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The SEC Speed Truth

The other day I came across a blog entry on Bleacher Report titled Big Ten Must Admit They Have a Problem. Intrigued, I started reading through it and quickly realized it was another article about how the speedy quick SEC schools are running circles around the slow and fat Big Ten schools.

One thing I love about college football is the great traditions: Running through the T, UGA VI, Roll Tide, Dotting the I, Touchdown Jesus, Hail to the Victors, Rocky Top, the list goes on and on.

Of course there are some traditions that need to go away.  One of them is the Big Ten's idea of "Power Football" which to the rest of the college football world means, SLOW.

Now for full disclosure I am a Tennessee fan (BSD. - How did that 2007 Outback Bowl work out for ya?), but I spent a good deal of time living in Ohio so I know plenty about Big Ten football.  It is not just Ohio State in the BCS Championship games the past two years, it is the conference as a whole compared to the SEC. 

Every time someone writes a column about how slow or behind the times Big Ten football is, all the fans do is rush to defend their conference and do not stop to look at the facts.

Which I must admit was my intention by the time I got about half way through this article. Especially when the author uses selective statistics and information to prove his points.

Overall, the SEC is 11-4 in all BCS games and the Big Ten is 8-9.  Want more?  The SEC won all four of its BCS games the past two years by a combined score of 161-62.  While the Big Ten lost all four BCS games the past two years by a combined score of 90-73.

Great stat there, genius, considering half of our BCS games the last two years were against SEC teams. So yeah, if the SEC is winning that means the Big Ten is losing. Our other two BCS games featured our second best teams against USC. The SEC's were against Notre Dame and Hawaii. Congrats on that. In 2006 the Big Ten won both of their BCS games. The SEC lost their one constest. Damn those statistics.

Now, people can point out some Big Ten wins over SEC schools the past two years such as Michigan over Florida in the 2008 Capital One Bowl or Penn State over Tennessee in the 2007 Outback Bowl.  However, those are not the games people will remember.  Most fans only remember the games by the teams at the top.

There ya go. If we throw out the head-to-head matches where the SEC lost, the SEC is totally dominating the Big Ten. Well duh. In his previous paragraph he inadvertently puts heavy weight on head-to-head matchups to make his point. Now he casually dismisses them. Convenient.

Big Ten school, media, and fans need to admit they have a problem against schools in the SEC, Pac-10, and Big XII.  they need to get faster and stop believing in "Three yards and a cloud of dust." 

We'll get to the "need to get faster" thing in a minute, but the Big Ten is hardly built on three yards and a cloud of dust anymore. Purdue and Northwestern have been running high passing spread offenses since the 90's. In recent years Penn State, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan State under John L. Smith have all used the spread offense. Now Michigan and Penn State will be going back to the spread this year. The only teams that refuse to give up the three yard and a cloud of dust mentality are Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio State who is a  big reason for our recent BCS woes.

One weakness that the Big Ten has compared to the SEC is that their media is not as tough.  Look at what happens once a coach in the SEC starts to struggle, they are gone.  Look at Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss, after three dismal years he is gone and they go out and bring in Houston Nutt (who had a bad end at Arkansas). 

Now take a look at Kirk Ferentz at Iowa.  After the huge win over LSU in the 2005 Capital One Bowl, the next three years Iowa went 7-5, 6-7, and 6-6.  Do you think Kirk Ferentz would be the coach at Iowa right now if the Hawkeyes were in the SEC?  No way!  The fans and media would demand his head.

This is the dumbest argument I've ever heard. Is he seriously blaming the Big Ten's bowl game problems on the media? I happen to think it's honorable that the Big Ten has a rich tradition of coaching legends like Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Joe Paterno, Hayden Fry, Lloyd Carr, and Jim Tressel. The Big Ten honors more than just winning football games. I kind of like the fact that we value academics, unlike the SEC. So if winning championships means replacing your coach every three years and failing your student athletes in the classroom, you can have it.

Once the Big Ten admits they have a problem, they can finally stop defending their "power football" and work to fix the problem and recruit all speed and not just one or two players, because all the other speed players are headed down south and the only time Big Ten teams will see that speed is when they are running by them in the BCS Championship Game.

Now I will agree with him that the SEC enjoys a decided speed advantage over some teams in the Big Ten. Ohio State most notably. But I don't think it's a matter of the Big Ten recruiting speed. In my opinion the Big Ten lacks the techniques in developing speed. Case in point I was reading this article this morning titled Debunking Mythes About Speed in the SEC and the Big Ten.

If the players training with me are learning explosiveness, I'm being tutored to gently fizzle. However, there's a spark of thought in my brain that's lolling around as I run figure-eight drills with the speed and elegance of a drugged orangutan: What if this, more than anything else, explains in part the notion that one college football conference could be perceived as innately "faster" than another?

Fortunately, outgoing strength coach Mark Sutton sums up what I'm mulling over in my head in a post-workout interview. He says what I'm thinking; I sit there and wait for my body to start spitting out ligaments and tendons like a smoking Buick spitting parts on an off-ramp.

"In terms of players we see for the combine, the best-conditioned and prepared athletes by conference come in this order: the SEC, the Big 12, the Pac-10 is just a little bit under that, and then the Big Ten brings up the rear."

The big Aussie casually framed one of the only rational explanations for the persistent and partially inaccurate perception of the SEC speed myth/Big Ten Sloth Legend: The emphasis on speed training, explosive Olympic-style movements in the weight room, and a noticeable bleedover between the disciplines of track and field and football.

It's not that the Big Ten can't recruit speed. Kids don't get faster the closer they are born to the equator. The Big Ten's problem is outdated strength and conditioning programs designed to build muscle mass, strength, and endurance. For years speed was just viewed as a gift from God. Some people have it and others don't.  Thus little time was devoted to trying to develop it. The SEC schools have figured out that you can coach speed and train for it. And this is what the Big Ten lacks.

But like all things, the pendulum always comes back. Teams will focus on getting faster and faster, and in doing so they will get smaller and smaller. You can already see it.

"Miami's only lifting twice a week now--the rest of the week they're running," Sutton says. "Twice a week--that's it. Their skill players all run track in the off-season."

Then one day some school with a bunch of 310 lb. linemen and a 235 lb. running back will run them over like a truck plowing through a corn field. And then everyone will get back on the strength and size kick again. Back in the 90's everyone emulated Nebraska and their corn fed farm boys. That's the way these things go. We just have to wait it out. Our time will come.