Et tu, Bruce?

FootballFolks, ESPN is at it again, desperately trying to convince us that the Buckeyes (and the rest of the Big 10) are only nuts in a SEC-squirrel filled world. Case in point, the “ESPN Mid-Season Reports,” a collection of articles bashing every conference but the SEC.

Columbus writer Bruce Hooley was hired to belittle the Big Ten; and to prove he wasn’t a homer, he quickly regurgitated all the oft-debunked ESPN talking points.

It’s an exercise in futility, I know, to descend into the “line-by-line-reponse” realm common in the sports blogging community. It’s our turn, though. Time to go on the record – for whatever it’s worth.

Naturally, he starts with the Wolverines:

Michigan, ranked fifth in the preseason, became the first top-five team ever to lose to a Division I-AA opponent when Appalachian State upset the Wolverines in Week 1. Just to prove that was no fluke, Michigan got rolled the next week by visiting Oregon.

Yeah, you’d start with Michigan, too, if you wanted your later pathetic argument to be perceived more persuasively. (By the way: Thanks a lot, UM.)

Michigan State bragged about its rebirth after starting 4-0. But the Spartans have since lost at Wisconsin and home against Northwestern, proving that things might not be so different under new coach John L. Dantonio. Sorry, make that, Mark Dantonio.

Oh, SNAP. See folks? If you’re 4-2, and one of those losses came against a top-five team, your coach is compared to John L. Smith. Oh, and if you’re wondering, five teams in the SEC are 4-2, including Florida, Auburn, and Alabama. But ESPN says that’s only because of the conference’s “parity.”

The Badgers were so unimpressive [in their victory against the Citadel], they were branded a 2½-point underdog at unranked Illinois. Deeply wounded by that slight, Wisconsin went out and defended its honor by losing.

Sorry, you’ll need to aim an electron microscope at that paragraph in order to see what Hooley’s point is. Luckily, I have one, yet all I was able to find was a few atoms of rhetorical nonsense orbiting a flawed molecule of assumption. Still, after much analysis, I think I was able to detect two points: (1) that Wisconsin struggled against Citadel, and (2) that they were underdogs to Illinois, both of which make the Big Ten bad.

I guess he never watched Florida struggle against Ole Miss. Or South Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama struggle against… pretty much everyone in or out of conference.

Still, Hooley’s words sound witty and clever, so that means he’s right… right? Certainly it couldn’t be that Illinois is good, right? I mean, they weren’t ranked in the preseason or anything. Ergo, Illinois victory is used as part of the proof that the Big Ten is weak. I mean, if the Big Ten wasn’t weak, then the Badgers would have won that game, right? But wait a second… then Illinois would have lost to a team that struggled against other teams… which would have made the Big 10 look weak… I’m so confused, here. (But then again, perhaps that’s what Bruce was hoping for.)

In today’s lesson, we’ve learned about circular logic. Oh, and speaking of Illinois (snap your helmet tight here, folks):

Now, if you listen really hard, you can hear the laughter all the way from SEC country. Why? Because down South, there could be no bigger indictment of the Big Ten than the fact that Ron Zook has built the second-best team in the league in just 2½ years.

Yeah. It’s a good thing he brought all those southern players with him too, Bruce. Oh, you meant at least he recruited them. Oh, that didn’t happen either? Hm. Oh, you were trying to imply that a Big 10 coach with a southern background would always perform better than his SEC counterpart from a northern background? Les Miles might have a problem with that.

No, what you meant, Bruce, is that clearly Illinois’ strength can’t be tied to the Big Ten, on the sole basis that it would upset your argument. Dolt.

But wait, folks!! He’s changed his mind!

Illinois quarterback Juice Williams has courage, charisma, elusiveness and the passing touch of a longshoreman, as evidenced by his 54.9 completion rate.

…which is still better than a lot of SEC QBs, including the one leading the 7th ranked team in the nation. A pointless stat, meant only to further imply that it isn’t the admirable performance by the Illinois players, just that of their (southern) FANTASTIC (southern) COACH (from the south) that’s responsible.

Given that abundance of mediocrity, Delany’s perpetual stonewalling of a national championship playoff is savvy. Why would he ever bend to that when, the way things are now, an unbeaten Big Ten team need only land a haymaker in the title game to take home the crown? That’s infinitely easier than advancing through a four-, eight- or 16-team bracket against leagues that — imagine this — have more than one team that’s a consensus member of the top 15.

Words escape me.

Wait, I’ll scrounge some up. Ahem. The same thing could be said of any team in any conference not playing in a playoff system. Which means all 115 teams in Division I-A (or FBS, whatever). Why Hooley thinks the above scenario is only applicable to the Big Ten, and therefore proof of Big Ten mediocrity, is something I’ll leave to you as an academic exercise. Or a drinking game.

Until then, I’ll leave you with a few rare, wise words:

If there’s two things I’ve learned during my time on this beat, it’s that the SEC is positively, indisputably the greatest conference in the history of mankind, and little things like logic, facts and common sense have no bearing whatsoever on this distinction.

Tennessee beats Cal last year? Yet another feather in the SEC’s cap. Cal beats Tennessee this year? Completely irrelevant. USC beats Auburn 23-0 in 2003? That wasn’t one of Auburn’s better teams. Auburn goes 12-0 the next year and gets left out of the BCS title game? A crime against humanity, seeing as the Tigers obviously would have beaten the Trojans. Big East champion Louisville comes within an offsides call of edging SEC champ Florida out of last year’s BCS title game? Exhibit A why the whole system needs to be blown up. The fact that Big East champion West Virginia beat SEC champion Georgia in the Sugar Bowl just a year earlier? Eh — the Dawgs weren’t up for that game. Les Miles calls out USC’s “soft” Pac-10 schedule? Well … duh. But wouldn’t that make SEC divisional champion Arkansas — whom the Trojans beat 50-14 just a year earlier — even softer? No, because Darren McFadden wasn’t healthy, and he’s obviously capable of producing 36 points on his own. Florida beating Ohio State like a rented mule in last year’s title game? Indisputable confirmation that the Big Ten can’t hold a candle to the SEC. The fact SEC teams lost their other two bowl games against Big Ten foes? Never happened.

So basically… I wouldn’t waste your time with one of those futile debates. Just accept the SEC’s eternal superiority for what it is and we can all go back to watching The Pick-Up Artist in peace.

Now that’s persuasive. And no, that last bit wasn’t Hooley, it was Stewart Mandel.


  1. Hooley should know better. His comment about Zook coming from the South is way off base. Zook is an Ohio boy, played college football in Ohio, coached high school football in Ohio, coached at Ohio State, etc.

    I used to like Hooley. I’m finding it harder and harder to listen to (and read) him.

  2. He also forgot to mention the fact that Zook recruited the lion’s share of the Florida NC team (and that Urban Meyer is another Ohio boy).

    Plain and simple Zook can recruit, the knock on him is that he isn’t a great X’s and O’s type of coach (he’s like the Pete Carroll of the midwest).

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