Alabama vs Oklahoma matches SEC against Big 12 in Sugar Bowl
By Dave Friedman
While college football coaches are always busy, fans get bored between the end of the bowl games and start of the new season. The media tries very hard to keep listeners, readers, and viewers engaged even when no games are taking place. That led to a brief spat this past off-season between Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and Alabama’s Nick Saban. Whether the words they exchanged last spring mean anything when it comes to the two coaches meeting in next months Sugar Bowl remains to be seen.
Stoops, who is 159-39 in 15 seasons at Oklahoma, showed frustration with the perception of the SEC in May.
“Listen, they’ve had the best team in college football, meaning they’ve won the national championship,” said Stoops. “That doesn’t mean everything else is always the best.”
What seemed to irk Stoops the most was the changing narrative about how SEC teams wins.
“Just a few years ago, we had all the quarterbacks,” Stoops said. “And now, all of a sudden, we can play a little better defense and some other people can’t play defense.”
He went on illustrate his point by looking at Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
“I still don’t know how (Texas) A&M was third in the country in total offense and scoring offense playing all those SEC defenses. I have no idea how that happened,” Stoops said. “Oh, they got a quarterback. That’s right.”
Saban, 79-14 at Alabama, opted to quickly dismiss Stoops’ comments.
I’ve got more important things to do than sit around and read what Bob Stoops has to say about anything,” said Saban.
After it was announced that the two teams would square off in the Sugar Bowl, the barbs earlier this year were seemingly forgotten.
“To play someone that has a tradition and respect that we have for the University of Oklahoma is a real honor for our team,” said Saban. “Coach Bob Stoops is obviously done a fantastic job there. He’s a good friend and we really respect all that he’s done, so this should be a great game for the city of New Orleans and for the Allstate Sugar Bowl.”
Both Stoops, and his brother Mike, who serves as the Sooners defensive coordinator, now seem to respect the Crimson Tide and SEC.
“The athletes they have down there, the coaches they have down there, it’s rated as the top conference in college football for many years, have won seven national championships, have a chance to win eight,” said Mike. “They’re great athletes. Every time you step on the field with a Southeastern Conference team, they’re very well coached and they play very hard.
“Just fundamental, sound, great players, force great schemes,” said Bob.. “I appreciate it. I appreciate good football, and they play it, and they play it the right way.”
While Alabama’s lone setback came on the final play of the Iron Bowl against Auburn, Oklahoma dropped their rivalry game to Texas 36-20 on October 12. The Sooners only other defeat came at the hands of Baylor 41-12 on November 7. The last time the two teams met in the post-season, the Sooners and Crimson Tide played to a 24 all tie on New Years Eve 1970 in the Bluebonnet Bowl. The two teams last regular season matchup was a 20-13 Oklahoma victory in 2003.