SI's Stewart Mandel did a nice piece yesterday on the cyclical nature of the balance of conference power in NCAA football and what the Big Ten needs to do to adjust and regain their once proud position as the premier college football conference in the land.
It should first be noted that the Big Ten isn't terrible and they haven't been mediocre for an extended amount of time.
Yes, conference strength is cyclical. We addressed that prior to last season, when SI.com compared the first five years of the BCS era to the second five years and showed that during the first period, the now-sullen Big Ten was actually the No. 1 conference nationally.
But what do they need to do to get back on track and on the same level as the SEC or Big 12?
Remember when Nebraska kept losing to Florida State and Miami in bowl games in the late 1980s and early '90s? Tom Osborne eventually modified his approach by placing a greater emphasis on defensive speed and won three national titles in four years (with all three bowl wins coming against Southern teams). The Big Ten is in the early stages of attempting the same type of adjustment. Teams such as Michigan and Purdue raided Florida last recruiting season in search of some game-breakers. Ron Zook and Tim Brewster have been doing the same at Illinois and Minnesota, respectively. Ohio State's roster is filled with more talent than most SEC teams. The Buckeyes' Achilles heel the past couple of years was their awful offensive line, not a lack of blue-chippers; coach Jim Tressel addressed that area heavily in his past two classes.
Recruiting always comes first, talent beats all in college football. Being able to coach that talent is a close second but without the speed and athleticism to compete you don't stand a chance.
- One of Cal's starting tackles is writing his own blog. Mike Tepper is his name and you can read this to gain some insight into live at Berkley.
- Seriously? Beilema wants Badger fans to believe they play only non-BCS teams year in and year out because people are afraid to come to Madison. "Bielema reminded reporters Monday during the first day of the Big Ten Conference preseason football meetings that UW is a combined 30-3 at home over the last five seasons." Well in large part they only have 3 home losses because they don't play anybody challenging in the non-conference schedule. And they also have had some luck in the B10 schedule seeing Ohio State at home just once in the last five seasons. Mason had a very good non-conference record as well, because he didn't play anybody.
- Hawk Central called the Big Ten media days like he sees it.
Each coach gets about 15 minutes to speak, which is probably 14 minutes longer than Joe Paterno would like to spend talking to the media, and about two hours less than Minnesota coach Tim Brewster would like to have for his public spin session.
The coaches all basically say the same thing. They talk about how excited they are to start practice, how hard their players worked during the offseason and how optimistic they are about the upcoming season.
- Chicago Tribune talks about the Gophers moving outside into The Vault.
- This Sporting News Blog covers the Big Ten Media days and I'll end with this...
Here's one quote from each Big Ten head coach. Gotta match 'em all!
1. "Get your dad-gum chili hot! Get your dad-gum chili hot."
2. "A winning season in 2009 would be a way to have a special season."
3. "We're very happy with the guys who are still here."
4. "I want to make it crystal clear that I voted for Tim Tebow."
5. "I have a tattoo of a Hawkeye on my left calf; it seemed like a good idea when I was 19."
6. "Any time you challenge yourself, it's a positive thing."
7. "As a football coach, you love coaching football."
8. "One of the reasons we've been able to have success is our tradition."
9. "I'm not quite sure where we are."
10. "Maybe I should have just said yes."
11. "This is the first time we've had enough good players that we've had to decide which three to bring here."
And now for the answers...
1. Tim Brewster; this was actually a BTN interstitial.
2. Danny Hope defying his last name
3. Rich Rodriguez, obviously.
4. Pat Fitzgerald with the zinger!
5. Bret Bielema, who has not made a bold decision (hello, Cal-Poly) since.
6. Jim Tressel living up to Jones' assessment above.
7. Indiana's Bill Lynch, who believes the reason Tressel's won the conference four straight years is his press conference demeanor.
8. Mark Dantonio. No, seriously, Michigan State's head coach claimed "tradition" as a reason for success instead of a reason for inexplicably going 6-6.
9. Joe Paterno, obviously.
10. Kirk Ferentz, responding to the 11th question from the same dip about whether the SEC is ever going to lose a game again.
11. Ron Zook, apparently unaware Illinois went to the Rose Bowl two years ago.