NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Bob Stoops toned it down, at least for a day.
Oklahoma's coach knew questions about his vocal disdain for the Southeastern Conference's perceived superiority were coming Monday as his fourth-ranked Sooners prepared for SEC member Tennessee. He shook most of them off, but when asked about the SEC's supposed belief that its athletes are a cut above, Stoops delivered the closest thing to a quip he would offer.
''I don't know,'' he said. ''That hasn't been the case in our experience. Whoever we've played, that hasn't been much of a difference.''
Oklahoma linebacker Geneo Grissom was more direct about his coach's thoughts.
''We all know coach Stoops' feelings about the SEC,'' Grissom said. ''As his guys, we're 100 percent behind him. We're going to make sure we help him out there and make a statement in that aspect.''
Stoops has criticized the SEC as far back as the spring of 2013, when he called some of the stories about the league's supremacy ''propaganda.'' He had little to go on because his Sooners had lost three straight against SEC opponents and had just been routed by Johnny Manziel and SEC member Texas A&M 41-13 in the Cotton Bowl.
Stoops got some ammunition when Oklahoma stunned Alabama 45-31 in the Sugar Bowl and took significant momentum into the offseason. This past summer, Stoops took exception to Alabama coach Nick Saban's comment that the Sugar Bowl was a consolation game. On Oklahoma's media day, when asked about his initial response to Saban, he replied: ''Oh, get over it. Again, where am I lying?''
Even in weeks the Sooners don't play SEC teams, Stoops gets questions about the conference. A week ago, when asked if Alabama's close call against West Virginia was another example of the SEC struggling to stop a Big 12 spread offense, he wouldn't get into it.
''I'm not gonna sit here and talk about that,'' he said. ''You guys are more than capable of doing that without me. I cause enough waves. This isn't the out-of-season where I cause waves.''
While Stoops isn't necessarily a fan of the SEC's hype, he's fine with Tennessee and coach Butch Jones.
''We've got respect for the program,'' Stoops said. ''The coach is getting in their second season now. They're a better football team than they were a year ago. They've recruited really well in the last couple of years. They're 2-0, and they've looked really good to this point.''
The players know that the game is important because of the matchup of the conferences, but they also say they need to focus on themselves to be at their best so they can make the right impression.
''These are the games that most people are going to sit down and watch,'' Grissom said.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .