TULSA — During an interview session before Monday’s OU Caravan event, Bob Stoops was asked about the Southeastern Conference’s recent dominance, and how he thinks other schools might close the gap.
The last seven major college football national champions have come from the SEC, and the conference just had a record 63 players selected in the NFL Draft.
“It depends on what gap you are talking about,” Stoops responded. “What are the bottom six doing? The bottom of the SEC, what did they do? They fired their coaches, got new .. I don’t know, I’m just asking you. The whole league isn’t that way.”
The bottom six 2012 SEC football programs finished as follows:
Ole Miss: 7-6 overall, 3-5 SEC
Missouri: 5-7 overall, 2-6 SEC
Arkansas: 4-8 overall, 2-6 SEC
Tennessee: 5-7 overall, 1-7 SEC
Auburn: 3-9 overall, 0-8 SEC
Kentucky: 2-10 overall, 0-8 SEC
Four of those six schools fired their coaches. Still, the question remains: Is Stoops’ analysis fair? It’s pretty tough to say.
There’s reason to believe many of those bottom six schools could make improvements in the near future. Ole Miss reached its first bowl game since 2009 last year, and is bringing in an outstanding 2013 recruiting class.
Tennessee and Arkansas aren’t likely to stay down forever; each has strong tradition and hired good coaches this offseason. Auburn won the 2010 national championship.
Kentucky, coincidentally, begins a new era in 2013 under new head coach Mark Stoops, Bob’s brother.
“They’ve had the best team in college football,” Stoops said. “They haven’t had the whole best conference.”
It isn’t like one school is doing all the dominating, either. Alabama has won three of the last four titles, of course, but during the SEC’s seven-year run, four different programs have won it (Florida in 2006 and 2008, LSU in 2007 and Auburn in 2010).
Stoops said much of the SEC’s mystique and reputation is the result of “propaganda that gets fed to you.”
“You are more than smart enough to figure it out,” Stoops said. “You can look at the top 2-3-4-5-6 teams and you can look at the bottom 6-7-8 and how well are they all doing.”
It should be noted that the SEC’s national-title streak has been sustained with some luck and assistance from human poll voters. For example, if Baylor and Stanford hadn’t upset Kansas State and Oregon, respectively, last season, Alabama wouldn’t have reached the title game.
’Bama lost at home to LSU in 2011, but was still rewarded with a title-game rematch that it won. Oklahoma State, with its 12-1 record and Big 12 championship, was left out in the cold.
Interestingly, poll voters in 2006 chose to elevate Florida over No. 2 Michigan to avoid a Big 10, Michigan-Ohio State rematch in the national championship game. So there’s absolutely no question that the SEC’s reputation has afforded it some breaks.
(In fairness, undefeated Auburn finished third in the final 2004 BCS standings and watched Stoops’ Sooners get shellacked by USC in the Orange Bowl).
Still, if Alabama hadn’t benefited from upsets last season; or OSU had rightfully played for the 2011 title; or Ohio State and Michigan had played a second time for the 2006 title, would the SEC’s reputation be much less sterling than it is today? I doubt it.
Stoops makes some good points that definitely merit discussion and debate. And, honestly, what’s he supposed to say? He’s trying to recruit against SEC powers, and acknowledging a wide gap between his program and those wouldn’t do much good.
Bottom line, though? The SEC unquestionably remains the nation’s premier college-football conference.