That's the message of both Georgia coach Mark Richt and Purdue coach Joe Tiller this week. Six years ago the Bulldogs played Wisconsin in a highly anticipated matchup between Georgia's fast-paced offense and Badgers' running back Ron Dayne.
It wasn't a contest. Georgia quarterback Mike Bobo completed more than
90 percent of his passes; tailback Robert Edwards scored three
touchdowns; backup Olandis Gary had 61 yards on just four carries; Dayne
didn't even lead Wisconsin in rushing, and it was clear the Badgers
didn't have enough athletes to keep up with the Bulldogs.
Times have changed, both Capital One Bowl coaches say. No. 11 Georgia
and No. 12 Purdue meet on Thursday at 1 p.m., and Richt and Tiller say
the athletes will be evenly distributed on both sides of the ball.
"The Big Ten is closing that gap between Big Ten teams and SEC teams
from a speed point of view," said Tiller, who still believes the SEC
holds a slight edge.
Tiller pointed to his league's 5-2 record in last year's bowl games,
including Ohio State's 31-24 victory over talent-laden Miami in the
national title game, as evidence of his point.
"The reason I believe we were more successful in postseason play is
that foot speed ratio being better than it used to be," he said. "All
the Big Ten teams have placed a great emphasis on improving their foot
Richt doesn't think the SEC has any speed advantage, especially after
watching hours and hours of tape of the Boilermaker defense, which is
ranked 10th in the nation in total yardage.
"I was hoping to turn on the film and see a lack of quickness or
speed," he said, shaking his head. "The football doesn't look a whole
Bobo, who is now Georgia's quarterbacks coach, said the Badgers played
hardly any man-to-man coverage in that 1998 meeting, but this year's
Boilermakers often rely on single coverage on the perimeter. He added
that Boilermaker defensive end Shaun Phillips is as good or better than
any end Georgia faced this year and that middle linebacker Niko Koutouvides is a "freakin' football player."
"I see a lot of speed when I look at Purdue," Bobo said.
impressed with their athletic ability."
Bobo has noticed a gradual change in Big Ten football based on his
participation in the Wisconsin game, the 2000 Outback Bowl against
Purdue (as a graduate assistant coach) and preparation for this year's
game, he said. The perception that the league was filled to big, slow
oxen was always wrong in Bobo's mind. It was simply a function of a
style of play based heavily on the running game that didn't allow skill
position players to show their talent, he said.
That style has changed over the last decade, thanks to teams like
Purdue who started building offenses around the passing game. Whatever
the reason for the perception, the Boilermakers are glad it's dead.
"You kind of get tired of it," sophomore tight end Charles
"We've got athletes where we're from, too. We're not all just bailing
Capital One Bowl results
(Since 1992, when SEC vs. Big Ten format began)
1992 Georgia 21, Ohio State 14
1993 Penn State 31, Tennessee 13
1994 Alabama 24, Ohio State 17
1995 Tennessee 20, Ohio State 14
1996 Tennessee 48, Northwestern 28
1997 Florida 21, Penn State 6
1998 Michigan 45, Arkansas 31
1999 Michigan State 37, Florida 34
2000 Michigan 31, Auburn 28
2001 Tennessee 45, Michigan 17
2002 Auburn 13, Penn State 9
Purdue's Defense has plenty of Speed.
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