Big Ten mailbag

Adam is taking one last bit of time off this week before the season kicks into high gear. So I've taken over his regular Tuesday mailbag slot. I'll also be doing another mailbag later this week and may do both Thursday and Friday if there is enough demand. Send your questions here if you've got them.

On to the mail ...

Dan S. from Davenport writes: People have been talking up Matt Barkley at USC as being the Heisman favorite this year. It had me wondering: why hasn't Denard Robinson been discussed more in the talks? Having seen both QBs in action at ND games (I'm a ND fan), I personally believe that Denard had a better way of disabling any defense better than Matt Barkley. I'm not saying this based on their performances in just the Notre Dame games, but in seasons as a whole. It seems like Robinson is the more talented QB who can not ony throw the ball but take off and be just as dangerous running the ball. Why don't people give him as much attention as Barkley is just my bottom question?

Brian Bennett: Dan, I believe Robinson is very much in the preseason discussion. People basically know what to expect from Shoelace after his past two years. He has been a Heisman candidate in the early part of the season but hasn't stayed consistent throughout. And simply put, a quarterback can't complete only 55 percent of his passes and throw 15 interceptions, as Robinson did a year ago, and expect to win the Heisman. But if he can improve his passing numbers considerably, and if Michigan can have a huge year, Robinson will be right in the mix.

Robert R from Enlightened City writes: Please don't take this as a personal attack, I just strongly disagree. What I disagree with is your stance on the NCAA rulings on Penn State. You have constantly said that Penn State has no grounds for appeal because they accepted the NCAA sanctions. I don't deny that they accepted them but argue that the way the sanctions were portrayed to them was not just. The key element you are missing in your opinion is that the NCAA threatened Penn State to a 4-year death penalty if they didn't accept the smaller ones without appeal. They had no choice but to accept the far less severe penalties or else, even if they won a case later, which I believe they probably would have, all of their players would have already left and the program would still be in complete shambles. Thus the agreement can't be taken seriously because they were forced to sign it by unfair means. I think the key thing that people are missing is even if you agree with the punishments, the punished must have their right to due process. The NCAA by essentially not allowing appeal, not going through their normal procedures, making a decision just days after the Freeh Report came out, and lacking any jurisdiction in their rule book to even punish Penn State makes this a greatly mishandled punishment, violating the foundations of our country, and modern theories on human rights. ....

Brian Bennett: Robert, I appreciate your reasonable and respectful stance on the issue and wish more people could take that same approach. I do not have a law degree, which I'm sure is shockingly new information. However, I just don't see how you can argue due process here. The NCAA is not a court of law. It is a voluntary, membership-led organization. Penn State could have chosen to fight the sanctions, even though it would have been very messy and probably would have led to a much worse situation for the program. Instead, it agreed to them and waived its right to any hearing or appeal. That consent decree would be the first thing the NCAA's lawyers would bring out in court, and it seems to me it would be very difficult to challenge. I could be wrong, but I just don't think this is a case Penn State could win (and it certainly won't have any support from the public at large in such a fight). And I believe it's best for everyone if all parties try to move forward.

Jordan from Philadelphia writes: With the transfer rules at Penn State, is there a window of opportunity to transfer? In other words, can I player transfer anytime he feels like it in the next for years without having to sit out?

Brian Bennett: The wording in the NCAA rules on Penn State reads as follows:

"Penn State football student-athletes can decide to transfer from now until the 2013 season (before participating in preseason practice with Penn State) and play immediately at the new school."

I checked with an NCAA spokesperson earlier this month as to whether that meant players needed to transfer before the 2013 fall practice began or if also applied to 2012 preseason practice. I was told it meant both. So if that's the interpretation, any player who began practice this month with Penn State can't transfer and be immediately eligible until after the season. And the free pass expires next August.

Jim P. Albuquerque, NM, writes: Denard Robinson from Michigan did not claim he could hang with Usain Bolt in a 40-yard dash. He said he could beat him. Taylor Martinez runs a 4.3 in the 40. Can Denard beat Taylor Martinez in a 40 or 100 meter race? What are your thoughts? Should Denard be in track or football if he is the fastest man in the world?

Brian Bennett: Hello, Jim, and watch out for Heisenberg down there. He's a bad man. Anyway, I saw where Robinson said he could beat Bolt in the 40-yard dash. I'm sure it was mostly in fun, and any good competitor has to have confidence in himself. But let's be real. Bolt gets faster as he goes down the track, but if he trained for the 40-yard dash, he'd blow everyone away. The man ran 9.63 seconds in the 100 meters while slowing down at the end. Even Robinson's former teammate, Troy Woolfolk, says it wouldn't be close.

Robinson vs. Martinez would be a better match, and I think it would be close. Martinez has sneaky speed and seems to really accelerate once he gets going. I'd still bet on Robinson, though I'd love to see it either way.

Richard E. from Colorado Springs, Colo., writes: Man! Your worst case for my Illini was some scary stuff! Shouldn't you have saved that for Halloween!?

Brian Bennett: Sorry about that. Just know that is absolutely the worst-case scenario. Some pointed out the extreme disparity in the scenarios, from 11 wins and a Big Ten title in the best case to 4-8 the other way. That's because, to me Illinois is really a big mystery team. It's very hard to predict how its season will go. I don't expect such a big swing for many other teams in that series.

DC Spartan from Washington, D.C., writes: Hi Brian! Love the blog and read it every day. Connor Cook and Tyler O'Connor looked sharp at the fall scrimmage -- each had long TD passes -- and Cook did well in the Spring. Personally, I'm very excited about O'Connor's abilities. Is there a possible QB battle brewing in East Lansing?

Brian Bennett: Thanks for the kind words, DC. There's no controversy at all in Sparta. The coaching staff has extreme confidence in Andrew Maxwell, and remember they have now seen him in practice for four years. O'Connor is drawing good reviews but will almost assuredly redshirt, barring an emergency. Michigan State does need him and Cook to develop in case they need to fill in for Maxwell, however.

Eric from Lake Villa, Ill., writes: How do you think Northwestern will do with USC transfer Kyle Prater joining the team?

Brian Bennett: The word out of the Wildcats' camp is that Prater is banged up and has missed the past couple of practices. Remember that he was hurt at USC as well and wasn't 100 percent this spring. So tamper down your expectations of Prater, at least early on. But Northwestern still has a deep, talented receiving corps. Scoring points will not be the issue in Evanston.

Steven from Madtown writes: Is Montee Ball a jaywalking ticket from pulling a Honey Badger and getting kicked out? It seems like a lot of the media has knocked him down a few pegs from his "recent trend of legal troubles," but a trespassing ticket and being in the same building as a fight hardly seems like situations where any conclusions about one's character can be drawn.

Brian Bennett: Steven, I was uncomfortable with some of the things being written and said about Ball last week. It seemed to me people were jumping to conclusions and speculating about what had happened without any information. We could still find out that there was more to his attack or that he was involved in a fight that led to it, but as of now we have no evidence of that and have to take his word for it. Anyone who read details of the trespassing citation knows how minor that was. Did getting his name in some of these offseason headlines damage Ball's reputation a bit nationally? I think it did. But I also think people will forget about them once he starts scoring touchdowns.