Tag Archives: sec football

The B1G Conference is Really That Bad

Every year I hear B1G, formerly the Big 10 Conference, fans rant and rave about how they are just as good as the SEC. This comes on the heels of getting demolished in the previous bowl season. In 2013 it was more of the same. Some of my close friends that live in B1G Conference territory were talking up the conference from top to bottom. After seven weeks we can all laugh at them. The conference is just as bad as it has ever been. There is no way they can compete with the SEC. In fact, the B1G might be considered the fifth best conference in college football in 2013. It is a tough pill for many to swallow, but it is the truth. Sometimes it hurts to hear our favorite teams or conference is subpar but we need to accept it. Here are a few reasons the B1G Conference will continue to struggle in the years to come.

Recruiting Kills the B1G Conference

I entered college in 2000 and that was the changing of the tides when it came to recruiting. I can clearly remember sitting in my dorm room and having a debate with my roommate that teams north of Tennessee and North Carolina simply could not compete in terms of recruiting. Why would a high school senior want to go play in State College, Pennsylvania over Miami, Florida? He could enjoy the nice warm beaches and beautiful women in Miami or he could suffer through the cold winters in Pennsylvania.

Years ago, when travel was much more difficult, these northern schools could recruit because coaches would convince players to stay home. There is no more staying at home. Home is the entire United States. A college football player can hop on a plane and travel the entire country in less than a full day. In fact, if he is a very good college football player that has the ability to go pro he may be able to get from one end of the country to the other in just a few hours because of personalized aircraft. This was not the case in the 1980s and even early 1990s. It is also true that recruiters used to encourage kids to stay home so their parents could watch them play.

Today there are more games than ever on TV. If mom and dad cannot travel to the away games they will be able to watch little Johnny on ESPNU, Fox Sports 1 or the SEC Network. If little Johnny is going to a team that will compete in a BCS conference there is a very good chance that 90% of his games will be on television. Now that mom and dad can watch the games on TV there is no reason to worry about travel. This makes me ask the question, why would any high school student want to play in a cold weather climate?

I can understand the argument to play in cold weather if that is your brand of football. If you are the type of player that excels in cold weather climates it might be a good idea to play for Penn State or Notre Dame. Unfortunately for these schools, those types of players don’t really exist anymore as most high school football players want to run up and down the field and score 30 or 40 touchdowns a season. It is no longer the case that three yards and a cloud of dust is attractive like it was in the 1970s.

Where Do High School Players Want to Go?

As mentioned earlier, most high school kids want to go to the cool and exciting college campuses. When visiting South Bend, Indiana in late November there is going to be a chill in the air and most of the students will be bundled up. Take this same trip to Tuscaloosa, Tallahassee or Miami and you are going to see a much different campus. There will be many students wearing jeans but tshirts or short sleeve shirts will be common. It may even be the case that some of the girls are walking around in shorts or skirts. The only girls walking around in shorts or skirts in the northeast or midwest will be considered crazy.

Trust me when I tell you that teenage boys are going to go where the girls are. I think we all have a story about one of our friends deciding to go to college because of that lucky lady. Most of the time that lucky lady never ended up with our friend but it did cause him to go to a specific school. With Facebook, Twitter and social media now being a huge part of the recruiting process high school athletes know where they want to go to enjoy the scenery. In fact, some universities have created groups of females to help show recruits around campus. This is just another attractive feature of a campus in the south. These female groups started in Texas and the SEC. It comes as no surprise as girls love their football in the south.

If young men want to go where the girls are and enjoy the beautiful weather why would they decide to go to Michigan, Penn State or Notre Dame. In the past these three school dominated in terms of recruiting and having teams in the top 10. These are three of the most storied programs in all of college football with more wins than any other teams. Why can they not bring in the big named recruits anymore? It is all about location. If Notre Dame were located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana you can be rest assured they would have a top 5 team every year. If Penn State were a university in south Georgia or Florida they would be in the BCS title game every other year. Unfortunately, there is nothing they can do about their location. This makes recruiting very difficult and it may cause programs to change their mind when it comes to the overall direction of the football team. A good example of this is Oregon.

