Urban Meyer's Crosshairs Fixed on Alabama
By Tony Gerdeman
We have all now witnessed an SEC team win the BCS National Championship for a seventh year in a row. Conferences used to fluctuate in terms of who was on top and who wasn't. Right now, it looks like the only fluctuating going on is to see who gets to be the baby seal that gets clubbed by whichever SEC team happens to make it to the hunting party.
Of late, that hunting party has almost entirely consisted of Nick Saban and Alabama, who have won three of the last four BCS National Championships. And even in the year they didn't win it, they spent half the season ranked #1 in the nation.
Saban and Alabama are in the midst of a dynasty right now, and the only way for somebody else to get to the top is to either set their sights on Alabama, or hope somebody else knocks them off.
As long as Nick Saban is stomping up and down the sidelines, the Crimson Tide won't be going away. Waiting for somebody else to knock them off is a sound plan considering only once in their three championship seasons were they undefeated. Though, how sound can it be if they suffer division losses and still play for National Championships?
The first option isn't one that many would attempt. Setting Alabama as a goal, or target, or example to follow is a lofty position to take, and coaches aren't always so eager to be so vocal about their desires.
Generally, a Big Ten coach's ultimate goal is a Big Ten Championship and an appearance in the Rose Bowl. Anything after that is considered gravy. They certainly aren't going to say, "National Championship or bust!"
Photo by Dan Harker
While a Big Ten Championship will always be a goal for Urban Meyer, there's a reason why he's asking his coaches what they have done each day to beat Alabama. There is a reason he is lamenting the fact that he runs into SEC coaches all the time when he's recruiting in the south, but never runs into his fellow Big Ten coaches.
In terms of "eyes on the prize", Meyer's eyes are on Alabama, because they are the program with the most prizes. Meyer wants his program to be the best in the nation. Anybody can say that they want that, including his fellow Big Ten coaches, but how many of them are actually working towards that goal?
I'm not saying that every Big Ten coach should have Nick Saban's mug in their sights, but isn't it refreshing that at least one of them does?
As the lone National Champion contender of the Big Ten Conference for the last decade, Jim Tressel's Ohio State Buckeyes wanted to win the Big Ten, and in doing so, they believed this would put themselves in a decent position to play for the BCS National Championship.
Then, once at the National Championship game, may the best team win, whomever that may be.
But Urban Meyer doesn't want to leave that portion up to chance. He wants to be the absolute best team, and that is why he is targeting the best team.
Don't get me wrong, I've grown as tired of the SEC hyperbole as you have. I get annoyed at the ravings of their television business partners just like you do. But when the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes talks about Alabama more than he does "That Team Up North", then you have to believe that things have changed.
I wonder how many coaches would look at Alabama right now and hope that they'd never have to face them on the game's biggest stage. Brady Hoke certainly wanted no part in playing them this past season. Penn State and Michigan State both scheduled Alabama before the Tide won any of their three recent championships, and I don't see Penn State clamoring to re-up with the Tide any time soon.
But here is Urban Meyer, not quiet about the fact that he knows who the best team in the nation is, and the fact that this is the program he aspires to dethrone. He doesn't hem or haw. There's no need. We all have eyes, ears. We all know the score.
The SEC is at the top of the heap right now, and Alabama is holding the flag.
For the last decade the Big Ten's coaches have insulated themselves from the frigid surroundings of their reality, huddling together for warmth, telling eachother that the sun will be rising and the darkness will be over soon.
They don't see a reason to change, even as they chatter their teeth down to nubs. After a while, a lie becomes believable if it's all you ever hear.
When Urban Meyer got to the Big Ten, he didn't bother huddling with the shivering masses — he built a damned fire.
Right now that fire burns for Alabama, and unapologetically so.
Urban Meyer may be coaching in the Big Ten, but his sights are set on a much bigger target.
Meyer wants National Championships, and he knows that Alabama stands in his way of getting them. He's preparing now for what the future holds, because that's how championships are won.
When his Buckeyes finally do meet "That Team Down South", it will be the result of a ton of hard work and long hours, but more specifically, it will be the ultimate culmination of Meyer's plan to win.
One that he calls "infallible".
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