Unlike a number of SEC football fans, I always enjoy watching Big 10 football in the fall. Why? Because it reminds me of SEC football prior to the influence of Steve Spurrier and his pass-happy Gator offense of the 1990s.
Preferring smash mouth football, great defenses, and special teams, I don't care for football that resembles a pinball game (That's a pre-video entertainment device for all youngsters).
Give me the 7-6, and 7-3 games where one play can make a difference. Who will be the first team to blink? I find 42-35 games less interesting because the integrity of the individual play is de-emphasized for the watershed of torrential scoring.
This is not to say some high-scoring games aren't interesting and thoroughly entertaining.
Cases in point: the great Texas–Michigan Rose Bowl game, the equally fascinating Texas–Southern California Rose Bowl game, the Boise State–Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl, and the Michigan–Alabama Orange Bowl.
These all had us on the edge of our seats in the past 10 years. All were high scoring affairs. All well played to the end.
The problem with high scoring games is that there is a tendency to say "offenses are more sophisticated" and let it go at that. But, that is not all together true.
If you've ever played offense, it is easier to play defense because you realize what the offense can and can't do.
Liberalization of illegal holding rules made for a more successful passing game in the past quarter-century, more so than the coaches who take advantage of the newer rules.
Still, there are coaches who continue to pound the ball on the ground, one need only point to the results of Ohio State during this literal "Air Force era."
Three times this decade, Jim Tressel has brought teams that resemble Paul Bryant's Alabama squads to the BCS Title game, so there is no question there is still room for the tried and true way of playing football.
The thought occurred to me of examining what SEC and Big 10 coaches of today would have been successful 40 years ago?
To be fair, we should eliminate Joe Paterno, as he was effective in both eras, but what of the following group? Let's start with today's most adaptable coaches.
Those Who Could
Les Miles, LSU
Don't kid yourself, this guy knows football and played for one of the best. Of all the current group of SEC coaches, I believe he would have the easiest road to travel.
I can see him as the 1960s Tiger coach and doing very well in that world, but, he is not about to replace Cholly Mac as an inspirational leader in the Bayou.
Nick Saban, Alabama
If Saban had never left LSU, he would be talked about in the same breath as Pete Carroll. Still, he has shown versatility in adapting to the Big 10, the SEC, the NFL, and back to the SEC.
I'm not saying he would be as good a coach as Paul Bryant, but I can see him running the show in Tuscaloosa in the 1960s and having great success.
Houston Nutt, Ole Miss
OK, Nutt runs a 1960s style of play so this case is closed. The real question is can he adapt to the 21st Century?
Bret Bielema, Wisconsin
Oh, give this guy a time machine and let him go back and take over the Big 10 from Woody, Bo, Pete, Bump, Jack, Ara, and Duffy. Badger football is extremely technique oriented and very interesting to watch. This is a guy who has the tools upstairs.
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Bump, grind, and go. This coach knows how to use star players to get what needs to be done. He accents the "little things" like punting, kickoff coverage, and third-down stops on defense. He would have done well in yesteryear.
Jim Tressel, Ohio State
Along with Miles of LSU, I like Tressel's chances of success in days gone by the best. Although he did seem to be "snookered" by Mack Brown and did not seem inspirational when his team needed it against Florida, Southern California, and LSU, this man has a dignity that instills poise in his players.
His attention to detail and emphasis on running and defense would help him survive in the past but, he's not about to take Woody Hayes' place on that '69 Buckeye sideline.
Those Who Could Not
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Although he was successful as a player for Ray Graves in the 1960s, Spurrier plays for the home run too much and is barely adequate at communicating with his players.
This was an essential element of old-style coaching. I vote for him to stay in the current era, and would have kept Paul Dietzel on the Gamecock sideline in 1969.
Mark Richt, Georgia
In essence, no. Richt is a product of a world filled with intricate diagrams and strategy to confuse and make one ponder. By doing so, he has substituted style for results with some of the greatest athletes to play the game.
No, Mr. Richt, we knew Vince Dooley, and you're no Vince Dooley. You'd best stay in today's world.
Rich Rodriguez, Michigan
His bizarre antics are best suited for an era where the rules can be used to his advantage. A comparison to Bo Schembechler is an insult. Next question...
Ron Zook, Illinois
The world of the 1960s was full of "Ron Zooks". Many coaches would go load up on all the best players and have very little to show for it, soon finding themselves out of a job. No, Mr. Zook, you'd best stay right where you are and hope for the best.
The Wild Cards
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Coach Dan is of unknown possibilities. He played for Jim Carlen at South Carolina in the 70s and does seem to have a streak of that Carlen-Dodd-Neyland family tree in his bones.
I would say the jury is out as to whether this man becomes a slave to the passing game or continues to work toward a balanced attack.
Urban Meyer, Florida
You think this would be an easy "yes," but not so fast. Meyer is an proponent of taking advantage of the systems and rules available, so for that reason I would more than likely put him on the sideline in the 60s (as Steve Spurrier's coach???).
There is a suggestion among SEC brethren that Meyer has been walking between the raindrops, falling into good situations since he was at Bowling Green.
My personal feeling is if he doesn't slip off of his pedestal in the next two years, he could go down in history as another Darrell Royal, an innovative man of his era who took the game and advanced it beyond its own time.