at Oklahoma and Gary Patterson of TCU, no other current Big 12 coach has a winning record when going up against teams ranked in the top 25 nationally.
A recent Wall Street Journal article examined how the current crop of college head coaches have done in their careers against teams in the Associated Press Top 25 in college football. Oklahoma’s Stoops, who last season became the winningest coach in the Sooners’ exalted football history, has the most career wins against top-25 teams in his current job,.according to information the WSJ pulled from Stats LLC.
Nick Saban of Alabama has won the same number of games as Stoops against the top 25 in his career (50), but the coach of the Crimson Tide has lost 35 times to Stoops’ 23 losses vs. ranked teams. Plus, Saban’s record while at Alabama is just 28-12.
Steve Spurrier, who is presently at South Carolina but has coached previously at Florida and Duke in the collegiate ranks, has the most top-25 wins in his carrer among active coaches (62).
This prompted ESPN.com writer Brandon Chatmon to take that same analysis a step further this week, looking at how the current Big 12 coaches have done against the top 25 while coaching in the Big 12.
Here is the record of the current Big 12 coaches against top-25 teams (with the number of years they have been at that school in parentheses):
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma (15) - 50-23
Gary Patterson, TCU (14) - 14-14
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State (9) - 15-20
Bill Snyder, Kansas State (22) - 23-43
Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia (3) - 5-6
Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech (1) - 2-3
Art Briles, Baylor (6) - 7-19
Paul Rhoads, Iowa State (5) - 4-19
Charlie Strong, Texas (first year) – 0-0 (2-2 in four years at Louisville)
Charlie Weis, Kansas (2) - 0-8
What’s notable from this analysis?
- Bob Stoops’ record against top competition is very deserving of his reputation as “Big Game Bob.” It also demonstrates that the Sooners have not shied away from scheduling games against top competition. Although, it needs to be pointed out that a great majority of the Sooners’ wins against teams ranked in the top 25 during Stoops’ time at OU have been over Big 12 teams that were ranked at the time OU played them.
- Kliff Kingsbury’s Red Raiders’ played five ranked teams in his first season at the helm for Texas Tech a year ago and went 2-3 against those teams. Charlie Strong is in his first season as head coach at Texas, but in the four years his was at Louisville previously, his team went up against four teams ranked in the top 25, splitting the four games.
- Dana Holgorsen is 5-6 against top 25 teams in his three seasons coaching at West Virginia, including home wins over Baylor and Oklahoma State in 2012 and 2013, respectively. This despite the fact that the Mountaineers are just 6-12 in two seasons against Big 12 opponents.
- Gundy and Kingsbury are both coaching at their alma maters, where both were starting quarterbacks.