A Southeastern Conference opponent had just finished off a bowl victory over Ohio State, and one of the star offensive players for the victorious side couldn't help but point out just how inferior the Buckeyes were when it came to talent on the field.
"I didn't think there was any way possible that any of their linebackers could cover me one on one," the back said. "They were good. They were fast. I just didn't think they could play at our caliber of competition."
Sounds like a scene that played out a year ago in the desert, does it not? After Florida's resounding 41-14 win over No. 1 Ohio State in the inaugural BCS National Championship Game last season, Florida players were less than impressed with the team that had streamrolled through the regular season undefeated and held the top ranking all season long.
"Honestly, we've played a lot better teams than them," Florida defensive end Jarvis Moss said. "I could name four or five teams in the SEC that could probably compete with them and play the same type of game we did against them."
But no, that original quote was uttered more than a decade ago. It escaped the lips of Alabama tailback Sherman Williams, whose 166 yards rushing, 155 yards receiving and two touchdowns propelled the Crimson Tide to a 24-17 victory over the Buckeyes during the 1995 Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
That loss was just one in a string of failures experienced by Ohio State against the SEC in bowl games. Since 1978, the Buckeyes are a well-documented 0-8 against teams from that league during the postseason.
Ohio State lost under Woody Hayes, a 35-6 shellacking at the hands of Paul "Bear" Bryant in the 1978 Sugar Bowl. The Buckeyes lost under John Cooper – five times in fact, with one of the losses coming in the 1990 Hall of Fame Bowl, three coming in the 1993, '95 and '96 Citrus Bowls and the final an embarrassing loss to South Carolina in the 2001 Outback Bowl that would prove to be Cooper's final game – and they've lost, in 2002 against South Carolina again in the Outback Bowl and last year, under head coach Jim Tressel.
But it's hard to come up with a more damaging loss than the one Ohio State suffered a year ago. Heading into the game, the Buckeyes' 0-7 record against the SEC and the conference's purported speed advantage were talking points but nothing more, merely the talk of those attempting to find some way to give the advantage to Florida against a team that most in the nation had crowned as No. 1 from the word go.
With a victory, it would have seemed that Ohio State could have put that talk to bed, especially after both Penn State and Wisconsin posted New Year's Day bowl wins over SEC foes Tennessee and Arkansas, respectively.
Instead, Ohio State lost in about the worst way possible. Florida's defensive ends constantly got around tackles Kirk Barton and Alex Boone on their way to bottling up Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, whose breathtaking ability to elude Big Ten defenders was sorely lacking against the Gators. Without speedster Ted Ginn Jr., Ohio State's wideouts were unable to get open at any point.
On the other side of the ball, Ohio State played under a defensive scheme that made it look as though the coaching staff was afraid of Florida's skill players. Buckeye defensive backs constantly lined up well off of the line of scrimmage while the Gators continuously moved the chains thanks to open short and intermediate passes.
Gone was any goodwill racked up by the Big Ten after the wins by the Nittany Lions and Badgers.
"We understand it was the national championship game and that was the one that everybody watched," fullback Dionte Johnson said. "I'm not going to say nobody watched the other games, but not as many people saw them or stressed it. We understand that Ohio State is one of the universities that carries the Big Ten on its shoulders."
Yesterday we laid out the SEC's 1-4 record against nonconference opponents who finished the year in the top 25 of the Bowl Championship Series rankings. However, that one was a doozy: LSU's 48-7 win over then-No. 9 Virginia Tech on Sept. 8 in Death Valley. Of course, Virginia Tech finished the year as the No. 3 team in the country and was one of the team's battling LSU to get into the BCS title game.
One of the major complaints about the media's talk this year about SEC dominance comes from fans who feel that the talking heads are subjectively viewing the league as better and then adapting the evidence to that belief. However, even the computers – which take the subjectivity out of the equation – believe that the SEC is the best league in the country. All six of the computers agree on that fact.
The Speed Factor
We'll make this one quick, so to speak.
When Ohio State wants to point to speed, it can point to Brandon Saine. A freshman tailback, Saine came to OSU as a champion sprinter. If the 100-meter dash is the generally agreed upon way in which to measure the fastest human being, then one could call Saine Ohio's fastest high schooler ever, considering he set the state record in the event with a time of 10.38 seconds.
When LSU wants to show that it has fast players, it points to Trindon Holliday, a sophomore who set the school record in the 100-meter dash during last year's outdoor season. Holliday's time? 10.02 seconds.