08 January 2008

It's NOT the Speed, Stupid!

(From BCS Guru)

Another BCS title game. Another beatdown of Ohio State.

And by extension, another hit on the woebegone Big Ten. Too big. Too slow.


Speed is not the Big Ten's problem. Coaching is the problem.

The Big Ten has athletes. Plenty of athletes. Athletes big and small. Speedy and slow. Explosive and plodding. Just like any other conference. Just like the SEC.

On the 2007 NFL opening day rosters, there are more Buckeyes (44) on NFL teams than any SEC school. There are more Michigan alums (36) than all SEC teams save Georgia (37).

And they're not all big, immobile linemen. Ohio State leads the league with nine wide receivers. Nobody has more linebackers than Michigan, also with nine.

But there's got to be a reason why Big Ten teams routinely get trashed, not only in the BCS championship game, but also in the Rose Bowl and elsewhere. This bowl season, the Big Ten limped home with a 3-5 record, and that was only somewhat respectable because of Michigan's surprising 41-35 victory over Florida.

That reason is coaching.

The Big Ten has fabulous players, but while they're in college, they play under coaches whose philosophies and methods are outdated. These deficiencies are not exposed when they play other Big Ten opponents because they operate under the same mentality and methodology.

And they don't get exposed, for the most part, during non-conference games. Most Big Ten teams choose to play either MAC teams due to geographic convenience, or Notre Dame, which really is like a 12th member of the Big Ten. So top teams in the Big Ten, particularly flagship programs Ohio State and Michigan, routinely rack up 10-win seasons and only to get a rude awakening when they head west or south in the bowl season.

While the Big Ten has embraced the forward pass, they haven't really embraced forward thinking. The smash-mouth mentality is an easy fallback. But there is little imagination or creativity included in the game plan.

Case-in-point, in Lloyd Carr's final game, Michigan finally loosed all the trick plays that seemed to be gathering dust in the playbook over the past decade. Against Florida, some worked, some didn't. But the impact was that those heretofore unseen formations and tactics kept Florida on its heels. What the Wolverines proved that day at the CapitalOne Bowl was no more than that they have plenty of athletes. And when properly deployed, they can play with anybody.

On the flip side, neither Illinois nor Ohio State demonstrated any willingness or ability to keep their nemesis guessing. And after absorbing a barrage of big plays that led to touchdowns, both teams just seemed staggered and showed no capacity to get off the mat.

That, too, relates to coaching.

The Big Ten is now officially put on notice. It's been routed in its last four BCS bowl games, by 14 points or more in each. The last time a Big Ten team defeated either an SEC or Pac-10 foe in a BCS game was in the last century, when Michigan beat Alabama and Wisconsin defeated Stanford following the 1999 season.

Yep, that's a long time ago.

Further reality check will come soon enough. Ohio State will play USC at the Coliseum next season. And Michigan, sensing the changing of times, has taken the risky measure by handing its fabled program to an outsider with an unfamiliar playbook.

Until we see some evidence to the contrary, the Big Ten will have to be relegated to second-rate status. And don't blame the players for this debacle.

Speed may hurt. But coaching kills.


Anonymous said...

Michigan opens next season against Utah, who beat UCLA 44-6 this year.

Anonymous said...

While on I do absolutely agree with everything the Guru writes, on a certain level, I need to wonder - Does the Big Ten coaching style help put so many kids from these schools (per capita) into the NFL? The Big Ten proponents call it an 'NFL-Style' playbook for a reason.

Big Ten player success in the NFL is shown not just by the numbers the Guru gives, but also by the success of those kids playing the next level. Michigan quaterbacks from Todd Collins on, some recent Purdue QBs; even Troy Smith has already had a semi-successful start to an NFL career. Not to mention the 'semi-skill' positions like LB.

It's not just (as the Guru correctly states) that Big Ten kids are just as fast as anyone else in the country, but also, the Big Ten coaching style may allow those kids an easier transition into the pro ranks, because of similarities in the game-plans, as opposed to the SEC reliance on ultra-fast WRs and VERY good QBs. I personally think of Big Ten teams as better all-around packages, albeit without the flash of other conferences, not to mention the lack of trick-plays, etc.

Basically, this is just food for thought, and hopefully we'll see in the next several years whether Rich Rodriguez can make UM really top the Big Ten with his new game schemes. I only hope that he will be able to that without over-specializing the kids into no longer being top prospects.....

-Ben Jarashow, UM '00

Anonymous said...

Ben, I was thinking the same thing. While the Big Ten schools may put more players into the NFL, and those players succeed more/quicker, in college they do not perform well head-to-head against SEC/Pac-10 teams because of the trick plays and non-pro-type offenses.

Does any NFL team run a read-option offense?

Anonymous said...

The SEC has better coaching across the confrence. It also has better football athletes. The Big Ten's systems and players are single demetional much like the NFL.

The SEC is so competitive week to week, coaches and players are forced to preform at a higher level and causes them to grow.

Several OSU and even USC players that contributed to their bowl teams were from the SEC states.

More NFL players from the Big Ten tells me coaches are able to improve individuals , but not improve systems and teams.

We Are...Penn State email list said...

Thank God for JoePa! Penn State is 9-2 in bowl games since joining the Big Ten.

Anonymous said...

To say that the NFL is single dimensional is disingenuous. The NFL is the place where anything that succeeds is used, and football styles that fail are tossed out quickly.

Look first at "The Ol'Ball Coach'-s time with the Redskins. This is a perfect example of the fact that various college playstyles do not survive the grind of the NFL. The 'Fun-n-Run' offense just isn't enough faster in the NFL, the way it is in college.

