Ohio State Football: Why Urban Meyer Is the Only Man That Can Save the Big Ten
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Urban Meyer, the man who started the run of seven-straight BCS National Championships for the SEC, could become the one to end that streak as soon as the 2013-14 season.
Meyer started changing the landscape of the Big Ten as soon as he took the head coaching position at Ohio State. And if there were any in the conference that doubted his return to coaching, they were quickly silenced by the Buckeyes' undefeated season.
Most believe Ohio State will continue to build on their on-the-field success as well as recruiting success with Meyer as head coach. But there are several reasons to believe Meyer will also lead a resurgence of the once proud, now much-maligned, Big Ten Conference.
It's All About the Money
The Big Ten is the richest conference in college football, according to Forbes. While Meyer, Brady Hoke at Michigan and Kirk Ferentz at Iowa were all among the highest paid coaches in 2012-13, the rest of the conference lags behind.
But it's more than just paying the head coach. It's about facilities and the staff.
Meyer knew this, and when he took over at Ohio State, he did so with the promise that he would have the funds to hire the "best group of coaches in America."
This is something the SEC has done in the last decade that other conferences haven't. It is one of the reasons Bret Bielema left Wisconsin for Arkansas, he simply didn't have the budget to hire and keep the best assistants at Wisconsin.
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Perhaps now with Ohio State—and Michigan to a lesser extent—paying assistants more and enjoying increased success, the rest of the conference will follow Meyer's lead and spend some of the T.V. money.
A New Way to Recruit
Meyer showed in his first week at Ohio State that nothing is official in recruiting until a recruit signs their National Letter of Intent.
Ohio State received commitments from players that had verbally committed to Michigan State, Wisconsin and Penn State. Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio and Bielema took exception to Meyer flipping their committed prospects.
The rest of the Big Ten should take notice of the fervor with which Meyer and his assistants recruit because if they don't pick it up Ohio State—and again possibly Michigan—could leave the rest of the conference behind.
Style of Play
The Big Ten has a history of being slow to adapt to new styles of play, think "three yards and a cloud of dust."
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If you don't believe me, go back and watch Ohio State's loss to Florida in 2006. Ohio State was built to stop inferior, power-running Big Ten offenses and couldn't keep up with Florida's speed.
Likewise, the Buckeyes' offensive line was built to block Big Ten-level defensive lines, and Florida's defensive line ran around them.
Meyer has proven to be an offensive guru whose teams always have good-to-great offenses. In 2012-13 the Buckeyes led the conference in scoring. That was with players recruited to play in Jim Tressel's offense.
This could mean that the Big Ten's coaches will have to recruit a different style of players. Defenses will likely need to get smaller and faster players that can stop Meyer's spread offense. Meanwhile the other Big Ten's offensive lines will have to recruit quicker players to block Meyer's defensive linemen.
Necessity is the Mother of Change?
The popular saying that "necessity is the mother of all invention," but of this change it doesn't directly apply. The rest of the conference doesn't have to invent anything, they just have to emulate.
One of the biggest things that needs to be changed in the Big Ten is expectations.
Illinois—a top-half of the Big Ten type program—kept Ron Zook for seven years while they finished in the top-3 in the conference one time and over .500 only twice.
Zook was fired by Florida after three seasons in which he finished over .500 all three seasons.
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Auburn fired Gene Chizik two seasons after winning a national title. Outside of Meyer, Big Ten coaches haven't won a title.
The Meyer Effect
Certainly, Meyer will help the Big Ten's perception by breaking the SEC's title streak that he started.
But for the Big Ten's perception to be truly saved, his success and method will have to be copied by the rest of the league for the conference to become anything more than just the "big one and the little 11."
Which was pretty much how the conference could be described as during the Jim Tressel era.
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