- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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More Monday mail musings:
Fake Harry Husker from Tom Osborne Field writes: You do not know how much I want to fire off an angry email about how the Huskers got snubbed by ESPN/ABC and the prime time TV schedule next fall. I really want to rant about the negative bias from your network regarding the Huskers. But then I take a deep breath & face the cold hard truth that my team really is not that good (and has not been good for what, a decade or more). This is very, very hard for Husker fans but our team is super mediocre. Middle of the pack team prone to major defense lapses, turnovers, and drive killing penalties. That is the Husker reality. So pardon our rants as Husker fans. We need to vent and you, Adam, and ESPN will probably catch some misguided anger in the summer.
Brian Bennett: Nebraska won't be playing any prime-time games on the ESPN/ABC family of networks this year, but as Adam wrote in an earlier post, the Huskers will play night games against Wyoming and Southern Miss on the Big Ten Network. The Nov. 9 game at Michigan would make for a logical prime-time game, but the Wolverines are already playing a night game against Notre Dame this season and aren't ready to make that a more frequent occurrence. I'm a little surprised there wasn't more interest in the Huskers for night games, and remember that Nebraska played Wisconsin and Ohio State under the lights last season. Say this about Big Red: win or lose, they're rarely boring.
Decker B. from Hastings, Neb., writes: Brian, being a Spartan fan amongst a sea of red I know how it feels to have mediocre at best quarterback. (Cough, Cough Martinez) Coming into last season I was optimistic about Andrew Maxwell. Both Coach D and Captain Kirk said he had the skills/smarts to EVENTUALLY be as good, if not better, than Cousins. Obviously it was his first season at the helm and our receivers couldn't catch water if they fell in the ocean, but I just didn't see it from Andrew. I want to have faith in him but every time he drops back I catch myself holding my breath. Maybe I'm blind to his improvement, but I just didn't see much. From the way things went in the Green and White game, things haven't very much improved. So help me out here, is there any hope at the Quarterback position this year? Might we see a rotation of different guys? I know quite a few people are pretty high on Damion Terry, but he is a Freshman. As a sub point, if someone does step up do you think Mumphery, Fowler, and Burbridge will take care of business?
Brian Bennett: Decker, I expected better things out of Maxwell last year, and I wonder how much the dropped balls and poor pass protection contributed to perhaps eroding his confidence. No doubt Maxwell had his own troubles, including a lack of touch on some of his throws. He's a very smart and poised guy who's never going to stop working, but I have my doubts after last year and this spring. I would not be surprised to see Connor Cook start, simply because he can make some things happen on the move and seems to give the offense a spark, even if he might gamble a little too much at times. I see Terry as a change-of-pace guy at best since he is a true freshman, but we won't really know until he gets on campus. The receivers absolutely need to step up, and I think Aaron Burbridge is a guy who could break out in a big way this year. Again, mere competence and mediocrity is all Michigan State needs from its offense in order to contend in the Legends Division.
Griffin from West Bend, Wis., writes: Why don't the Badgers get the respect they deserve? They are never associated with the powerhouse teams of the Big Ten. I understand they do not have as much history as Nebraska and Ohio State but they are loaded with talent and will be for years to come. People ignore how close they were to winning against three great teams in the Rose Bowl.
Brian Bennett: I think Wisconsin gets respect in Big Ten circles, and the recent re-alignment shows that the league views the Badgers as an upper-tier program that can be a power in the West. As far as national perception, I think the last part of your question is key. Wisconsin came close to winning against three great teams, but it didn't get the job done. Close doesn't cut it when you want to be seen as a national power. Last year was a strange year, but the Badgers had some unbelievable talent in 2010 and 2011 and just missed out on a couple of opportunities to have truly legendary seasons.
Rob from New York, N.Y., writes: Brian, I know the reasons why schools are doing it, but I just wanted to note that I am terribly against neutral site games. The biggest reasons why are: students can't afford to go to the games and there's nothing "collegiate" about these games anyway. On a very practical level, students just cannot afford to travel to someplace like Texas for a non-conference game AND a bowl game. My fellow alumni barely are able to do that and we get paychecks. So this is really just about making money off the alumni and general fans. But more problematic, I think, is that college football stadiums are such a big part of the charm of this sport. I would love to see my school, Wisconsin, play AT Alabama instead of Cowboys Stadium. I wouldn't care if we got embarrassed 50-0 and if Adam wrote another article about the B1G's reputation being harmed; it's about playing there in a place with tradition and seeing how they do it. I remember a few great non-conference college football games, such as Ohio State and USC's home and home. The reason why I remember those games and not a single Chik-fil-a kickoff is because both teams marched into unfamiliar territory that is loaded with tradition. And I'd actually go to those true road games! Wisconsin AT Alabama, I'd go in a heartbeat. Wisconsin vs. Alabama in Texas, whatever.
