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Bob Stoops Questions SEC Dominance

Tom Pennington

Bob Stoops made headlines today by saying something we've probably all heard an ACC fan say, that the SEC is a top-heavy conference that is no different than any other conference top to bottom. Stoops's claim probably doesn't warrant a response; heck, I'm sure that he would admit to the right person in private that he's just playing to his fan base. The fans of elite non-SEC teams such as Oklahoma or Ohio St. don't enjoy the suspicion that they're currently on the outside looking in at college football's new world order. However, as this was one of the stories of the day (it's the off-season, folks), I'll hazard a rehearsal of some arguments against Stoops.

Yahoo's Frank Schwab provides the first bit of evidence. Stoops's argument rests on the assumption that the teams at the bottom of the SEC aren't very good because they're losing a lot of games. As Schwab retorts,

For all SEC games, there has to be a .500 record at the end. If Alabama, Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina, LSU and Georgia are all among the top 10 or so strongest teams in the nation, as they were last year, and Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Ole Miss get into bowl games, as they did, some teams are eating a lot of losses.

In short, just because Auburn, Tennessee, and Missouri lost a bunch of games last year doesn't mean they were awful teams. (OK, maybe Auburn was awful, but it did play Clemson close.) It just means they weren't as good as the conference's higher rung, which might simply be because the higher rung was so good. As Schwab points out, Missouri was a successful team with a similar roster in 2011 in the Big 12. Maybe they didn't get worse, but the competition got better.

SB Nation's Jason Kirk provides some more ammo against Stoops. One of his arguments regards bowl records. Anti-SEC proponents frequently make the questionable claim that the SEC avoids high-profile out-of-conference contests, but regardless of whether that claim is true, there's one time of the year when the SEC squares off against the nation's best--bowl season. Over the last decade, the SEC has a 63.9% winning percentage in bowls, significantly higher than the Pac-12's second-best 54.2%, and miles ahead of the SEC-hating Big 10's 37.3%. (This result, by the way, lends credence to my suspicion that despite a lack of national media respect, the Pac-12 is a decent conference. I really wish we could see the SEC take on more Pac-12 teams during bowl season.) To make matters worse for the anti-SEC crowd, SEC bowl games frequently match up mid-tier SEC teams against the best other conferences have to offer. The Chick-fil-A Bowl, for instance, frequently pairs the fourth- or fifth-best SEC team against the second-best ACC team. This makes the SEC look even better in bowl action. It's middle rung often beats the best of other conferences, which directly refutes Stoops's assertion.

Of course, if Stoops wants to know the reality behind that point, he might think back to last year's bowl season, when Oklahoma, the Big 12's second-best team, was trounced by Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.