By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
NEW YORK -- Back when I covered the University of Cincinnati football team for the student newspaper, then-coach Tim Murphy often told me about the need for speed.
And this was in the early 1990s.
I've had this conversation with friends a few times over the years, and I try to describe it as simply as possible: speed grows in the south, and that is why the SEC is on top of the sport right now.
Speed, speed, speed.
Back in 1990, Miami, Florida State and Florida were loaded with it. Non-Florida schools were sending their recruiters to the Sunshine State to try to get a taste. And once folks started to catch up to the Hurricanes, Seminoles and Gators, many teams normally built to grind had transformed themselves into track squads.
As an Ohio State fan, I was well aware of the endless criticism John Cooper faced throughout the decade. But one thing people never gave him credit for was his ability to mine Florida, Texas and California before any other Big Ten coach could. He helped turn his conference into more of a speed league, but his Buckeyes -- as well as a national television audience -- saw how far they still had to go when Florida State's Peter Boulware and company dismantled Ohio State in the 1998 Sugar Bowl.
So here we are a decade later. Plenty of people have speed at the offensive skill positions. But where Florida and the SEC elites remain ahead of their peers is on defense. They're stacked with defensive speed that's seemingly comparable to the speed everyone else has on offense. Until that changes, national championships will continue to run through the south, and the blogosphere will keep laughing at everyone else.