Thanks to Houston’s dominant win over Louisville last night, it looks like the Big Ten is, barring total chaos, the only conference left with the possibility of getting two teams in the playoff.
That made for some good timing for this “How the Big Ten flipped scripts with the SEC” story from Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com. If you ever eye-rolled at one of the SEC narratives over the years, you sort of have to approach this with the same skepticism, but Solomon does a thorough job of trying to find some real answers here.
A lot of the Big Ten’s “resurgence” here is tied to the hiring of Urban Meyer. According to Solomon, Meyer may have broken up a gentlemen’s recruiting agreement and, of course, it was his 2014 Buckeyes that got the statement-making wins in the first College Football Playoff to make this sort of conversation even feasible.
From there, it was up to the rest of the conference to keep up. But the real reason the Big Ten is in a better spot than it was five years ago? In my estimation, it’s this section from Solomon’s story:
So what changed for the Big Ten? The coaches. This was always the Big Ten’s biggest problem, even more than its very real recruiting concerns based on population shifts from the Midwest to the South.
“We should be good,” [commissioner Jim] Delany said. “I think the leadership the coaches have provided is probably the biggest difference. I don’t think you can be really good without great leaders in those roles. But no matter how great the leadership is, you need players. It’s a combination of things. For sure, we’re on a nice trajectory.”
Of course that’s the explanation to which I’m drawn. I sort of live on the coaching-matters-most corner, but good move by Delany there to mention recruiting again. He gets it. To be a really good and deep conference, you have to have both. If you forced me to pick one or the other, however, I’m still taking the coach.
The thing that really stuck out to me about this story, however, is that Nebraska is barely a part of the larger discussion. Mike Riley gets a mention as one of the new coaches in the conference, but a lot of the other discussions — coaching salaries, big recruiting-rankings bumps, etc. — aren’t really applied to the Huskers here.
That’s because they don’t totally fit. In a lot of ways, I don’t really lump Nebraska in with what’s happening elsewhere in the Big Ten either. (For what it’s worth, I don’t know that I’d put Wisconsin in there either.) We’ll see if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
But it’s more than OK if they path doesn’t necessarily fit narrative. It’s more important that the record does.
The Grab Bag
- Jim Delany said this week that the Big Ten’s decision to add Friday night games was not a “financial consideration.”
- Interesting discussion of Snapchat here as a major player in NFL and college football content.
- Eric Olson of the Associated Press looks at the Aussie invasion currently happening in the collegiate kicking ranks.
- ICYMI: Here are the latest injury updates from Mike Riley’s time with the media on Thursday.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.