Oklahoma football: Sooners would hold own, not take back seat in SEC

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02: Jalen Saunders #8 of the Oklahoma Sooners scores a touchdown over Ha Ha Clinton-Dix #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 2, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02: Jalen Saunders #8 of the Oklahoma Sooners scores a touchdown over Ha Ha Clinton-Dix #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 2, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

It is well documented that some of the best teams in college football every year reside in the Southeastern Conference. Should that matter to an Oklahoma football brand that has pretty much had its way in the Big 12 for the last 20-plus years?

That is one of the baffling questions surrounding the purported move by the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas to break away from the Big 12 Conference and realign themselves with the all-mighty SEC.

Oklahoma has been the most dominant football team in the Big 12 and all of its previous iterations for most of the past seven decades. That would certainly not be the case in the SEC.

Since 2000, five different SEC teams have won the conference crown at least three times. Alabama and LSU have won the most championships during that span (seven and five, respectively). By contrast, over that time frame in the Big 12, Oklahoma has won 14 championships and no other school has been in the championship winners circle more than twice.

Oklahoma has won 44 of its 50 nation-leading conference championships since 1950.

The Sooners have never shied away from tough competition at any time in their well-decorated history. Barry Switzer, Bob Stoops, and now Lincoln Riley have all walked the talk in vowing that “to be the best, you have to play and beat the best.”

While you can’t fault Oklahoma’s track record of making it into four of the seven College Football Playoffs held to date, it is painfully apparent that — with the possible exception of the 2017 double-overtime loss to Georgia — the Big 12 champion Sooners were not at the same level as their three other playoff opponents.

Sooners have stumbled badly in CFP matchups with SEC teams

Two of those semifinal playoff losses were to SEC champions Alabama and LSU. Bama’s margin of victory over OU in the 2018 playoff was relatively close (45-34), but the final score was not indicative of the Crimson Tide’s domination over the Sooners. Alabama raced out to a 21-0 first-quarter advantage before Kyler Murray had completed his first pass, and the margin was stretched to 28-0 early in the second quarter.

And there was no denying that LSU, the eventual national champions in 2019, absolutely destroyed Jalen Hurts and Oklahoma, winning by a final score of — ouch! — 63-28.

Let’s be honest. Those were good Oklahoma teams — good enough to finish fourth in the final College Football Playoff rankings — but they clearly weren’t at the same level as Alabama and LSU those years. It’s also fair to say, however, a No. 1-No.4 matchup in the bracket, which was the case in OU’s 2018 and 2019 playoff losses, is always going to favor the top-ranked team. But you do expect a more competitive game from the fourth-ranked team in the country.

Given recent history, particularly in the College Football Playoff, I can understand why people are quick to jump to the conclusion that Oklahoma would be looking up to the likes of Nick Saban’s Alabama teams, and even Georgia, LSU, and Florida, all of which are perennial top-ten teams in the national rankings, as a member of the SEC.

I understand and respect why many people might lean that way — particularly the partisans in SEC Country — but I hope I’m not alone in exclaiming, “I DON’T AGREE with that thinking. And here’s why.

Oklahoma has winning record all-time versus SEC teams

According to the website mcubed.net, which tracks the historical performances of college and professional teams, Oklahoma has an all-time record of 15-10-2 against SEC teams in football, with an average score margin of 25.3 to 21.5. Moreover, the Sooners are 3-2-1 all-time against SEC powerhouse Alabama.

In the last two decades, Oklahoma is 8-6 against the SEC. That record would be even more skewed if you included the time since 2000 that Texas A&M and Missouri were members of the Big 12. Since 2000 OU is 10-3 against Texas A&M and 7-1 against Missouri.

With each passing day following the bombshell news story triggered by the Houston Chronicle on Thursday that OU and Texas are in talks with the SEC, it appears there is more fact than fiction associated with the report. Even if it does become reality, though, it will not take effect this year and probably not for a couple more years.

That doesn’t stop us from wondering how the Sooners and Longhorns would make out in a much stronger conference like the SEC.

FanSided’s Alicia de Artola has written an article re-ranking the Southeastern Conference as if Oklahoma and Texas were in that conference for the 2021 season. She has Alabama at the top. It’s hard to argue with that, but has Georgia No. 2 and Texas A&M No. 3 ahead of No. 4 Oklahoma. Florida, Texas, and LSU follow at 5-6-7.

Given that Oklahoma ranks No. 2 or 3  in most every 2021 preseason ranking and this year’s Sooner team is projected to be best yet under head coach Lincoln Riley, largely because of a much-improved defense, I don’t see them trailing Georgia or A&M in the coming season, regardless of what conference they play in.

Here is something else to consider in support of that theory. The probable divisional restructure in the SEC with Oklahoma and Texas factored into the mix, would have OU and UT in the West Division (along with Arkansas, LSU, the two Mississippi schools, and Texas A&M). Alabama and Auburn would move over to the East Division, where Georgia has ruled in recent seasons.

The Sooners are 19-12 all-time against Texas A&M, and there is no reason to believe the Aggies are a better team entering the 2021 campaign than Oklahoma. This doesn’t mean that A&M isn’t capable of beating the Sooners, just that they are not a better team than OU and wouldn’t be favored, especially if the two schools played each other in Norman., where the Aggies have lost 14 of 16, including the last seven.

Oklahoma may rule the roost in Big 12 football, but there is no reason to believe they wouldn’t also wreak some havoc and compete with the very best in the SEC, as well. We’ll probably be able to see that for ourselves in the next few years.

Related Story. Re-ranking SEC with Oklahoma, Texas in it. light