No conference has undergone as much scrutiny and criticism in the past few years as the Big Ten has.
And most of it has been deserved.
The Big Ten has a reputation for being a slow, plodding conference full of conservative coaches who don't pull in big-time athletes.
Ohio State, one of the few Big Ten schools that can pull in those kinds of athletes, is largely to blame for the stereotype of the Big Ten after back-to-back national championship game losses. Ironically enough, the coach who dealt OSU its first title game loss is now standing on the Buckeyes' sideline: Urban Meyer.
The typical Urban Meyer team that we saw at Florida was almost the antithesis of Big Ten squad, full of speedsters and a very aggressive, opportunistic mentality on both sides of the ball.
The Buckeyes do have the ability to be that kind of team, even within a year or two, simply because of Meyer's national reputation and the reputation of the program itself. And he has the right quarterback to help him as well: Braxton Miller.
The sophomore is the prototypical dual-threat quarterback. He has already put together a strong start to his sophomore season—one that has generated early Heisman talks. With his ability to run and his potential as a passer, Miller has already shown that he's a perfect fit for Meyer's spread offense.
It's early, but thus far coach and quarterback seem to be an ideal match. They will have possibly two years together and will set their sights on winning conference titles and possibly a national championship.
But the biggest thing that might change in the Big Ten is that other teams in the conference will need to play catchup with the Buckeyes. Ohio State could be embarking on a run of conference dominance similar to that enjoyed at the end of the Jim Tressel era, when the Buckeyes won five straight Big Ten titles (the 2010 title was vacated, of course).
If they can win a national championship or two, that will force the other top teams in the conference like Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Wisconsin to really step up their recruiting efforts and make sure they can compete with Ohio State.
First things first though, OSU has to be able to win a Big Ten championship, which they still have to wait a year for due to NCAA sanctions.
But in a way, it's better for Meyer and Miller to have that year because the first three games showed that—while they're good—they're not great...yet.
The mental lapses the defense had all last year have already created a few red flags, and the offense, though they are putting up nice numbers, struggles from a lack of consistency and too few playmakers.
Luckily, those are things that can be corrected and fixed in a year or two, probably sooner if you bring in the right players.
Meyer can do that.
And for the offense to continue to improve, Miller will need to continue to be the guy until he gets a stable of playmakers outside of the three he has right now: Corey Brown, Jake Stoneburner and Devin Smith.
There are no burners in the backfield, yet. But they are coming.
Meyer is already sending a message that his SEC way of doing things—in terms of what types of players he wants and what style he is going to coach—is coming to the Big Ten; other teams will either rise up to the challenge or sink to the back of the pack.
It's the foundation for a new era, and the Big Ten may never be the same again.
Urban Meyer and Braxton Miller won't let it.
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