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article imageOp-Ed: The Buckeyes draw close

By Vincent Gerace     Jan 16, 2015 in Sports
Now that the college football post-season has wrapped up and a new champion has been crowned we can take a look at 2014 as a season of change. The playoffs brought this, but a change in power also took shape.
"Buckeyes draw close." No, this is not a quote from the 2014 Sugar Bowl regarding The Ohio State University drawing within a point of Alabama just before half-time. This is, instead, an observation of how the Buckeyes brought the fight to the South Eastern Conference and substantially closed the gap between the two “Power Five” conferences when speaking of level of play, with help from fellow programs in the ironically titled Big Ten, which holds 14 schools.
It has been widely considered that the SEC is the best conference in the nation when it comes to college football. Some would have you believe that this point is as much a fact as Benjamin Franklin discovering electricity and that this topic is not even one worthy of debate. This idea seems to have begun following the 2007 college football season where the SEC’s Florida Gators defeated The Ohio State Buckeyes, ironically, in the BCS National Championship game; also, it is worth mentioning that those Gators were coached by current Ohio State shot caller Urban Meyer. From that point forward it has been a resounding opinion that the SEC was simply better, better than the B1G that Ohio State represents as well as the PAC 12, Big 12, and ACC rounding out the previously mentioned “Power Five.”
It is certainly no doubt that the SEC had some great teams representing the conference in many major bowls and title games en route to claiming seven consecutive national championships, but has that time come and passed? Many SEC supporters were greatly in favor of moving on from the BCS to a playoff format because of the belief that they could lock in two, or even three teams to football’s rendition of The Final Four, and they were only able to place one. Of course, getting a team into such a small tournament is nothing to snuff at but certainly humbling for some who hold their team’s conference in the higher than highest regard.
Before we fully breakdown what each of these conference’s teams did this post season let’s take a look at the regular season. It is often commented that Ohio State plays a soft schedule. SEC faithful would have you believe that their teams’ opponents are studs week in and week out, and that their favorite team must gear up for a war as an easy week doesn’t exist for any of these southern squads. But taking conference record out of it, since that is out of the hands of teams when it comes to scheduling let’s look at non-conference schedules instead.
These are games sought out and scheduled with much involvement from the head coach. Ohio State and Alabama each played four such contests in the regular season. Ohio State’s opponents: Navy (8-5), Virginia Tech (7-6), Kent State (2-9), and Cincinnati (9-4). All teams with a winning record except for one and it should be noted that Virginia Tech beat the Buckeyes. Alabama’s out of conference schedule looks slightly different as their foe’s were West Virginia (7-6), Florida Atlantic (3-9), Southern Missouri (3-9), and Western Carolina (7-5). Alabama’s non-SEC match-ups feature only two teams with winning records, both of whom were slightly above average and one of which, Western Carolina, is not even a Division 1 program. For comparison sake, the regular season loss The Tide had was to Ole Miss who ended the year at 9-4, so if the SEC is looking for a win in this article, there you go, you lost to a team with two more wins then the team the Buckeyes fell to.
With that in mind we turn our focus to the college football bowl season. The B1G was able to send 10 teams into action going 5-5 overall while the SEC held a slightly better record for its twelve representatives at 7-5; but this should be broken down a bit further. In games featuring a B1G team that ended the season ranked in the top 25 a 3-1 record was held for the conference, who’s champion won its bowl game (OSU). The SEC, on the other hand, had its Top 25 participants go only 2-5 including a loss by their champ (‘Bama). On the other side of that coin we saw the B1G go 3-2 when one of its teams faced a ranked foe where the SEC again failed to meet expectations going 2-4; and when these two conferences met head to head with top 25 teams, which accord four times the result was a 50/50 mark of two wins a piece.
As long as we are looking at the results of bowl season lets take a look at the “big games” played at this time of the year. This will be games that took place on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day and, in my opinion, the only bowl games that should have the word “Champion” on the trophy, but I digress. The Peach Bowl saw a huge blowout win for TCU, obviously trying to make a statement to the playoff voters, as they blew out Ole Miss 42-6, you remember Ole Miss, that team that beat ‘Bama. Mississippi State picked it up from there dropping the Orange Bowl to Georgia Tech 49-34. This was followed by a head to head matchup that saw Wisconsin down Auburn 43-41 in a thriller. The B1G continued on this track winning the Cotton Bowl in another tight one as Michigan State snuck by Baylor 42-41. Missouri then handed Minnesota a loss in a head to head game by two scores at 33-17 in the Citrus Bowl. This brought us to the Sugar Bowl where we saw the 42-35 victory by Urban and the boys over Saban’s Crimson Tide rounding off a 3-1 record for the B1G and an unsettling 1-4 showing for the SEC.
So why has the gap between these two storied and influential college football power conferences seemed to close? One might think it has something to do with the ever lasting idea that football runs in circles. What is meant by this is that trends that seem to take over and change the game are just that, trends. But why circles? Why do the same trends seem to come back around? It’s actually quite simple if you give yourself a moment to think about it. These trends are implemented to get a competitive advantage on the opponent, naturally. So to combat larger, stronger, more physical teams another program will develop a faster, leaner roster based on speed.
The B1G and the SEC are on opposite sides of this with the B1G being from much further north the needs are size and strength to combat the harsh weather conditions that accompany the latter parts of the season, where as in the south speed, quickness and playing the game sideline to sideline prevail, and even though the Buckeyes have successfully implemented many spread and read option elements to their program, courtesy of Meyer, they still have a ground and pound attitude with the success to match, which is why Urban Meyer finally got his only two thousand yard rushing running backs once arriving in Columbus. Why does all this matter? It matters because the physical natured, strength minded Buckeyes were able to out muscle the Crimson Tide and, eventually, the Oregon Ducks to win the CFP National Championship, both the Ducks and ‘Bama were built for speed, and that often means giving up a little extra size.
However, when it all comes down to it, whether it’s style of play, or the idea that maybe the SEC was never as great as anyone thought, I think we can all agree, though only two years removed the conference’s last national title it sure feels like a life time since the SEC won the big one and the gap is certainly closing.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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