SEC Questions Greet Meyer In Chicago

Urban Meyer helped establish the current dominance of the Southeastern Conference, perhaps one reason why he was treated as an expert on the league's relationship to the Big Ten on Thursday at the Big Ten's Media Days. Meyer and his players discussed how the leagues are similar and different in Chicago.

Urban Meyer made his debut appearance Thursday afternoon at the Big Ten Media Days in Chicago, but one might have thought he was in Alabama given the number of questions he was asked about the Southeastern Conference.

Of course, his former league – which has won six consecutive national championships, a run started when Meyer's Florida Gators beat Ohio State to conclude the 2006 season – has been a dominant force in recent years, and the SEC's seldom bashful nature makes it almost impossible to ignore.

However, the new Buckeye mentor, hired in November after capturing a pair of titles at Florida, said the conference ups and downs are simply part of the nature of the beast.

"I remember a time in 2006 when we were trying to get into the national championship game and there were two Big Ten teams ahead of us, so they were the No. 1 conference at the time," Meyer said. "I remember having to try to sell our team, so it's all cyclical."

Meyer didn't shy away from heaping praise on his former league, though, noting that it was impossible to ignore the championship streak that has included two wins by Alabama and single titles by LSU and Auburn in addition to Florida's two crowns.

"The SEC the last few years is kind of the kingpin with the success they've had in the BCS," Meyer said.

At the same time, the Big Ten has floundered at times in the postseason. Though the league has won a BCS bowl in each of the past three campaigns, the Big Ten has just a single winning record – a 4-3 mark in 2009 – in the last nine bowl cycles.

Coming from someone who hasn't worked as a head coach in the league, Meyer said turning that mark around will be the league's first step to the Big Ten asserting itself on the national scale.

"They have to win bowl games," Meyer said. "That's the bottom line in all of this is to win. How far we are from that? The coaches in this conference would know much better than I would. I'll know more obviously next year when you ask that same question. I'll have a much better understanding because I'll be in the stadiums and I'll know the teams much better.

"But I know one thing. I've watched enough film this summer to know there are some very good teams in this conference. I anticipate winning is not that far off."

To get to that point, though, Meyer agreed that the speed differential between the SEC and the Big Ten must be addressed. Southern schools have a deeper well of faster prospects to draw from, something that can be seen when looking at the high school 100-meter dash times put up in the different regions.

"I think that the front seven speed is a difference, and I also think just overall team speed right now," Meyer said. "We're addressing that. I notice it on special teams, in spring practice I noticed that, whether you're three or four, your next best player. So I just think overall athleticism right now we're a little bit behind, but we're recruiting with that motive and that intention and I'm real proud to say it's going very well."

The speed debate was mentioned before the 2006 title game between Ohio State and Florida but really gained traction when Meyer and his Gators used defensive ends Jarvis Moss and Derrick Harvey to get to Heisman-winning quarterback Troy Smith throughout their 41-14 blowout triumph.

Since then, the stories of SEC superiority have built and built, reaching the boiling point for some Ohio State players. Fullback Zach Boren watched Meyer be asked repeatedly about the SEC throughout the day and admitted he wished the questions had a different tone.

"To be honest, all the time," Boren said. "All the time. I hate SEC questions, and I hate other conference questions just because this is the Big Ten. This is Big Ten Media Day. We should be talking about the Big Ten and how great of a conference this really is. There shouldn't be comparisons to other conferences because we are who we are. I feel like we have a really strong conference. We have great teams year in and year out and we should be proud of that."

The Big Ten especially shines on the defensive side of the ball, Meyer said. It's now up to the league to try to get even on a multitude of other levels.

"There's some great defense in this league, which there's always been," the new OSU coach said. "There's several teams right now playing as good as defense as anybody in America. It's going to be interesting, the evolution, in the next few years with the coaching transitions that are taking place.

"So the one thing about college football, it's very cyclical, and the Big Ten for many, many years was without question the No. 1 conference in America. Right now, we're not, but there are a lot of coaches and players right now very intent on making it the best conference in America."

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