Big Ten Thursday mailbag

September, 6, 2012
9/06/12
5:00
PM ET
It may only be Week 2, but the mailbag is in midseason form. Let's do this.

Alex from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Why is everyone so up in arms over Spartans players tweeting about Denard Robinson performance during the Alabama game? I don't agree with current players tweeting like they did, former players are a different story, but why such the backlash? The way I see it, although still not condoning it, the players on Michigan State team have the right to talk a little smack after beating the Wolverines four straight times.

Brian Bennett: I'm all for free speech and smack talk, Alex. I just thought it was a little much for Michigan State's guys to be running their mouths about how Michigan couldn't hang with Alabama, since the Spartans had their own problems against the Crimson Tide not so long ago. Besides, there's no reason to give the Wolverines so much bulletin board material before the game, and Mark Dantonio could not have liked that. But that just gives all of us one more reason to count down the hours to that kickoff on Oct. 20. It's going to be epic.

Reed from J'ville N.C., writes: Let me just start by saying it's hard being a Nebraska fan here on the east coast! But being in a military town makes the fan base very diverse. In my opinion I see Nebraska going undefeated this year. With that said this is if they can play consistently. The only team I see as being a real challenge is tOSU. But I think it will be like the 2010 OK State game. Next part is if Nebraska does make my dreams come true and finishes B1G Champs undefeated, would they be in the National Championship game? Would they be ranked above a 1 loss Big 12 team?

Brian Bennett: The Huskers looked terrific against Southern Miss, but it's way too early to be talking about undefeated seasons. Nebraska has tough road games against Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa, not to mention difficult home matchups with Wisconsin and Michigan. And that's just the conference schedule, as UCLA will not be a pushover this weekend. Nebraska has had a tendency to lose one game it shouldn't the past few years as well. All that said, if Taylor Martinez can maintain his level of play from Week 1, this is going to be a serious Legends Division contender, and I like Nebraska's schedule better than those of both Michigan and Michigan State. If Nebraska goes undefeated, its schedule would likely be good enough to get it into the BCS title game. But that's a long way away.

Brian from Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: Hey Brian, love the blog. Great name by the way. And great selection in shows (Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Parks & Rec, etc.) and women (Zooey). Anyway, I have question about Michigan. I'm not panicking after one game, but how do you see the offense performing the rest of the way? Alabama shut UofM down and it reminded me of the last two MSU-UM games. It is surprising that more teams did not use the MSU gameplan last year. Is that because other teams do not have the players on D like MSU and Alabama? I heard something about Alabama coaches visiting MSU coaches for some gameplan assistance. Is it possible that we see more teams use those defensive game plans this year and hold the UofM offense in check better than the past two seasons?

Brian Bennett: Well, my greatly-named friend, I would say that game-planning becomes a whole lot easier when you have athletes on defense like Alabama and Michigan State. But few teams in the country have defenses quite like those two, so it's not exactly like other opponents can simply copy the blueprint. I would say the best way to contain Michigan is to be extremely physical and to not let Denard Robinson get out of the pocket. Of course, everyone would like to do that and few can. I think the Wolverines' offense will be fine, though I'm concerned about the lack of depth on the offensive line and the receiver position. Getting Fitz Toussaint back this week should make a huge difference.

Eric from San Fran writes: What are your thoughts on UofM's season now? Obviously, it is still a bit early to tell, and Bama is a top 5 team...but the glaring weaknesses on both lines was apparent. A few injuries have already occurred, and their lack up depth could be an issue. Also, it appears (at least in my opinion) that Denard hasn't improved as a passer. Granted it is still early, but this has the look of a 5 or 6 loss team to me now.

Brian Bennett: I predicted 8-4 in the preseason for the Wolverines, which probably didn't make me too popular in Ann Arbor. But the depth on the lines scared me all along. Michigan still has a chance to make me look silly on that prediction, but I think the schedule will take its toll. I doubt this team does much worse than 8-4, but if Air Force pulls the upset this week, all bets are off.

