Earlier tonight, yours truly was in an on-line mini-chat with Jeff Kuehn, the sports editor of this paper. He is known as (cue drum roll), The Boss. I, and everyone else that rants on this page, ultimately have to answer to him when we screw up. It happens. We clash on certain issues once in a while, but were in agreement on one thing -- whether you liked them or not, Alabama was clearly the class of the field and deserved to be national college football champions. That, and we both like it when the other one is paying for lunch. Make that two things.
It's been noted that had Ohio State not been on "probation", and therefore bowl ineligible, Alabama likely wouldn't have been in the championship game at all. Notre Dame and Ohio State were the only two undefeated teams, and Bama had suffered one loss at the hands of Texas A&M, with eventual Heisman trophy winner QB Johnny "Football" Manziel at the helm of the Aggies doing the honors. Who would have won an ND/OSU game is highly debatable, but given the beatdown the Crimson Tide put on the Fighting Irish, I dare say they would have done much the same thing to the Buckeyes. Bama was just WAY better than either one of them.
The Big 10, once a proud football conference, now appears to be in the minor leagues when it comes to national prominence. Just a few years ago, Mich and Mich State traded barbs over who was the "little brother" and who was the "little sister". Question -- how laughable do you think that was to the teams in the Southeast Conference (SEC) as they were rolling along to one national title after another -- and still are? If they even noticed, chances are they watched it with the same amusement most of us would have seeing a couple first-graders squabbling on a playground somewhere.
Here's a comparison of the Big 10 and the SEC. Big 10 schools will typically schedule what they consider to be a couple "patsies" at the beginning of their seasons, just to have live "scrimmages" and get their acts together before facing tougher conference competition. Many SEC schools would gladly schedule a couple Big 10 schools to start off their seasons for much the same reason. To them, the Big 10 teams ARE the patsies. Remember what Alabama did to Michigan (then ranked #8) in the season opener in Dallas -- a neutral site? The Wolverines got taken to the woodshed for the proverbial good old fashioned whuppin'.
Alabama is a mini-dynasty right now, having won 3 championships in the last 4 years. But collectively, the SEC is even MORE of a football dynasty. That conference has won the last 6 titles in a row, and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Winning begets more winning. Where do you think elite prep stars would rather go? To a Big 10 school with an outside chance of playing in the Rose Bowl, at best -- or an SEC school with a decent shot at a national championship?
I live in Michigan myself, and Mich and Mich State fans will likely disagree -- but there's only one guy out there that can make the Big 10 relevant again. It ain't gonna happen with Mark Dantonio in East Lansing, nor with Brady Hoke in Ann Arbor. They may both be fine coaches, but it's highly unlikely either will ever put together a football team worthy of national championship consideration.
The only guy I see bringing the Big 10 back into prominence is named Urban Meyer, the coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes. His track record speaks for itself. Like Alabama coach Nick Saban, wherever he goes, they win -- quickly, and a lot. In just his first year at OSU, he went undefeated, as mentioned above. Was his team as good as Alabama this year? Of course not. But give him a couple more years to get his own system firmly established with the players he recruited to execute it, and the Buckeyes might very well make at least one team in the Big 10 a force to be reckoned with on the national landscape.
That would not bode well for Brady and Mark when it came to recruiting the blue-chippers, much less the rest of the Big 10.
It's a tough call for a Michigander like me. Should I root for a school I always considered an arch-rival, the enemy, just so they can make the conference respectable again? Or do I hope they crash and burn and remain content continuing to watch my in-state teams settle for 2nd and 3rd tier bowl games as a climax to their seasons, and then tell us how good they're going to be next year, which is like a grainy video that keeps repeating itself in an endless loop?
I dunno. I just hope this flies under the radar of The Boss. He bought lunch last time. If he notices, I'm pretty sure I know what's coming next.....