Ding dong, the King is dead. Long live the King. It’s not accurate to call Nick Saban’s Alabama empire over. He’s still pumping in crazy talent to Tuscaloosa, has some of the deepest pockets and best resources in the nation, and has proven to be the best coach in college football.
But the last decade of Alabama Authority may be giving way to the Buckeye Battalion. Urban Meyer is coming off an improbable national championship, and has built the deepest, most talented team in the nation. He’s got so many quarterback options Braxton Miller finished in the Heisman top 10 twice, and is now switching to H-Back.
So Ohio State takes 6’5″, 250-pound Cardale Jones and lets him duke it out with slithery, electric J.T. Barrett under center, then slides one of the country’s best athletes onto the field with them. Jones won the national title last year and became an overnight sensation. Barrett went 10-1 before he was injured. This is like choosing between the Hummer or the Bugatti for a night out.
Recruiting is pretty decent too right now. Unanimous All-American defensive end Joey Bosa was one of the most important pieces of the Buckeyes title last year. Younger brother Nick is a top-3 recruit in the country, and Thursday he announced he would be following the family data plan to Columbus. Not a bad add, and coming off one of the nation’s best recruiting classes in February.
To make things a little more frightening for the power programs around college football, Ohio State doesn’t have nearly the competition in its conference like the SEC does. In the last decade, LSU, Alabama, Auburn and Florida took turns kissing the crystal football. It’s virtually impossible to imagine the Big 10 (or any conference) developing four different schools that win the College Football Playoff over the next decade.
Michigan State is very good. Michigan should eventually return to elite status under Jim Harbaugh. Wisconsin is always in the mix, but is on its third coach in four years. Nebraska has been caught in 8-win land since Tamagotchis were cool. Penn State should improve under James Franklin. And I’m sure Iowa is building yet another wing on Kirk Ferentz’s house after a Groundhog’s Day 7-6.
But realistically where’s Ohio State’s land mine-filled road to January supposed to come from over the next 3-5 years? Every Saturday can be a detonation zone in the SEC. The Buckeyes are cruising on a four-lane highway at 5am. Nobody else on the road.
Longtime college football analyst Tim Brando told me, “(Meyer’s) going to have more staying power than Saban’s had at Alabama for the sheer fact that the SEC is far more talented up and down its conference than the Big Ten right now.”
You have to wonder if the SEC also realizes it’s eating itself. While verbal spats and inner politics are one of the glorious reasons the conference is so interesting, it feels like a little desperation has started to seep in. Saban pointed out NFL distractions for his players last week. Steve Spurrier ripped into those who say he’s too old a few days ago. Gus Malzhan thinks the conference is wearing down its teams before the postseason.
“I’m tired of hearing of hearing the SEC coaches in general make excuses,” Fox Sports’ Stewart Mandel said on my show. “It just seems like now that they’ve been knocked off their perch a bit, everybody’s got a different explanation for why they didn’t win last year, aside from just Ohio State was really good.”
Ubran isn’t cuddly, he’s not warm. He looks a little like villainous Kobra Khan from He-Man. But he’s built a machine. And that thing is going to be nearly impossible to stop for the foreseeable future. O-H-I… Oh boy.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.