Tonight’s the biggest night in college football. The two best teams will duel it out in Miami to decide who should (or shouldn’t) call themselves the best team in college football. On the eve of the National Championship game, I think we should look back, and look forward to the future of the sad and depressing state of Big 10 football.
Once again, a team from the Big 10 will not be playing for the National Championship. Just like last year, and pretty much every year since the beginning of the century, the SEC destroyed the Big 10 on New Year’s Day. And just like last year, the SEC showed the world why Big 10 football is underserving of being associated with the top dogs in college football.
If you watch the game tonight, you will see why the SEC is superior to the Big 10 in every way, shape, and form. The speed at which the SEC plays at is at another level that Big 10 players just simply aren’t at. The speed of SEC defenses is incredible. The offensive efficiency is remarkable, and the coherence of these teams makes them unstoppable against out-of-conference opponents.
When Ohio State hired Urban Meyer last year, the tide was already beginning to change, regardless of the fact that OSU would be facing a one-year bowl ban and a loss of scholarships. Meyer’s offense is the exact opposite of old-school Big 10 football; three yards and a cloud of dust. While the rest of the Big 10 is still set on playing smash mouth, rough and tough, ground game dominated football, Meyer’s offense is all about speed and tempo. Unlike former OSU Head Coach Jim Tressel, Meyer’s offensive is exciting, complex, untraditional, and most importantly, fast. Speed speed speed.
Although the SEC is undoubtedly the best conference in college football, sadly, the Big 10 is the most important. The Big 10 has the most loyal fans, the highest attendance, and the best TV ratings. Therefore it is crucial for the state of college football that the Big 10 rise to the top of the echelon in college football again.
I was uncertain of how the Buckeyes would fair in their first season under Meyer. Coming off their first losing season 1988, the Buckeyes had a lot of fundamental problems that needed to be addressed. An inconsistent defense, young un-established receivers, and a second year quarterback learning a completely new system. I had my doubts, but like many doubters, each week I began to see the promise and hope that Meyer brought with him everywhere he had coached before. The offense was evolving, and the element that had been missing from the Buckeyes’ game was slowly becoming more present: speed. Each week, the speed that defines the spread offense and Meyer coached teams were peaking more and more, just as the team was on the verge of an undefeated season. By the end of the season, I was a believer in the system. The “juice,” as Meyer calls it, was implanted in the Buckeyes’ state of mind.
Because the Buckeyes were placed on a one-year bowl ban, they were unable to compete for a National Title. But with another disappointing year for Big 10 football (it’s disappointing when the team representing you in the Rose Bowl is 8-5), there was a bright spot in the ever-sluggish Big 10. Ohio State went undefeated, capping off the season with an ever so sweet win against underachieving rival Michigan. If the Big 10 wants to reclaim the glory as the best conference in college football, teams need to realize the “ground n pound” is a thing of the past; it’s all about the “juice.”
Tonight’s game should be a great one. The Fighting Irish have a lot of similarities to my beloved 2002 OSU National Title team. A great defense with an offense predicated on the run game, and a first year quarterback who does just enough to help the Irish squeak by. They’ve had plenty of close calls, goal line stands, and dramatic wins that have made their season memorable and exciting to follow. But the team they’re running in to tonight scares me.
The Alabama Crimson Tide are not only the defending champs, but are playing at a level superior to anything the Irish have seen all season. The Irish have not seen a team this fast before, and will face the wrath of an SEC defense. Notre Dame will keep it close because they have a great defense, and enough offensive firepower to get into the end zone. But ultimately, the Crimson Tide will prevail because they have the extra punch and “juice” Notre Dame lacks.
So where does this leave the Big 10? Another year sitting on their couches. Another year Jim Delaney wonders when the Big 10 will rise out of mediocrity. Maybe, just maybe, the tides might be changing for the Big 10. Maybe the night is darkest just before the dawn, and the dawn is finally coming. Urban Meyer is starting a trend that must continue with other Big 10 coaches if they want to tell recruits they play in the best conference in America. The fast tempo, high octane, speed elevated style of play isn’t just the future of college football; it is college football now.
I may be bias when I say the dawn is coming, but something tells me Meyer and company will do the Big 10 justice. Soon enough, the Big 10 will hold the keys to the top of college football once again. Hopefully sooner rather than later, the Big 10 will come to realize if you want to be a major player in college football, you have to “gimme the juice.”