How Oregon Built a National Title Contender

The Oregon Ducks realized that playing traditional smash mouth football was not going to work because of their location. They could not recruit stud offensive and defensive linemen every year so they needed an alternative. The alternative was a very unique offense that was built on speed rather than on power. Oregon was more than willing to take players that normally would not play at the big schools like USC, Texas or Oklahoma. They used these smaller, faster players to develop a brand new style of offense. Instead of trying to run the ball on first and second down they decided to spread it out. The Oregon offense throws to set up the run. They also have a spread offense that rarely uses two tight ends. Heck, most of the time the single tight end is lined up as a wide receiver.

This new style of offense is very attractive to high school athletes that might be extremely fast but not that strong. When anyone watches an Oregon game during the fall months they can clearly see that most of the players are slim yet quick. This is something that Alabama, LSU and Florida would never had to do. These SEC schools can recruit five star offensive and defensive linemen every single year. This allows them to play a different brand of football. High school athletes will go to these schools just because of their location and history.

Oregon vs Ohio State

Oregon recognized that location was not in their favor so they went a different direction. We are seeing something very similar going on in Columbus, Ohio right now. Urban Meyer has brought the read option to Ohio State and he is recruiting more speed players. This will allow him to get enough speed on the field to compete with the big boys from the SEC. Something interesting about Ohio State is they do have the history to get some great five star recruits. If you can combine five star recruits with a unique offense the sky is the limit.

The only problem that Ohio State has right now is the location. Columbus, Ohio is not the most attractive area for high school athletes. When you think of vacation hotspots Columbus is not at the top of the list. Although this could cause problems in recruiting Urban Meyer knows how to get athletes for specific roles in his offense. Over the next two or three years it will be interesting to see if the location of Ohio State holds them back when it comes to a national championship run.

Something that will likely hold them back from a national championship run in 2013 will be their conference. The B1G has shown they are not ready to compete with the SEC and other power conferences. Until the B1G has several good teams (in the top 15) it will be the case that no one is willing to give Ohio State respect. They are not playing the toughest conference schedule so they may not be worthy of a spot in the BCS National Championship game.

Defense Wins Championships in the SEC

Every single year we learn that defense wins championships in the SEC. Not long ago I wrote an article about Georgia struggling on defense. They had no problems outscoring teams but eventually there was going to be a game in which the defense needed to take over. That game was Saturday, October 12th, 2013. The Missouri Tigers came to Athens, Georgia and the Bulldogs were decimated with injuries. Most of the skills players on offense were hurt and the team needed the defense to step up big. When playing in the SEC there are going to be games when the offense struggles. It is just the nature of the beast. Early in this game it was quite obvious that Georgia was going to be challenged by the Missouri Tigers.

Georgia vs Missouri 2013

Like many of the Georgia games in the early part of 2013 the Missouri game was high scoring. Unfortunately, the high scoring was in favor of the Tigers and not the Bulldogs. The Missouri Tigers were up 28-10 at halftime and Georgia QB Aaron Murray was struggling without his regular offensive weapons. As the second half opened the Georgia coaching staff recognized they needed to get on the scoreboard quickly. At one point in the second half Georgia had trimmed the lead to 28-26. They went for a two point conversation and ended up failing. Down just two points most Georgia fans felt good about the possibility of a win as Aaron Murray has been very good in the 4th quarter this year.

With less than seven minutes to go in the 4th quarter Georgia got the ball back down eight points. With this being a one possession game many fans expected Aaron Murray to lead his team down the field to score the final touchdown and two point conversion to tie the game. That did not happen. Murray was flushed from the pocket and threw an interception. This basically sealed the deal and Georgia went on to lose. Their top 10 ranking has been relinquished and their national title hopes are gone. Most feel as if they do not have a chance to win the SEC East either. That remains to be seen. What this Georgia vs Missouri game told us was that any team that wants to compete for an SEC championship needs a defense that can win games.

Running the Ball in the SEC

The Georgia Bulldogs also struggled to run the ball against the Missouri Tigers in their loss. Having the inability to run the ball and stop the other team is a recipe for disaster in the SEC. Most of the past champions were teams that were very physical. Even though they could throw the ball when they really needed they could still line up and get two yards when on the goal line. With the new age, fast paced offenses out there I have seen a few teams that can’t line up on third and one and run for the first down. This is something that just won’t fly in the SEC.

