HOOVER, Ala. -- As it often happens these days, a recent conversation in a coach's office -- one far, far from the SEC -- eventually turned to the SEC. That's the typical situation when a conference goes on an unprecedented six-titles-in-a-row win streak.
In discussing the differences in their respective leagues, searching for reasons -- hidden and glaring -- why the SEC has been so recently dominant, coaches often circle back to the same, large subject: defensive linemen.
"Even the bad teams [in the SEC] have good defensive linemen," the coach said, leaning back in his chair. "It changes the way you have to play offense. Almost every team there has a lineman you might not be able to block. You have to figure out how you're going to pass protect or run block that guy. I think that's the main difference."
Not to pick on Kentucky Wildcats coach Joker Phillips, but, well, not much is expected of his team in 2012. Phillips is clawing to keep his job. They are one of the league's "bad" teams. And? "The strength of our team is the defensive line, those guys up front," Phillips volunteered Wednesday when talking about his team to a trio of ESPN.com reporters.
Will Muschamp played at Georgia and was a young coordinator at LSU and Auburn. He then went to Texas, to run its defense, from 2008-10 before being hired last year as Florida's head coach.
Those years away from the conference provided a great appreciation and respect for the number of athletic freaks the SEC employs on its defensive fronts. "It's every week," Muschamp said. "Top to bottom, that's the difference in our league."
So how does it keep happening? Why do menacing pass-rushers and nearly-impossible-to-block tackles continue to end up on SEC campuses?
To read the rest of Travis Haney's blog on how the SEC produces elite defensive lines, you must be an ESPN Insider.