Trust me, you never like it when something you post causes another blogger whom you like to take umbrage. Such was the case yesterday with my reaction here at the blog to Lincoln Riley’s comment about Georgia’s defense made during his interview with Danny Kanell.
In response to that, Allen Kenney, who publishes the terrific Sooner-centric Blatant Homerism blog and has been gracious enough to have me on his podcasts occasionally, had this more in sorrow than in anger comment about my post:
Bending over backwards far enough to read that as sour grapes from Riley over the Sooners’ loss to Georgia in the Rose Bowl requires superhuman contortion.
Yeah, I’m a little bummed that he’s bummed, especially because I thought we had a pretty good Twitter exchange about Riley’s comments yesterday.
That being said, I do have a few things to say after further thought. After all, if you can’t make a mountain out of a molehill on the Blogosphere, where can you? And this really does qualify as such.
To start with, though, I do have one unqualified mea culpa to offer here. I made the mistake of taking Kanell’s troll bait and reacted without reading the entire give and take surrounding Riley’s observation about the Georgia defense. That was a mistake, so let’s rectify that by posting the entirety of the Q&A now.
For Allen, that qualifies as nothing more than an anodyne response about measuring defense in the Big 12 and as such makes all the criticism of Riley’s point about Georgia overwrought. Me, I look at that and my first thought is now, wait a minute.
Kanell, whose agenda isn’t exactly something he’s been shy about sharing, may have been fishing, but he didn’t mention the SEC, let alone Georgia directly, in his question. He struck gold when Riley decided to bring that up on his own in his answer.
Further, while some of what Riley says there is what any successful coach would say about the conference his program plays in, some of it is flat-out inaccurate. Missouri and Auburn, for example, both had success moving the ball on Georgia’s defense last season, something I noted in a tweet in which I also made what I think is a bigger knock on Riley’s argument.
I hate to be like this, but the idea that “any team would struggle with the consistency and challenge you do week in and week out in this league” is as indefensible for the Big 12 as it is for any P5 conference (and, yes, that includes the SEC, unless you think I’m totally off base about the greatness of Arkansas and Vanderbilt, for example). Oklahoma’s offense was peerless last season, the best in college football, but to try to cloak the rest of the conference in the Sooners’ mantle in that way requires its own kind of contorted thinking.
The Rose Bowl isn’t evidence that Big 12 teams play better defense than they’re given credit for; it’s that Oklahoma’s offense was fantastic and a complete bear to defend. To use that game as proof of B12 defensive prowess ignores how Georgia was able to roar back from a 17-point deficit against that offense. Maybe I’m missing something, but I seem to remember hearing a good bit of criticism about Mike Stoops’ performance from Oklahoma fans in the aftermath of the Rose Bowl loss. That’s a funny way of going about appreciating excellent defense.
Was my sour grapes crack unfair? Eh, maybe. I admit I can’t say for sure what’s on Lincoln Riley’s mind. Maybe he had just come from film study before the interview with Kanell and it was fresh in his head. Then again, human nature being what it is, maybe losing the biggest game of his coaching career to date in overtime after blowing a large lead has left a little emotional scarring.
There’s also that Riley felt the need to offer clarification after Kanell’s tweet generated the kind of reaction Kanell was hoping for.
Riley offered a measured statement in response, but it was rare, if only because he infrequently, if ever, uses Twitter to defend himself.
“That’s not a shot at Georgia….they were absolutely one of the best defenses last year…it’s a compliment to our league,” he replied directly to FootballScooop.com.
And here’s someone with the audacity to suggest an ulterior motive, one that’s hardly new at Oklahoma.
Would Georgia and Alabama still have dominant defenses in the offense-heavy Big 12? Would Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have prolific offenses in the Southeastern Conference, which annually produces some of the nation’s the top defensive talent? It’s a common debate.
Riley is candid enough to engage in it, taking a page from the book of former OU coach Bob Stoops, who never feared making an argument against what he once called SEC “propaganda” during his tenure. OU still recruits against those schools while trying to upgrade its defense.
And Riley, as an offensive coordinator, is simultaneously selling his style of offense as part of a shifting tide in college football.
Ya’ think? If I ever were motivated to write a book about college football, I know I’d entitle it In The End, It’s All About The Recruiting.
Riley may not have known much about Kanell’s shtick before yesterday, but I guarantee you he does now. And that’s probably where I should leave things.