Bob N. from Grand Ledge, Mich., writes: If I were you, I wouldn't count out New Hampshire against Minnesota on Saturday. UNH is a perennial power in the FCS and usually in the playoffs. And it wasn't all that long ago (2006) that UNH beat Northwestern in Evanston. And finally, where do you think Chip Kelly, Oregon's head coach, learned his craft, at his (and my) alma mater, THE University of New Hampshire. Go Cats!!!!

Brian Bennett: Bob, we certainly can't guarantee anything with Minnesota, as North Dakota State taught us last year. But I believe the Gophers are improved enough to win this game at home, especially if MarQueis Gray can find the touch on his passes. I'd feel better about UNH's chances if Chip Kelly was still there.

Tom from Detroit writes: You and Adam have often stated that the B1G won't gain national respect until it beats power teams from the SEC in nonconference games, particularly the national championship game. First, I agree with you entirely; winning a national title is what the B1G needs to do to be considered a power again. Although, I do think that there is something that could help; winning a Heisman. It's been since 2006 that a B1G team has won a Heisman. Meanwhile, most dynasty type runs include a Heisman (USC in the early 2000's, OSU in the mid 2000's, Alabama recently). How much would it help the B1G's national perception to actually bring home the hardware? Furthermore, which player has the best opportunity to do so this season and why? (PS - I'd have to vote Le'Veon Bell for....completely unbiased reasons such as wicked awesomeness).

Brian Bennett: Tom, I'm not so sure that winning a Heisman would too much for the league's national reputation. Robert Griffin III won it last year, but do you really now think of Baylor as a national power? It still comes down to winning big games on the biggest stages, something the Big Ten has struggled with too much as of late. As far as Heisman candidates, Bell made a strong statement in Week 1, but he'll have to keep that up. Taylor Martinez and Braxton Miller also entered the picture, and Montee Ball remains on the radar. The best thing about any of them winning the award would be that their team would probably have to have a terrific season along the way.

James from Milwaukee writes: I was hoping to get your opinion on the effect Matt Canada's playcalling had on Wisconsin's lackluster offensive performance on Saturday. I understand the idea of wanting to build chemistry and confidence early with high percentage throws, but with the exception of the deep pass to Abby off a play action Canada did nothing to try and force UNI's defense to back off. I'm not sure if he was just being stubborn (not wanting to open up the playbook more than he had planned to) or if I should be a little concerned that he didn't adjust his gameplan at all, despite the ridiculously aggressive play by UNI's safeties and linebackers. The two part question being, do you think that Canada should have been opening the playbook up just a little bit more to keep UNI's defense more honest (and in so doing helping to build chemistry and confidence for the OLine and Ball, who can't be feeling overly pleased with the way things went), and should I be concerned with his apparent stubbornness or give him the benefit of the doubt until I see what he does with Oregon State?

Brian Bennett: Blame Canada already, eh? It's way too soon to pass judgment on the new Badgers' coordinator. Wisconsin had no need, or at least thought it had no need, to open the playbook against an FCS team, especially with a game coming up on the road against an Oregon State squad that has not played a game. So we should have expected a vanilla game plan, especially with new starters on the offensive line and at receiver, a new starting quarterback and a little bit rusty Ball. The biggest concern for me was that the Badgers weren't blowing people off the line of scrimmage like they normally do. But it's one week. No time to sound any alarms until we at least see what happens in Corvallis.

Jon from West Haven, CT, writes: Brian, I appreciate your "Breaking Bad" references each week in the lunchtime links. With the season over until next summer, what should I be watching instead, so I don't feel out of the loop on my Monday lunch break?

Brian Bennett: John, I'd recommend "Homeland" on Showtime, which starts up again this month after an outstanding first season. Catch up on that if you get the chance. It may not be the most quotable show for the Monday links, however. And it won't be long before "Parks and Recreation" kicks off its new season. Can't get enough pearls of wisdom from Ron Swanson, and Pawnee is squarely in Big Ten country.

Howdy Dooty from Parts Unknown writes: You talking about OU being overrated????You have to be kidding !!!!!!!!!?????????????

Brian Bennett: How dare I besmirch Oklahoma's preseason No. 4 ranking. The Sooners certainly made me look foolish by beating UTEP 24-7 in Week 1, especially when they were tied at 7 at halftime and led 10-7 going into the fourth quarter. That No. 4 ranking was clearly much too low.

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