Next Monday night, the Sooners will face Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. The Sooners hold a 1-0 record against the Tigers, so the schools aren’t particularly familiar with one another. However, The Sooners are no strangers to the SEC—the conference frequently lauded as the best in the country.
From 2006 through 2012, the SEC won seven consecutive national championships, and this year Alabama is favored to win the title for the second year in a row.
Notably included in the SEC’s stretch of dominance is a 2008 win by Florida against Oklahoma in Miami. Three years before the streak, LSU also beat Oklahoma to win a national championship. Big victories for the conference in the 21st century have earned the SEC national recognition as the most dominant conference in America.
Since Bob Stoops arrived at Norman, he’s faced off against the SEC on a number of occasions. In 1999, Stoops brought Oklahoma back to a post-season bowl for the first time in several years, and in the Independence Bowl the Sooners faced Mississippi, who won the game with a late field goal. Stoops would go on to win his next three matches against the SEC, with a win against Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl followed by a home-and-away matchup against Alabama that watched the Sooners take both contests.
The Sooners next two games agains the SEC were the aforementioned national championship games, where OU fell short twice in its opponents’ home states. Four years later, the Sooners played in the Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M after they defected to a new conference in search of somewhere they could finally win. Unfortunately for Oklahoma fans, Stoops and his team were unable to reign in Johnny Manziel as they fell to the SEC for the third time in a row.
That’s when things started to get interesting between Stoops and the Southeastern Conference. In the Spring of 2013, Stoops took issue with the notion that the SEC is by far the country’s best conference, saying this:
“So they’ve had the best team in college football, they haven’t had the whole conference. Because, again, half of ‘em haven’t done much at all. I’m just asking you. You tell me. So you’re listening to a lot of propaganda that gets fed out to you. Again, you can look at the top two, three, four, five, siex teams, and you can look at the bottom six, seven, eight, whatever they are. How well are they doing?”
Stoops faced immediate backlash around the country for his hot take, and SEC fans started licking their chops for the Sugar Bowl in 2014. Oklahoma was going to be playing Alabama, the crown jewel of the SEC, and pundits didn't seem to give the Sooners much of a chance.
Oklahoma wound up winning that game, of course, which led to SEC cheerleader Paul Finebaum telling ESPN that he was having crow and coffee for breakfast the next morning. Finebaum is typically the conference’s loudest mouthpiece at ESPN, and his prediction that OU would be dominated by the Crimson Tide. The drama with the SEC didn’t stop, though. Nick Saban began making excuses for the loss, saying that it was difficult to get his players pumped up for a “consolation game.” Stoops would have none of it.
The next season, OU began a home-and-away series with Tennessee. The Sooners won the first game fairly easily in Norman. Still, the yearly tradition of Butch Jones’ Tennessee teams getting too much hype was in full swing early in the 2015 season, and the Sooners were on their way to Knoxville for a big match-up.
Leading up to the game, expert analyst Finebaum was back to say that Stoops was “irrelevant” on his way to predicting an OU loss. Following an Oklahoma win in double-overtime, Bob tried to brush Finebaum aside by saying:
"I don't care. He doesn't deserve that attention from me." The bottom line is, ask Tennessee and their 105,000 people if we're relevant or not, and a few other teams in the last couple years, so it doesn't matter. And he's getting paid to promote a league, I mean, that's what he does. And that's OK, everybody has to earn their money one way or another, so."
His brother Mark Stoops was happy to chime in, mentioning that (in his opinion), he “slanders us ever time he’s on the radio.”
It’s been an interesting few years with Bob and the SEC in the national spotlight together. It’ll happen once again on Monday. The Sooner faithful are certainly hoping that Bob earns some fresh trash talk against the most hated conference in football.