Happy New Year! And with that we bring an end to the bowl season which was surprisingly unpredictable. The Big Ten rebounded (sort of) and the Pac-10 struggled. Of the “AQ” conferences the Big East had a best 4-2 record while the Mountain West went 4-1 to pace the “Non-AQ” conferences. No conference went winless but the MAC would have without Central Michigan’s exciting overtime win.
What struck me most about the Big Ten’s performance was how the public’s perception of the conference, as slow and less athletic than the other big conferences, didn’t really prove true this year. More to the point I had a few individuals contact me asking whether the Big Ten really WAS slower than the other conferences? So I decided to do a player study across all the Division I FBS conferences…more on that in a bit.
It is worth noting that the Big Ten had quite a few offensive players (NOT voted to the coaches’ all-conference teams) with outstanding bowl game performances. To name a few…Northwestern’s Andrew Brewer, Drake Dunsmore and Sidney Stewart had great stats in a losing effort against Auburn. Ohio State’s Terrelle (I didn’t really run 4.33 in the forty but maybe 4.45) Pryor, Brandon Saine and Devier Posey really made Oregon feel that Big Ten “speed and athleticism”!! Wisconsin’s Lance Kendricks torched a speedy Miami secondary for over 120 yards. Derek Moye of Penn State had three receptions and a touchdown catch in a victory over LSU. Brandon Wegher put on a rushing clinic against Georgia Tech and Michigan State’s Edwin Baker and Keshawn Martin each had huge games against Texas Tech which was touted as being much faster team. Again none of these players were voted all-conference by the coaches but each did a great job showcasing the conference’s depth in speed and overall athleticism.
It should come as no surprise that all of the players named above had successful high school track and field careers (Pryor only ran briefly as a freshman). Nearly all of them were state or national caliber track athletes.
Okay getting back to the all-conference player study…I took it to task and researched every 2009 FBS all-conference first and second team (as voted by the coaches). I specifically documented high school track participation and specific track statistical performances of each player per conference. In my opinion this is one way to gauge the overall speed and athleticism of each conference, at least in terms of elite level players.
What I discovered probably wasn’t too shocking but the AQ conferences had higher levels of players with track and field backgrounds and, at least in a statistical sense, superior speed and athleticism. Yes, at the all-conference end of the player spectrum the Big Ten lacked in the speed and athleticism department in comparison to the Pac-10, Big 12 and SEC. However from top to bottom and roster-to-roster the Big Ten compares pretty favorably with the other big conferences.
The study totals were as follows: 11 conferences, 545 players, 313 participated in high school track and field (57.4%). Only eight freshman, true and redshirt, from all 11 conferences received either first or second team recognition. Apparently freshman aren’t named all-conference at a very high clip.
Here’s the study breakdown please take it for what you want. The data outcomes do not appear to be a good indication of how each conference did in terms of bowl wins and losses. That said several relatively young and or unknown Big Ten players had huge impacts on the bowls. Again, nearly all of those players were outstanding high school track and field athletes.