Big Ten Football Players Who Would Still Be Stars in the SEC
The somewhat tired argument that the SEC is somehow leaps and bounds better than the Big Ten is something about which college football fans south of the Mason-Dixon Line can't stop talking. While the SEC had a marvelous run of seven BCS titles from 2006 to 2012, it doesn't mean there aren't any impressive studs residing in other conferences.
It's important to note that the SEC's seven titles were spread among only four teams, and only two of them—Florida and Alabama—won more than once. So is the entire SEC really that far ahead of everyone else? Would a star from the Big Ten really be lost in the shuffle if he were added to a random SEC roster?
Let's take a look at a few superstars from the Big Ten who we're pretty sure would still be stars—even in the almighty SEC.
Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa
One position at which the Big Ten consistently produces top-tier NFL-ready talent is the offensive line. As great as some SEC O-linemen have been over the years, absolutely no fair-minded, unbiased person can claim that the Big Ten isn't at the very least on par with the SEC when in comes to the stars of the offensive line.
Brandon Scherff is likely going to be the next high first-rounder to come out of the ranks of the Big Ten's offensive lines. An All-Big Ten selection in 2013, Scherff could have easily decided to skip his senior season at Iowa in favor of the NFL. Instead, the Hawkeyes will have his services for another season.
That dedication also means that Scherff could not only wind up as the best lineman in the conference in 2014, but also secure All-American honors and a first-round spot come the 2015 NFL draft.
Devin Funchess, TE, Michigan
Devin Funchess, a tight end (officially, at least) from Michigan, is not only one of the top tight ends in the Big Ten, but also one of the top ends in the entire nation.
Expect Funchess to be a go-to option this season at Michigan, and he may spend much more time at slot receiver than actually lined up as a true tight end. Of course, his performance at slot receiver is a big reason Funchess is so electric for the Maize and Blue.
As one of the top ball-catching tight ends on any roster, just image how impressive Funchess could be when plugged into one of the pass-loving SEC offenses.
Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
Maryland's Stefon Diggs hasn't played a single Big Ten game, and there are still lingering questions about his health after knee surgery. If Diggs does come back at 100 percent, there's little doubt he'll be among the best wideouts in the Big Ten this season.
The Big Ten might not have the sheer number of top collegiate talent as some other conferences, but the best few receivers match up well when compared to their counterparts from outside the Big Ten. Stefon Diggs is on the cusp of proving he can be among the best in both the ACC and the Big Ten. Believing he could be one of the best in the SEC, too, doesn't require too much imagination.
Shilique Calhoun, DL, Michigan State
Michigan State's Shilique Calhoun not only is an exciting returner at defensive end for Michigan State or the Big Ten, but also might be the top returning defensive end nationally in 2014.
Last season, he led the nation with three defensive touchdowns while adding 7.5 sacks and four fumble recoveries en route to being named a second-team All-American. If you don't think Calhoun would be an absolute stud in the SEC, we suggest asking any SEC coach if he'd prefer to have Calhoun playing for his team or against it.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
At the midway point of the 2013 season, Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon was the Big Ten's leading running back—which is all the more impressive when you consider that he did it while splitting time with James White.
With 1,609 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns in 2013, Gordon's numbers will likely see a boost in 2014 with White's departure. With the SEC's ability to shepherd some of the nation's great young talents into the next generation of ball-carrying superstars, any SEC team would be that much more dangerous with Melvin Gordon on the roster.
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
In 2013, Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah led the Big Ten in rushing yards with 1,690. Among SEC rushers, only Auburn's Tre Mason had more last season. When you compare average yards per game, Abdullah springs into the lead with 130.0 yards per game compared to Mason's 129.7.
Now, just for an instant, imagine what Abdullah could do against an SEC defense? Alabama, which led the SEC in rush defense in 2013, would have been no better than third in the Big Ten in the same category. Florida, which was second, would have been sixth.
What about putting Abdullah behind an SEC offensive line? Even without these SEC gifts, Abdullah may still find himself approaching the magical 2,000-yard mark come November. There isn't a team in the nation that wouldn't want someone like that carrying the football.
Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Braxton Miller has been a Heisman Trophy candidate almost from the moment he took his first snap in an Ohio State uniform. There have been a few speed bumps along the road, but after a solid, if underwhelming, 2013 campaign that included a divisional title, Miller will likely start 2014 in that now-familiar spot as a Heisman hopeful.
As a passer, Miller's numbers leave a little something to be desired. His 174.5 passing yards per game last season was good enough for ninth in the Big Ten. But when you factor in his ground attack, suddenly you have a guy who's putting together over 263 yards of offensive output on any given Saturday.
Add 36 combined passing and rushing touchdowns to the mix, and you now have one of the nation's top dual-threat scorers.
To put that in perspective, 263 yards per game and 36 total touchdowns isn't just the difference between winning and losing; it's the difference between a berth in the College Football Playoff and making a trip to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl for the Big Ten or the Duck Commander Independence Bowl for the SEC—which is to say, where the 6-6 teams end up most seasons.
We often see the Heisman Trophy as an individual award, but that's overlooking the value voters have placed on overall team success these days. Give Miller an SEC team with the support of an SEC defense while adding in some cupcake games against the likes of Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi State, and Miller goes from Heisman hopeful to Heisman lock.
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