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Saban, Bielema take swipes at B1G

5/28/2013

Oh, SEC. You've won seven straight BCS titles and have cemented your status as the nation's top football conference. So why do you feel the need to take potshots at the Big Ten, a league most of your fans would say is no threat at all?

The annual SEC spring meetings/media mini-circus is underway, and it didn't take long before the Big Ten came up as a topic of conversation. Alabama head coach Nick Saban was asked about the strength of the SEC last year, when the league at one point had six teams in the top 10 (Florida, South Carolina, Texas A&M, LSU, Georgia and Saban's own Crimson Tide). Saban was asked how Ohio State would have fared against those six? He answered: "Would they have beaten them all? Would they have beaten three of them?

"I think they have a really good team, and I think Urban (Meyer) is a great coach. I'm not questioning any of that. I'm just saying that's where the strength of schedule and who you play doesn't get accounted for quite equally."

The timing of the answer is interesting, given that Ohio State has been ranked ahead of Saban's two-time defending champs. I don't think the Buckeyes would have beaten Alabama last year, certainly not the way the Crimson Tide played in the BCS title game against Notre Dame. They looked unbeatable that night in South Florida. Texas A&M also would have caused a lot of problems with Johnny Manziel.

But Michigan nearly beat South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, Nebraska hung with Georgia for more than three quarters in the Capital One Bowl and Florida got run over by Louisville in the Sugar Bowl. LSU would have probably been a toss-up, especially if Urban Meyer had a month to prepare against Les Miles. So, yes, I believe Ohio State would have -- or at least could have -- beaten three of those teams.

Alabama, by the way, played only three teams out of that group, beating LSU and Georgia in games that went down to the wire and losing at home to Texas A&M. The Tide did not face Florida or South Carolina. Would they have beaten them all?

New Arkansas coach Bret Bielema was asked about the Big Ten when he made comments about the league on Tuesday. You might remember Bielema, when he was the coach at Wisconsin last year, complaining about some of Meyer's recruiting tactics. Bielema famously said this to Sporting News in February 2012: "I can tell you this: we at the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC -- in any way, shape or form."

Of course, that's probably not a quote that Bielema is happy to reminded of now that he's in the SEC. Asked about it at the SEC meetings, he reportedly responded: "In the Big Ten, we disliked the SEC because of the success they had."

Um, OK. So Bielema was in effect saying last year that the Big Ten doesn't want to be like the SEC because it didn't want to be successful? Raise your hand if you're buying that. But you can understand why Bielema would try to live down that quote and play to his new fan base.

What we can't understand is why the SEC feels the need to talk about the Big Ten at all right now.