There are some conferences that can be won by throwing the ball all over the field, but that is not the SEC. Southern football is a little bit different. Stadiums in the SEC get very loud so the opposing teams struggle to call plays that involve lots of patterns and intricate passing routes. When a team is at home it is much easier because the crowd is silent when the home team has the ball. When you head on the road it is a much different atmosphere. Some teams try to simulate the loud stadiums with noise at practice but nothing compares to a Saturday night in Baton Rouge or other SEC university towns.

Over the last few decades most people that have watched SEC football on Saturday afternoon on CBS Sports know that running the ball is important. When they do the graphics at the beginning of the games one of the keys to the game is always controlling the line of scrimmage. Even though Texas A&M and Missouri have come into the conference and have thrown the ball they have yet to win a conference championship. Many people can put up the stats but when it comes to winning the SEC Championship you’d better be able to run the ball well. This is why I have always said that the best teams run the ball and stop the run. Even if their QB is having a bad day they can still win the game. This does not happen with teams like Texas A&M and Georgia.

Alabama Continues to Dominate

Week in and week out we hear about teams that could challenge Alabama for the SEC and BCS Championship. Alabama keeps winning and the contenders keep dropping. This past weekend it was Stanford and Georgia. There were experts that thought Stanford was physical enough to play with some of the SEC teams. Then they go out and lose to an unranked Utah team. That is no disrespect to Utah as they are a good team but they did lose to UCLA at home. It is not like Utah is the creme of the crop on the west coast. We all know what happened to Georgia which means they will not get to play Alabama in the SEC Championship game again this year.

Nick Saban has built a powerhouse in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It is amazing to see how consistent this team is. They can dominate the line of scrimmage which means they can win games ugly or they can win a shootout. This year they beat Texas A&M 49-42 and they beat Ole Miss 26-0. There are not many teams in the country that can play several different styles of football. Ultimately, Alabama would love to play physical football and beat their opponent into submission. This is what they have done in three of the last few national championship games. If teams from other conferences play Alabama in the BCS National Championship game they learn what the SEC is all about – physical football.

It is so very hard to win every week in college football. I have repeatedly said that college football has the best regular season as everything is on the line. With the pressure building there are many 18 to 22 year olds that would crack. Whatever Nick Saban is telling these kids is working. It is shocking to see them dominate the way they do. Once you are the best there is no way to go up. Keeping any young man grounded is difficult and Saban has to do it with individuals that have been the best their entire college career. Whatever psychology books he is reading I would strongly suggest other coaches check them out from their university’s library.

Defense Will Always Win SEC Championships

Many of my friends feel as if Oregon or Clemson could go into the SEC and win because of the different style offenses they run. I couldn’t disagree more. These teams have had the opportunity to play SEC opponents in big games and they have lost. I know that every year is different but to be the best you have to beat the best. When Oregon or Clemson can win a BCS bowl game against an SEC team they will have an argument to be made. Make a note that the ChickFilA Bowl does not count. It needs to be a big time bowl game in which the SEC will be prepared to play. Some of these lesser bowls are not all that important to an SEC team that could be vying for a national championship.

When looking at recruiting rankings the first position I look at is the defensive line. Almost every single year Alabama, LSU and Florida dominate defensive line recruiting. It comes as no surprise that these are the teams that end up winning the most SEC games by the end of the year. Every once in awhile a Texas A&M or South Carolina will sneak into the SEC Championship game but they are not consistent. If you want to know who is going to be in the top 10 in college football in the next few years just look at the defensive line recruiting rankings. There is a very good reason a defensive line can dominate a game.

Not only can the defensive line stop the run but they can completely disrupt the passing game of the opposition. Strong defensive tackles to go along with fast defensive ends works magic in college football. We have seen this from LSU for many years. The defensive ends get up the field while the defensive tackles clog up the middle. The quarterback of the opposition has to worry about getting hit on every play and he starts looking at the pass rush rather than looking downfield. This is exactly what happened to senior quarterback Aaron Murray in the Missouri at Georgia game and we saw the outcome. If you hope your favorite team has conference championship aspirations in the near future just check out the defensive linemen they are recruiting and developing.