Brian Bennett: You make some excellent points, Rob, and none better than the argument that college football's best attribute is the campus environment. The difference between a college gameday and an NFL one is night and day in most instances. However, some of these major nonconference matchups might not happen without neutral site games. Teams with large home stadiums don't want to give up revenue by playing on the road, so getting a 50-50 split at some huge NFL field is a way to offset those losses. (And we've seen that many SEC teams, for example, don't have much interest in coming north for a true road game). I'd hate to see college football lose its charm and for games to become basically made-for-TV productions, as many minor bowl games already have. But if we're talking about just one game on the schedule and a very attractive matchup that might otherwise not exist, I'm OK with the sacrifices that must be made for it.
Luke B. from Jesup, Iowa, writes: OK, so all we've heard for the past year is that no one touches tOSU in 2013, and Michigan and Nebraska are close seconds. So, what if -- gasp -- everyone's wrong and any or all of the these teams don't pan out? In my small mind, Nebraska has most to lose. Big Red fans have basically anointed themselves the kings of their division without the season even starting. Frankly, with that schedule, they should be at very least a 1-loss team come December. But what if they extend their 4-loss season streak to 6? Does the world end?
Brian Bennett: Of course we will all be wrong about at least one team and probably more. If I recall, there were a couple of bloggers who were touting Michigan State as the Big Ten champs this time a year ago. I don't remember their names, though. Who thought Northwestern would win 10 games last year, or that Iowa would go 4-8, or that Wisconsin would be 7-5 yet win the league title? This is why we watch the actual games instead of just making predictions. As to Nebraska, I don't agree that the Huskers ought to be a one-loss team or better by December; the UCLA game is a potentially difficult one, and Bo Pelini's team also has to go to Michigan as well as play Northwestern and Michigan State at home and Penn State on the road in November. Nebraska should be no worse than 7-1 going into November, however. Another four-loss season by Pelini wouldn't be the end of the world unless one of those defeats came against aliens with possession of Earth on the line. But I do think the pressure would continue to mount on Pelini with another 9-4 type year, and that 2014 could become a make-or-break type season. Sooner or later, and most likely sooner, he has to deliver a conference title at the very least.
Drew from Beavercreek, Ohio, writes: With Penn State scratched, what odds would you place on them if eligible?
Brian Bennett: If Penn State were able to win my Big Ten horse race scenario, I'd put the odds at 20-1. The Leaders Division isn't quite as deep as the Legends, so that helps the Nittany Lions' cause. However, Penn State has to play on the road against top Leaders contenders Wisconsin and Ohio State, not to mention crossover games against Michigan and Nebraska. Throw in question marks at quarterback and depth concerns, and that makes the Lions the clear No. 3 choice in the Leaders for me. However, Bill O'Brien could end up being like a D. Wayne Lukas or a Calvin Borel -- you never want to let one of their horses go off at a high price without throwing a couple of bucks on it. (By the way, I doubled down on Orb in my Derby Party pool this year, so maybe my prognosticating skills are on the rise).
Steve from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Hey Brian! Love the blog, proud that you guys keep this thing going in the dullest of months (for CFB). My question is when will the recruits that were not early enrollees enroll so we can start hearing about those impact freshman?
Brian Bennett: Steve, some of those freshmen will start arriving soon for summer school and get going in voluntary workouts, while others won't report until around Aug. 1. Some of the big ones to watch for include Michigan RB Derrick Green, Ohio State athletes Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall and, of course, Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg.
E. Gorden Gee from The Great State of Ohio writes: Love the blog. Don't know why you don't mention me more often. I am much more entertaining interview than Delany. Why all the crying over the parity cross over scheduling? Haven't you guys heard? The OSU can not be playing the little Sisters of the Poor. A lot of necks will be on the line if The OSU is not in the national playoffs every year. In order to do that we need the strongest Strength of Schedule The Big Ten can muster up. We will have enough patty cakes in our own new Eastern Division. We don't need to go play in unfilled 60,000 seat stadiums west of here. As far as the number of home games each season: The Bow Tie Says: "Those that fill up their stadiums every game with more than 100,000 every game ought to get more home games. Why waste our talents and play in cow pastures west of here. We can resell tickets for thousands of dollars in the Buckeye State. Hey it really is all about money. ( Have you checked out my salary lately?)."
Brian Bennett: I'm 99.9 percent positive this isn't the real Gee, but with the Bow Tie, you never know.
2hJosh Moyer and Mitch Sherman
1dMitch Sherman and Josh Moyer