Big Ten Thursday mailbag

June, 28, 2012
6/28/12
4:00
PM ET
By the time you read this, I'll be in St. Louis getting ready to get hitched. (Not to David Freese, I swear). I'll be gone the next couple of weeks for the wedding and honeymoon and won't be checking my mail. So if you have questions you want answered in the meantime, make sure to hit up Adam's mailbag.

But for now, I do ... have answers to your questions.

Brian from San Francisco, Calif., writes: Good luck with the nuptials. My question is this: under the new playoff system, what will happen with the "major" bowls (read: former BCS bowls) that are not part of the semifinal rotation in a given year and/or don't already have a long-standing tie-in like the Rose Bowl? I'm thinking of bowls like the Orange, Fiesta and Sugar? Will they be free to bid for the best possible match-up of conference champs or runners-up? Or will the new system rank teams 5 through 10 or 12 who will then play in the other Major bowls? Talk to me?

Brian Bennett: Thanks, Brian (great name and great home city, by the way). How the other "major" bowls -- I use quotes since they may no longer be considered major -- will work hasn't been officially determined. But Adam wrote this in his BCS presidents' meetings primer:
The selection committee could end up selecting participants for more than just the four-team playoff, especially because the additional bowls will provide access for champions from smaller conferences. The same guidelines applied to selecting the playoff participants – strength of schedule, valuing conference championships -- also will be used to determine who appears in some of the additional bowls. For example, if the Mountain West champion and the Big Ten's No. 2 team have comparable profiles, including strength of schedules, and are ranked 12th and 13th, the Mountain West champion likely would get the nod to a big bowl because of its championship.

While I'm sure the bowls would love a free-market system -- there's no question that the games would prefer a third-place Michigan or mid-pack SEC team over the Big East champ, for example -- the sport's leaders have to make sure there is access to big games and money for more than just a few teams. Leagues like the Big East and Mountain West are already going to have a tough time getting into the four-team playoff, and money distribution is going to be a huge deal. If they were also shut out of the Orange and Fiesta type games, you'd hear a lot of howling. I think we'll see some of the bowls maintain traditional partnerships -- like the the Orange with the ACC, perhaps -- but with some more flexibility to avoid games few want to see, like UConn-Oklahoma.

Aaron from Iowa writes: Honestly, who cares about the Rose Bowl? It's just another bowl game that happens to have the best timeslot in the bowl lineup. I still don't understand the B1G's obsession with it. We now have a decent postseason system in place that will allow the champ to be decided on the field. And which provides a better opportunity for the B1G to get a team in. Let's all be happy that they at least have a better chance of getting a team into the title hunt going forward.

Brian Bennett: It's a fair question. Certainly younger fans who have grown up used to the BCS don't have anywhere near the affinity for the Grandaddy than the older generation of Big Ten fans (and administrators). Heck, the Rose Bowl has rarely featured both the Big Ten and Pac-12 champ at the same time in recent years, anyway. I still think it's a tradition worth trying to preserve, because it's easily the best tradition and stage college football has. But there's almost no chance the Rose Bowl will keep its cherished place in the game with a playoff sure to eclipse everything else.

Nic from Vermillion, S.D., writes: I have playoff question for you (shocker)! What is the possibility of a third place game for the losers of the semifinal games. It'd create another exciting match up for sure, but then again would the losers/their fans be thrilled about playing another game after missing out on the championship?

Brian Bennett: I would say no chance. There's no way that coaches and university presidents would agree to an extra game that didn't bring any tangible benefit. And we've already seen that fans whose teams lose in the conference championship games don't travel well to bowl games. They sure wouldn't go to a third-place game after losing in the semifinals.

A.J. from Madison writes: What are the odds Penn State actually gets the death penalty?

Brian Bennett:
Zero percent. The NCAA hasn't wielded its ultimate hammer on a Division I team since SMU in the late 1980s and sure as heck isn't going to break it out in a case where it has highly questionable jurisdiction, at best. It's impossible to predict exactly what the NCAA will or won't do, since this is an unprecedented situation and the NCAA is unpredictable in the most routine scenarios. But Adam and I agree that the NCAA doesn't really have a role in this, and I suspect the most we'll see is some sort of public reprimand.

Ed from Las Vegas writes: Forget about the NCAA. They have no say in what happens to Penn State. What I'm curious to know is what action can the B1G take against Penn State? Could the league exclude Penn State from revenue sharing for a number of years or maybe just expel the school from the B1G? What can the league do? What authority does it have over member institutions?

Brian Bennett: The Big Ten could take any number of actions if the other teams in the league supported it. I am reminded of the Big East kicking Temple out several years ago for poor performance. But I don't see the Big Ten doing much, if anything, for a couple of reasons. One, Penn State is far too valuable of a brand in football for the league to cut ties. And secondly, any attempt to reduce financial payouts or severe contracts would likely result in costly litigation. The Big Ten needs to just look at the Nittany Lions like a family member who made a grave mistake. Forgive and move on.

Philosopher Joe from SpartanNation USA writes: Hi Brian! I've been an enthusiastic reader of the B1G blog for years and welcome your contributions. Great stuff! I have a question about the MSU entry to your Home Run Summer series in which you casually refer to Spartan running back Le'Veon Bell as a "breakout candidate." Can you clarify what you mean by describing Bell in this way. Are you just saying he is a candidate to breakout and have a solid season as MSU's feature RB or are you subtly referring to the notion that he might be a darkhorse candidate for a Heisman? In other words, how high do you think his ceiling is this year? If the O-line is as good as we hope and Maxwell can produce an adequate passing game to keep defenses on their toes, do you think Bell can run well enough and the Spartans can win enough to put him in Heisman contention?

Brian Bennett: Perhaps "breakout" was the wrong word for a guy who ran for 948 yards and 13 touchdowns last year. But I was extremely impressed with Bell this spring. He is so big -- over 240 pounds -- yet so fast and nimble at that size. He put on some moves in practice that made my jaw drop. With an improved offensive line and a full season of first-string carries -- remember that Bell didn't take over as the go-to guy until midway through last year -- he could make a run at 1,500 yards. I wouldn't put him in the Heisman discussion yet, but he could be among the very best running backs in a league that is absolutely stacked at that position.

Jason from Lewis Center, Ohio, writes: Adam ignores me (prima donna!!). You're my only hope. Question....why the "all or nothing" thinking on the margin of victory in the computer rankings? I remember the argument that some teams (*cough*Florida State*cough*) were intentionally running up the scores big to get the computer points. But I think that margin of victory is a good indicator of a team's worth. So, why did they remove it altogether? Why not say margin of victory matters up to 21 points, then no more points after that? Enough to show a difference between eeking by with a 1-point win vs a solid 17-point win, but not enough to warrant throwing bombs down the field with 2 minutes to go and up by 35. Thanks, and congratulations on the hitching!

Brian Bennett: I totally agree, Jason. Let's make it clear that the current computer rankings system in the BCS is a joke. Most of the formulas used are kept secret and can't be double-checked, and we've already seen that at least one system had inaccurate scores inputted into its rankings. And there's no margin of victory component, though we all know that a 21-point victory is much different than a three-point win. The selection committee for the four-team playoff should come up with an entirely new system that can be used as a guideline -- but not the only criteria -- in picking the top four teams. Think the RPI in basketball, which has its own flaws but at least is understood for what it's worth. The best news is that selection committee members can use their own eyeballs and judgments to decide the best teams instead of some inherently flawed computer rankings or polls.

OK, that's all from me, folks. It's hitching time. See you soon.

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