If you are a graduate of a Big 10 school and a fan of Big 10 football, you had to come away from Saturday's menu of college football extravaganzas--Florida/Alabama, USC/UCLA and Oklahoma/Missouri--with a bad case of indigestion.
As the great Bobby Jones told a golf writer after seeing Jack Nicklaus for the first time: "He plays a game with which I am unfamiliar."
Well, the SEC, Pac-10 and Big 12 play a game that is unfamiliar to the Big 10. Those teams have more speed, more athleticism and more talent. Not to mention the electric atmosphere and enthusiasm generated by the crowds. You don't see that kind of excitement this side of a Michigan/Ohio State game.
Have you seen a Sam Bradford or Tim Tebow in the Big 10? How about Julio Jones? Does anyone in the Big 10 play defense like USC? Does any school in the Big 10 have one or two offensive players who could break into the starting lineup at Oklahoma?
"There is no doubt that the Big 10 is down in talent compared to the Big 12 and the SEC--and USC may be the most talented team in the country," said recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS College Sports.
So what's the difference?
"It's all about recruiting," Lemming said. "No league is as aggressive as the SEC...Saban, Meyer, Fulmer, Richt...they are relentless, 24/7, non-stop. In the South, football is a year-round occupation. The North isn't as dedicated to football as the South.
"There are more players in the South. Football is more important in high schools in the South. (Ohio State's) Jim Tressel is the best recruiter in the Big 10. And (Illinois') Ron Zook and (Minnesota's) Tim Brewster aren't far behind. But coaches in the SEC are great salesmen."
There are other factors that give the SEC a big edge.
"The SEC has developed a climate of 'win now, baby.' A coach has only a one-year grace period to win because of the competitive nature in the conference," Lemming said. "They have a one-year grace period in the SEC. In the Big 10, they have three years."
Look at the evidence, Lemming said. Arkansas' Bobby Petrino already is on the hot seat after only one year. Saban was harshly criticized after his first-year loss to Louisiana-Monroe. And Auburn's Tommy Tuberville, who had an outstanding 10-year run and beat Alabama six years in a row, was fired after one bad season.
There is truth to the often used argument that the Big 10 is tougher academically than the SEC and Big 12, that kids who can't qualify for the Big 10 end up signing at an SEC or Big 12 school.
There are ways to do it, even legally. Some schools bring in junior college players whose grades are changed legally during summer school. In other cases, kids with bad grades are categorized with a learning disability. As a result, they are permitted to take the ACT exam verbally with no time limit, which makes it much easier to pass.
"In the end, it all comes down to an assistant coach's ability to sell his school," Lemming said. "The Big 10 has everything the other conferences have--good facilities, television exposure and academics. They just don't recruit as aggressively."
Finally, Lemming insists the SEC and Big 12 schools have an edge over the Big 10 because their recruiters understand the basic fundamentals of the process.
"Kids go to school where the spotlight shines," he said. "They look for three things--the best facilities, girls and the quickest way to the NFL."