Full disclosure. I’m an Ohio State football fan. Who lives in Ohio. Who has an Ohio State hoodie. And Ohio State pajamas (It’s true). So, know that I’m writing this piece out of love for my team, and love of my conference.
Big Ten football is in trouble.
Just because I’m an Ohio State fan, doesn’t mean I’m a homer. I refuse to watch Big Ten football with
blinders on. Besides Ohio State (which landed Urban Meyer, which was a Godsend), the rest of the
conference last season was pretty much unwatchable. Northwestern did beat Mississippi State in
the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, but that was the lone bright spot. Michigan dissapointed, and ended up with an eternal Top Ten Sports Center clip, thanks to Jadeveon Clowney nearly decapitating Vincent Smith. Nebraska played Georgia in the Capital One Bowl, and got dominated by SEC speed (And this was after Nebraska got killed by unranked Wisconsin 70-31) Wisconsin lost their coach to the SEC, and
the Michigan/Ohio State game, which is a holiday in my city/state, was…predictable. Ohio State
(who was still trying to find their way as a team back then) beat a Michigan team that still seemed
rocked by their rough loss to Alabama in their opening game. And the rest of the Big Ten? Ugh.
(Although Purdue and Indiana gave Ohio State all they could handle last season)
I’m writing this article because I think that Big Ten football can be fixed. I’m no football expert in any
stretch of the imagination. I’ve never played, nor coached. But, I’m kinda bright, so I’ve been able to
make observations based upon hours and hours of watching college football. Below are a few
ways the Big Ten as a conference can improve football play and compete with the other top tier
college football conferences.
I know that the Big Ten is the conference of brawn. Sturdy linebackers. Two yards and
and a cloud of dust. That has to stop. Now. College football is a speed/space game now. It’s all about
getting to a certain spot as fast as you can. And it’s not just the SEC that plays that game. Look at
Oregon. (Although it remains to be seen how fast they will be, now that Chip Kelly coaches in the NFL.) The Big Ten needs an infusion of fast players, at every position.
Now, I understand that fleet footed players my be hard to find in the Big Ten recruiting footprint. But, if
there are players on Big Ten recruiting trails who are fast, no matter how small they may be, the Big Ten should recruit them. That’s right, sign up some shrimps. As I wrote earlier, brawn is so 20th century. If a potential recruit isn’t that big, but has considerable speed, he should have a role on a Big Ten squad. De’Anthony Thomas, the Oregon Ducks WR/KR/RB, and quite possibly the most exciting/dangerous player in college football, is 5 ft, 9, 181 lbs. Thomas is small. And Thomas is scary. A squad full of octane is the one who will more than likely win in 2013. And pull in huge ratings. Touchdowns are sexy. A three yard rush up the middle is not. Besides, Ohio State had a slight, smallish KR/WR (5 ft. 11, 180 lbs) named Ted Ginn Jr. a few years back who was a huge difference maker for the Buckeyes. The Big Ten has to embrace the quick strike arms race of the 21st century.
Hire young geniuses to be Head Coaches:
Gus Malzahn, Gus Malzahn, Gus Malzahn. Remember that name. Because he’s the kind of genius/wunderkind that the Big Ten needs. Who is this guy? He was a high school football coach who’s knack for creating brilliant offenses compelled Houston Nutt to bring Malzahn to Arkansas to be the offensive coordinator and the wide receivers coach…despite never having coached in the collegiate level. All Malzahn did was create high flying offenses at Arkansas, Tulsa, and Auburn. Yeah, he coached that Cam Newton guy to a national championship. Now, Malzahn is back at Auburn as their head coach. You don’t think the rest of the SEC is concerned?
The point is, Malzahn was a young, bright coach that no one had heard of, but an SEC coach took
a chance on him, and it paid off, with the addition of another brilliant football mind in the nation’s most
dangerous conference. This is exactly what the Big Ten needs to do. Find young, bright coaches, and
hire them. Forget about hiring a “Michigan man” or a “Wisconsin guy”. Get the smart guy. The
progressive. The coach that’s forward thinking and a futurist. And, once hired, the AD’s have to back
these coaches, instead of letting them get smacked around by rabid fan-bases that end up influencing
school brass (Hello, Rich Rod and Michigan). Imagine a conference full of Urban Meyers. It’s possible.
These are the two biggest fixes that I can think of. I understand that Big Ten recruiting is tough.
The ugly winters. The drab locations (As compared to California, Florida, and Texas). The lack of
big media reach in the Midwest. But, the Big Ten has resources…and money. (Michigan is #2 and Ohio State is #20 on Forbes.com’s “College Football’s Most Valuable Teams” list) It’s time for the Big Ten to use its considerable resources and make the necessary changes to compete with the SEC’s, Big 12’s, and Pac 12’s. Because, with the exception if Ohio State (Their 12-0 season was a very weak 12-0. Real Ohio State fans, like me, can and have admitted this), no other Big Ten team has real heat this
College football is no game. Neither is national irrelevance.