So the Big 12 (and Big Ten and ACC and Pac-12) feels slighted that the SEC has come to dominate college football, both in the trophy dash and the marketplace of public perception.
What does a quality program like the University of Tulsa say in response?
Welcome to the club.
“If the other BCS conferences feel disrespected by SEC, try being an non-BCS conference, trying to earn some respect on a national scale,” said Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship.
Respect comes grudgingly for a mid-major, be it a copperhead like Boise State or an upstart like Northern Illinois. Or Tulsa, the defending Conference USA champion that has 55 wins the last six seasons.
Welcome to the club, Blankenship said, is “a great way to think about it. The only time you ever really feel that other way is when you're at the very top of the pecking order. It's all relative. It really is.”
Tulsa split with the Big 12's Iowa State last season and lost 19-15 at the SEC's Arkansas. This season, the Golden Hurricane host Iowa State and play at OU.
And with a veteran team led by quarterback Cody Green (17 touchdown passes) and tailback Trey Watts (1,108 rushing yards), Tulsa is picked to win Conference USA again.
All the conference talk — be it SEC vs. Big 12, SEC vs. World, BCS vs. Mid-major — is just that, Watts said. Talk.
“It's really a whole bunch of nothing,” Watts said. “It's all talk. We just like to say, show up on the field and let our play talk for ourself. Being Conference USA, that's just what we've always had to do. We're used to it, try not to think too much about it. Just show up and play our game.”
Of course, the mid-majors' problem is that they get few opportunities to prove their mettle against the big boys. And most of them come in road games. In the last 10 seasons, Tulsa has played 17 games against major-conference foes; only three were played in TU's Chapman Stadium.
Watts admitted that the SEC is the best conference but said he has his roommate, “we'd always have the saying, don't drink the SEC kool-aid. Don't try to get too overhyped about it. They're still a football team. They're all still college football teams, and they can all be beat.
“I think that's what psyches most people out. They see SEC, or see the Alabama logo, and they've counted themselves out before the game even started.”
Certainly a victory over an SEC school like Arkansas would do wonders for the Tulsa program. Of course, Tulsa won at Notre Dame in 2010, a victory that trumps most.
TU last season went 11-3, losing 38-23 at Iowa State, 19-15 at Arkansas and 35-27 at SMU.
“You take five or six plays, we might could have been in the Orange Bowl,” Blankenship said, referring to the spot that Northern Illinois claimed by finishing in the top 16 of the BCS while Big East champ Louisville was ranked lower.
“But we also could have been in no bowl. We had that close of contest in the bulk of our games. And we were fortunate to get the breaks we needed to at the right time.
“I think the general population doesn't realize how small of a difference there is in programs across the country on any given day.”