Back in 1995, many supposed college football experts tried to make the claim that Nebraska's option offense was obsolete. Defenses were too fast. What was en vogue was the high powered passing attacks such as Florida's "Fun and Gun".
Then 62-24 happened. What did that game show? First of all, the option offense wasn't necessarily dead. And two, having a great defense probably matters more.
Fast forward to current days and what do we find? Well, a new variant on the option is becoming all the rage: the spread option. Urban Meyer won a national title in just his second year in Gainesville with it. And as time goes on, we're seeing aspects of it just about everywhere.
Except, for the most part, the Big Ten.
The Big Ten might be the football conference that time passed by. They have storied, tradition rich programs such as Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State. They control some of the major media markets of the midwest and the east. And that means that in the mindset of many, the Big Ten is relevant.
Even when they aren't any more.
Case in point: last years BCS Title Game. There was an uproar from Big Ten country that claimed that the game really should have been a rematch between Ohio State and Michigan. Then the bowl season occurred, and the Big Ten went 2-7. The year before that, 3-4. Ohio State and Michigan? Both got blasted in their bowl games.
What happened to the Big Ten? Simply put...football in recent years has become a speed game. Except of course, in the Big Ten. Husker fans watched their Big Ten-style defense get bulked up by Kevin Cosgrove, and found themselves gashed week after week by, you guessed it, the spread option.
This year, the spread option did arrive in the Big Ten, and Illinois used it to jump from the dregs of the conference to a Rose Bowl berth this season. And now, Michigan took a bold move by hiring Rich Rodriquez away from West Virginia. There's no sense in denying it anymore, Big Ten. The 21st Century has arrived.
Will Rodriguez be a success in Ann Arbor? Only time will tell. But one thing is clear, the arrival of Rodriguez in the Big Ten means that times will change. Defenses will need to evolve in the Big Ten and become modern. They'll have to learn how to defend these offenses.
It might be rocky for Michigan at first. Certainly, Ryan Mallett can't be too excited. But Rodriquez has shown he can evolve, and might be able to adapt to Michigan's talent initially. But the key is to find a running quarterback, and quickly. There looks to be some continuity at running back, and no matter what Rodriguez does, he'll run the ball.
But the gauntlet has been laid. The Big Ten cannot ignore modern football anymore. It finally invaded the heart of the conference.