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Monday, October 20, 2008
Eerie parallels between early careers of Pelini and Stoops

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It's not exactly like those interesting comparisons that Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy shared that historians have mulled over for years.

But Omaha World-Herald beat writer Mitch Sherman has come up with some intriguing similarities between the first season for Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Nebraska's Bo Pelini.

The new Nebraska coach is 4-3 in his first season after winning his first three games. Stoops had exactly the same early winning pattern with the Sooners in 1999.

Stoops' first career loss came against Notre Dame by a 34-30 score. Pelini's first career defeat was to Virginia Tech, 35-30.

Sherman notes that several other comparisons between the two defensive-minded coaches are striking. Stoops served as defensive coordinator on a national championship team in the Southeastern Conference (Florida). Pelini similarly served as a defensive coordinator on a national championship team in the Southeastern Conference (LSU).

Both coaches took over after disappointing five-win seasons at once-mighty programs that were downtrodden when they took their jobs. Stoops coached his first game at Oklahoma two days after he turned 40. Pelini was hired at Nebraska 11 days before his 40th birthday.

Both immediately hired their brothers to fill the role of defensive coordinator. And both grew up about five miles apart in Youngstown, Ohio, after both were star players at the same high school, Cardinal Mooney. They both started in coaching as graduate assistants under Hayden Fry at Iowa. And both were starting defensive backs for Big Ten teams during their college career -- Stoops at Iowa and Pelini at Ohio State.

Pelini only hopes he can duplicate Stoops' success. Oklahoma claimed a national championship in Stoops' second season and is 99-20 after his opening seven-game start. The Sooners have claimed 11 or more games in seven of the last eight seasons, claiming back-to-back Big 12 titles in the last two seasons and five Big 12 championships overall.

Those comparisons and others will be a prime story line next week when the Sooners and Cornhuskers renew their proud rivalry. But it's interesting how closely the two coaches' early careers have mirrored each other so far.