- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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The wife and I are heading down to the Caribbean for some R&R. (Any good Big Ten bars on Aruba?). So this will be my last mailbag for about 10 days. Let's get to it.
Spencer from Decatur, Ga., writes: I'm a Buckeye among the eternal-coattail grabbing SEC fans down here, so I appreciate the work you guys do to represent us well. With all the talk about how unbalanced the leagues will be, I think we're all overlooking a point that probably played a huge role in the decision. The B1G knows which teams give them the best chances to play for and possibly win a national title. With the College Football Playoff, the committee will pay a lot of attention to SOS. tOSU having the best teams in their league will be challenging, but it will also help their résumé if they can run the table in their division. If they lose a game and fans blame the schedule, then maybe the team shouldn't be considered for a championship anyways. The committee also said they would favor league winners. If tOSU or Mich stumble, Wisconsin will have run through an easy division and could get some extra love if they win the B1G. I think this setup has more to do with producing a national champion than much else. Well, that and money, of course.
Brian Bennett: Spencer, I'm not sure how much thought the Big Ten gave to the playoff system when aligning its divisions. Does being in the East really help Ohio State? I'm not so sure. The Buckeyes were going to play Michigan anyway, and they probably won't get a huge bump from beating Michigan State or Penn State -- at least not the way, say, Alabama does for beating LSU. Also, with the so-called parity-based scheduling, many of the top teams are going to play each other as crossover opponents.
I think where the divisions help the Big Ten is with Michigan and Ohio State being lumped together. Imagine a scenario where they're both undefeated going into the final weekend (hey, it happened as recently as 2006). Instead of a rematch in the title game where you could have one team finishing with two losses or both with one loss, you could instead have a 13-0 team and a 11-1 club whose only defeat was against the champion. Then maybe that second team could sneak into the four-team playoff.
But before imagining scenarios where two Big Ten teams can get into the four-team playoff, the league had better make sure it can put one in. And that means, more than anything, winning big out-of-conference games to boost perception.
Alex from Harrisburg, Pa., writes: Just a question on your post on Big Ten revenues rising post. From what I remember Penn State will not receive its share of revenues as part of its penalties imposed by the Big Ten. Is that true and if that's the case would that factor in a portion of the increased revenue? I know split up it might not make a big increase but having to share one less slice of the pie can make a difference in the numbers.
Brian Bennett: Alex, what the Big Ten did was basically fine Penn State $13 million, withholding the school's share of bowl revenues during its four-year postseason ban (which began last year). TV money accounts for an estimated $18.5 million per school, which the Nittany Lions still receive. Penn State will basically get about $3.3 million less per year over the four-year period than other Big Ten members with full share. And that money is not split up among the other members. The Big Ten has said it would be "donated to established charitable organizations in Big Ten communities dedicated to the protection of children."
Whittney from Fort Worth, Texas, writes: I am having a hard time understanding why the B1G won't just get this November night thing jumping already. A no-brainer is to start with Nebraska. After all, we've been doing this for years in the Big 12, including 2010 versus Oklahoma. The Northwestern or Michigan State games would've been great starter games to try out the night in November. And we're one of the southern most universities in the B1G, too, which isn't saying much ... but still.
Brian Bennett: Well, it's not quite as simple as the Big Ten just deciding to play night games, Whittney. TV dictates just about every starting time, and if executives don't choose a game for prime time, that's life. Of course, if schools like Michigan wanted to play at night in November, it could happen. But where's the incentive for the Wolverines, who are going to put more than 100,000 fans in the stands whether they play at 8 p.m. or 8 a.m.? I get the whole exposure thing, but I don't think the lack of November night games in the Big Ten is all that big of a deal.
John M. from Martinsburg, W. Va., writes: I have to agree with Rob, from NY, about neutral site games. College football should be about playing for the students. I do take issue with a statement that you made though, about huge NFL stadiums. Most NFL stadiums are not all that big. The Redskins' stadium is one of the biggest and it seats less than 80,000. Many, if not most, Big 10 stadiums are larger than that. Going to an NFL stadium wouldn't be that special to a Penn State, Michigan, or Ohio State fan or to any Big 10 players who regularly play in truly high stadiums, either at home or away.
Brian Bennett: You're right about that. When I said huge, I was thinking more along the lines of Cowboys Stadium, which is an enormous complex but which does only seat 80,000. I would disagree that it wouldn't be special for Big Ten players to play in an NFL stadium, however. Those kids all grow up dreaming of playing in the league, and for many, those games would be as close as they get. And you can't discount the recruiting factor in these games, not only in terms of national exposure and opportunity, but also for schools to play in different areas.
Samuel from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Brian, just want to say your case for the B1G West being "better" than the Big XII North is weak. Your numbers don't lie. But was the West enough better to say definitely it won't be like the North? And not only are the numbers not significantly better, the West is also hinging on inconsistent teams like Iowa to return to past form, not something I'd bet the farm on unless I had a gun to my head.
Brian Bennett: Samuel, as I wrote in that piece, teams like Iowa and Northwestern simply have to perform well for the Big Ten West to avoid becoming another Big 12 North. There are many valid comparisons between the two divisions. But what the West has that the Big 12 North did not is a program in Wisconsin that has proven it can consistently win at a high level with more than one coach. Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota are at least as likely to occasionally rise up and challenge for the division title as Kansas, Iowa State, Missouri and -- in latter years -- Colorado were. As some pointed out, Nebraska probably also won't be as strong atop the Big Ten West as it was for stretches in the Big 12 North. We can't do a straight one-to-one comparison of the divisions, because one hasn't begun yet and the other one is gone. Only time will tell if the Big Ten West can maintain competitive depth.