July 24, 2017

CHICAGO (AP) Ohio State coach Urban Meyer doesn't just believe the Big Ten has closed the gap with the more heralded Southeastern Conference. He is convinced the race is a dead heat already.

''I don't think there's a gap at all,'' Meyer said Monday at Big Ten media days. ''I've coached in the SEC East when that was one of the strongest in the country. And I think the Big Ten East right now is every bit as strong as I can remember the SEC East,'' where he won two national championships at Florida.

Sheer numbers suggest the Big Ten still has some work ahead of it.

The SEC dominated the Big Ten the last two seasons, when it won six of the eight meetings between them. Its average margin of victory was 23.8 points. Five of the wins were by 14 points or more.

The Big Ten won the other two games by a total of 36 points, largely the result of Michigan's 41-7 rout of Florida in the 2016 Citrus Bowl.

The SEC was 2-1 in head-to-head matchups last season. The lone Big Ten success? Wisconsin 16, LSU 14.

''I thought recruiting, I was shocked at the disrespect the Big Ten had in 2012,'' said Meyer, referring to his first season with the Buckeyes. ''I don't feel that at all anymore. I feel a great amount of respect nationally about the Big Ten. You sit and look at the national recruiting rankings and you see the Big Ten everywhere, all over the place, and that's the way it should be.

''So there's a lot of credit to be given, obviously to the administrations that invest in their programs and to the coaching staffs that are out there doing the work. And this is as tough a conference as there is.''

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