Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops never shies away from criticizing the SEC, and he did so again Wednesday.
Tuesday, Alabama coach Nick Saban told ESPN it was challenging getting his team ready to play Oklahoma in last season's Sugar Bowl, which Saban termed "a consolation game." Stoops took umbrage to that characterization Wednesday when he was at ESPN. Oklahoma upset the Tide 45-31.
"They didn't look like it was a consolation game on that first drive, when they scored a touchdown and everyone thought they were going to rout us," Stoops said. "I've been in plenty of those [non-national title games]. We've played in a bunch of national championship games, right? ... That's a good one.
"So that means I've got a built-in excuse the next time we don't play for a national championship?"
Stoops said the win also was gratifying because he questioned the overall strength of the SEC last year.
"They said, 'The SEC this, the SEC that,' " Stoops said. "I said, 'You talk like all 14 teams are this, that and the other thing.' I said, 'You have to give credit to the first one or two that have won the national championship, but don't act like they're all doing that.'
"The year I said that, the bottom half of the league was like 0-36 against the top half of the league. The bottom half of the league isn't beating anybody. So they jumped on that I was getting on the bottom half of the league. Things circle and people only say what they want to hear. What I said wasn't false. The bottom half wasn't beating many people. That was my only point."
Stoops told ESPN he knew he would face criticism had the Sooners lost to an SEC team.
"After we won, I didn't have to hear anybody after that," Stoops said. "That's the bottom line. Everybody had their computers loaded and their microphones loaded, and they had to delete it. That was it.
"It felt good; it was positive. Because I know everybody was ready to jump on us, on me in particular, on what I had to say, if we went the other way. That all had to be deleted. There's a little bit of validation in what I had to say. Fortunately, it worked out in a positive way. I still believe in what I said."
Stoops was asked about critics who say the Big 12 should add a conference title game. The Big 12 is the only "Power Five" conference that doesn't have a league championship game. But the critics are way off base with this one. The idea that the Big 12 needs a conference championship game is ridiculous: As a 10-team league, the conference plays a round-robin schedule, which renders the idea of a championship game moot. Stoops made that point.
"Think about it: Mathematically we play everybody; they [the SEC] don't play everybody," Stoops said.
But Stoops being Stoops, he didn't stop there. Instead, he focused on one particular SEC team that OU recruits against in Texas.
"For instance, Texas A&M. They play eight conference games," Stoops said. "They have Lamar, Rice, SMU and Louisiana-Monroe (in non-conference games). Boy, those are all a bunch of toughies, right? We have nine conference games. So if (A&M) was fortunate enough to be in the SEC championship game, they would play nine conference games at the end of the day and they have all those four 'toughies' to go with it.
"We have nine conference games and we're playing Tennessee. In a few years, we have Ohio State; we just came off a series with Notre Dame and Florida State. So that's like 10 conference games. If you're playing a tough non-conference schedule to go with nine (Big 12) games, that's a tough schedule."
Actually, OU's non-conference schedule isn't all that tough, either. Besides Tennessee, an SEC team coming off four consecutive losing seasons, the Sooners' non-conference schedule features Louisiana Tech and Tulsa, teams that won a combined seven games last season. (And Stoops trumpeting that OU is playing an SEC team in non-conference play sort of goes against what he says about the SEC, doesn't it?) Still, at least OU has a "Power Five" non-conference opponent: This will be the third season in a row A&M doesn't have one.
Stoops does have an issue with the SEC (and remember that his brother, Mark, is an SEC head coach, at Kentucky). Maybe it's jealousy: The SEC has won seven national titles and played for another since a Big 12 team last won a national title, in 2005, and it is a stronger league in basically every measurable way than the Big 12. Maybe it's a form of gamesmanship: He's smart to hammer home the point that there are five major conferences and seemingly loves to poke the media (and SEC coaches and fans) over its infatuation with the SEC.
Actually, it's probably a little of both -- and SEC folks better hope that Stoops never beats an SEC team for a national title because he might never stop talking.