Michigan’s national title could signal end of SEC’s dominance

As maize-and-blue confetti rained down from the NRG Stadium rafters, the Big Ten’s dominance in college football seemed to be solidifying. The national title game was the culmination of a process that began five months ago when the Big Ten poached several teams from the Pac-12, including UDub, Oregon, USC, and UCLA. This move was prompted by the Pac-12’s failure to secure a media deal to replace their expiring contract with ESPN, which put them at a financial disadvantage compared to the Big Ten and SEC.

For years, the Big Ten has been seen as a slower, less explosive version of college football compared to the SEC. Factors such as snow precipitation and a lack of recruiting hotbeds have put Big Ten schools at a disadvantage. Meanwhile, the SEC gained momentum with a lucrative television deal with ESPN and the addition of profitable programs from the Big 12. The Big Ten appeared to be stuck in the shadow of the SEC.

But this summer, the Big Ten experienced a dramatic growth spurt. According to USA Today, the Big Ten distributed $845.6 million in the 2021-22 fiscal year, compared to the SEC’s $802 million and the Pac-12’s $37 million. The Big Ten’s financial advantage is set to double next season with their new CBS deal. This financial disparity prompted the Pac-12 to make the move to join the Big Ten.

On the field, the SEC has dominated college football, winning 13 of the last 17 national titles. However, the future looks promising for the Big Ten. The conference has made efforts to match the SEC’s recruiting power and has seen success in recent years. Urban Meyer’s importation of SEC speed to the Big Ten set the stage for Michigan to find success under Jim Harbaugh. The conference’s lack of recruiting hotbeds and cold weather have always been obstacles, but the rise of spread offenses has leveled the playing field.

The addition of UDub, Oregon, USC, and UCLA to the Big Ten brings established brands, robust media markets, and a renewed sense of excitement. These schools hail from regions that have produced numerous first-round quarterbacks, a position that has historically been a weakness for the Big Ten. With the Big Ten’s increased resources and recruiting power, the conference has the potential to become more than just a two-team conference.

While the Big Ten has made significant strides, there is still work to be done. The Pac-12 schools can bring their expertise in quarterback development to the conference, while the Big Ten can teach them about the tenets of a rugged defense. The Big Ten’s expansion and the continued success of Harbaugh’s satellite camps show that the conference’s influence knows no bounds.

The Big Ten’s harvest is ripening, and it’s clear that the conference is no longer content to be seen as the SEC’s vassal. With their financial advantage, recruiting power, and the addition of strong programs from the Pac-12, the Big Ten is poised to become a force to be reckoned with in college football. Whether Jim Harbaugh stays in Ann Arbor or returns to the NFL, the Big Ten has changed since 2015, and its future looks bright.

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