- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Well, Adam's back from Turkey, so this turkey is back in his usual Thursday mailbag slot. Everything in its right place, as it were.
Let's see what's on your mind before the madness tips off again ...
Paul from Owatonna, Minn., writes: It seems like the 2002 Iowa team is an obvious snub from your B1G Champions Tournament. That team, like 2002 OSU, went 8-0 in conference and ended up playing in the Orange Bowl and was ranked as high as #3 in the BCS Rankings at the end of the year.That team featured Heisman runner-up Brad Banks, Mackey Award winner Dallas Clark and Lou Groza winner Nate Kaeding as well as All-Americans Bob Sanders, Eric Steinbach and Robert Gallery. Banks was named the AP College Football Player of the Year, won the Davey O'Brien Award and the Silver Football from the Chicago Tribune. How could you have left one of the best Big 10 teams of the decade out of your tournament?
Brian Bennett: That was an excellent team for sure, Paul. But as I said in my criteria for picking teams, you had to win a conference title and either win a BCS bowl or play for the national title. Those Hawkeyes got blown out in the Orange Bowl by USC.
Pavlov's Dog from Mother Russia writes: Quick point to my Spring Game question in regards to your answer.As a fan, I don't think the spring game is over-rated as you say. It gives me a chance to get the entire family into the Shoe for under $100.00 to watch Ohio State football and the kids love it. If not for the Spring Game, that day of taking the wife and kids to a game would be well over $400.00 when it's all said and done. Both my wife and I are Alum and think it's a great annual family event that our kids will always remember, hopefully they will have a chance to do with kids of their own some day. In my opinion, you can't over-rate family moments and tradition.
Brian Bennett: When I said spring games are overrated, I meant from a journalistic point of view. Coaches usually keep things pretty vanilla in the spring game, and guys like me can learn a lot more from regular practices. For fans, it's a chance to see the team in a game-day-like setting in the stadium and (hopefully) under good weather conditions. Nothing wrong with that. We just don't cover them like we do regular games or place a lot of meaning on them.
Lance from Greensboro, N.C., writes: Brian, a couple of times when you were asked why teams that don't win their conferences should be in a football playoff, you say it happens in other sports. However, isn't that somewhat disingenuous? When the basketball tournament had only 16 teams, only conference champions (plus top indies) were let in. Since we're talking about a 4 or 8 team tournament, is it really fair to compare it to a 68 team basketball tournament? It seems the fairer comparison is to the old, smaller tournament, when losing your conference meant elimination. Picking the four or eight best is so subjective. Given auto-bids to the champs is objective, and it means we'd never have to talk about a computer ranking again!
Brian Bennett: And I could argue that some very good, very worthy basketball teams who could have won the title were left out of the tournament under the old system, simply because they happened to play in the same conference as, say, Kentucky, UCLA or North Carolina. Let's face it: all conferences are not created equal and every league has its ups and downs. If we're trying to fix the system, let's make sure we have one that determines who the best teams really are and not make restrictions that could keep potentially great teams out of it.
Stephen from St. Louis writes: As a PSU fan, I have a horse in the Danny O'Brien transfer race, but objectively I think it is a bad idea for Wisconsin to go after him. Yes it will help this year and perhaps next, but I think it might hinder recruiting efforts going forward. What does it say to a recruit that their coach doesn't have faith in who he recruited but will constantly go after transfers for QB? Any decent QB might become wary about opting for Wisconsin. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett: I see your point, although I think this is a special circumstance for Wisconsin because of the injuries they've had at quarterback. If Jon Budmayr and Curt Phillips were fully healthy, and if incoming freshman Bart Houston didn't recently have surgery, I don't think the Badgers would be as eager to land a transfer quarterback. But they simply need an experienced option at the position on a team that looks otherwise good enough to win the Big Ten, and O'Brien could provide a nice bridge to Houston, who could redshirt this year behind him. There is a danger of being labeled Transfer U., but I also think as a coach, you have to do whatever you can to help the team go for a championship.
Wolverine Student from Ann Arbor writes: You obviously have a lot to learn about the Big Ten if you think Michigan v. Michigan State will ever be bigger than Michigan v. Ohio State. From Michigan's standpoint the order of importance will always be 1. Ohio State 2. Notre Dame 3. MSU no matter the record implications.
Brian Bennett: Of course, the Ohio State game is more important to the fans. But in terms of the Big Ten race this year, I think the Michigan State game is bigger. In my early-subject-to-change opinion, Michigan and Michigan State are the two best teams in the league this season, and they play in the same division.
? @mike_difiglia writes: How is Michigan State not your favorite to take home the big ten championship and make it to at least the #rosebowl this year?
Brian Bennett: I've been going back and forth between Michigan and Michigan State. Gun to my head right now, I'd take the Spartans, but it's close. I'll be visiting both schools next month and will formulate some a more concrete opinion after that. Key question: Can first-year quarterback Andrew Maxwell lead his team to a championship?
@KevKenny87 writes: Which will happen first? A B1G natl champion or another 7 year SEC title run?
Brian Bennett: The SEC's run has been historic and wildly impressive, but don't forget some things really had to bounce right for it to happen. What if the voters went for an Ohio State-Michigan rematch in 2006 instead of elevating Florida? Only a completely chaotic finish in 2007 allowed a two-loss LSU team to play for the title. And, of course, if some other team had made a more convincing case last year, Alabama wouldn't have gotten a shot. So maybe I'm being optimistic, but I think the Big Ten will win a national title in the next few years and the SEC run will finally come to an end. We can all hope.
1dMitch Sherman and Josh Moyer
5dDan Murphy and Mitch Sherman