In college, at least some of the kids on ANY team are not going to make the next cut of performance. only a small percentage of college players get to play in the NFL. So on any team, there is some defensive secondary player that an offense can take advantage of, and most SEC teams are tailored to do that. Also, when you see a 'spread offense' which relies so exclusively on a superb QB, what you're seeing is a man among boys (D Dixon this year) who can control the game alone. Neither of these play-styles exist in the NFL because at that level, there are fewer chinks in the armor.

The NFL is NOT single-dimensional. Rather, the NFL weeds out all the single-dimensional play styles and takes only the best bits of each to become the 'NFL-style'. Any NFL team trying to win based only on one play style is going to loose. Hard.

BuLLdawg said...

The Big Ten (11) does not recruit well. Other than Ohio State and Michigan, who is even in the Big 10 ? Wisconsin certainly plays weak schedules. Penn State is holding on for Paterno to get out. Ohio State is 0-9 versus The SEC in every and all bowl games Ohio State has ever played in. Michigan hasn't done a thing and now goes outside Michigan to get a coach to replace Lloyd Carr - who just never looked the part to get big-time players. Kirk Ferentz at Iowa has had a losing record over the last three (3) years in a row now. Purdue cannot play football at all and is a middling program. Michigan State has never existed as a football team. Minnesota cannot play football. Northwestern is more of the same. And, Illinois not only was blown out badly in their only game last season, but has not faired well is so long no one remembers them either.

You talk of the Big 10 and then try to discuss only Michigan and Ohio State in the NFL. You make it seem as though the Big 10 has more in the NFL than The SEC. The SEC has by far the most on NFL Opening Day rosters.

It would be nice if one could discuss the Big Ten (11) and name all the do-nothing teams, instead of acting like the 36 in the NFL from Michigan and 44 from Ohio State somehow tells the story. The SEC has balance. Lots of balance. The SEC dominates the recruiting every single year. Not only does UGA have 37 on NFL opening day rosters, but Florida has 33, Tennessee has 36, Auburn has 30 and The SEC has 263 on NFL Opening Day rosters for this last NFL Season. That’s 12 percent more in the NFL for The SEC.

I studied the Ohio State roster before the bowl blowout to The SEC again this season for the 9th consecutive bowl game loss by Ohio State to The SEC, and found that Ohio State has NOT ONE (0) player under 4.5 in speed. Why didn’t you say this ?

You can go to the Scout.com and Rivals sites and look up every Ohio State recruit and their speeds in the 40-yard dash and see that Ohio State was going to lose the game big before it started. I did.

If you are going to say that a Conference has the speed, then say so. But, instead the point is that the Big Ten (11) has not done well in recruiting. That’s coaching too. They don’t have the team speed that SEC teams do and that is why the best you can do to try to narrow down the discussion of The SEC multiple teams of 5 or more every year in the Top 25 of the Final AP Polls, most BCS National Championships, most NFL players, to just only Ohio State is that Ohio State is 0-9 vs. SEC all-time in bowl games, has zero football players faster than 4.5 in the 40-yard dash who played in their most recent blowout bowl game against The SEC, and no coach in the Big 10 has recruited the team speed of these half The SEC teams ranked every year in both recruiting and Final AP Polls.

You’re right the coaching in the Big Ten (11) does not measure up to the coaching of The SEC. That’s why The SEC has team speed from the recruiting of these SEC coaches. And, why the Big Ten (11) does not.

The Top 4 states for high school football recruits are (1) California, (2) Texas (3) Florida and (4) Georgia. These 4 not only make up 38 percent of the total high school football recruits who signed this 2008 season with NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Schools, but also make up the same 4 places for sending their high school football recruits from those states’ high schools to the NFL.

You can watch all the games between the Big Ten (11) and see that for yourself, instead of trying to make the facts seem like The Big Ten (11) is somehow better. Or that there is an excuse for it. The SEC dominates the Big Ten (11) in every way, especially team speed in recruiting and then in the NFL. Thank you.

Samuel Chi said...

Bulldawg: You make some good points, but I think you missed the mark on the talent gap between the Big Ten and the SEC. There is not that much.

While you might think the SEC sends way more players to the NFL than the Big Ten, that's hardly the case at all. At the end of the 2007 season, there are 312 Big Ten players in the NFL and 348 from the SEC.

So on average, there are 29.0 players per SEC school to 28.4 players per Big Ten school. I hardly would call that a talent gap. This is where I got the information, you can look it up: http://www.sportsline.com/collegefootball/alumni-tracker.

The point is: The Big Ten has plenty of good players. And in fact, your point seems to indicate that Big Ten coaches do a better job recruiting since none of the Big Ten states is considered a really fertile rercruiting area. The best ones like Ohio and Pennsylvania can't hold a candle to Florida or Georgia. Mark Richt didn't have to leave his state to get the best players.

And maybe the SEC has a little better speed than the Big Ten, but 1) that's hard to quantify; 2) it's somewhat irrelevant anyway. A 4.4 guy who can't run a clean route is not better than a 4.6 guy who can and catches everything. Florida had better overall speed than Michigan but got beat anyway because Michigan actually had superior personnel, even if they might not be as "fast" as the Gators.

At the end, I think it's clear that I wasn't trying to defend the Big Ten or demean the SEC. In fact, I contend that SEC has superior coaches who get more out of their players and are better strategists on game day. I am really paying the SEC a big compliment for being cutting edge.

I do appreciate your comment and I think this is what makes college football great. There are all these regional differences and we can debate all day long.

Anonymous said...

If I was coming out of high school, and had a choice between playing four years of football in the snow, or in Florida, I think I would choose the southern weather. Yes, the SEC has a WAY easier recruiting trail.

eda said...