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Big Ten Thursday mailbag

5/23/2013

Good job filling up the mailbag during a slow time in college football. Let's do the question-and-answer session.

Andy from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Do you think the Big Ten's weak crossover schedule in 2014 could potentially prevent a one-loss team, such as Michigan, Wisconsin, or Nebraska, from being a part of the four-team College Football Playoff? I could see Michigan losing to Ohio State in 2014, not making the Big Ten championship and being left out of the CFP. Another possible scenario is an undefeated Wisconsin or Nebraska team losing in the Big Ten championship and being out of the CFP. Thoughts?

Brian Bennett: The crossover schedule won't help, but the biggest hindrance to a one-loss, non-Big Ten champion making the playoff next year is the perception that the league is not that strong. The Big Ten will need to perform well this year and win some big nonconference games in 2014 to have any chance of putting two teams in the four-team playoff, which still seems like a long shot. Some 2014 out-of-league games like Michigan-Notre Dame, Ohio State-Virginia Tech and Nebraska-Miami could bolster the league's case. Wisconsin's 2014 non-league slate -- highlighted by Washington State and USF -- will leave the Badgers little room for error.


Rob NitLion from Morristown, N.J. writes: You "asked" (rhetorically) the wrong question in your recent blog post. The question is NOT "what do the Detroit Lions know about college football/bowl games" but "What is the draw for B1G fans to want to travel to Detroit in the winter...or in any season for that matter?" Is this really a destination that B1G fan bases want to travel to to see two mediocre teams face off in the post season? If my Nittany Lions finish 6-6 and make a bowl game (not for the next couple of years), do you really think I want to see them face a 6-6 ACC team (alright maybe Pitt) in any place other than a warm, sunny distination with other attractions to see as well as a football game? Can anyone say Detroit is a "winter destination" unless it's the SuperBowl?

Brian Bennett: First off, Rob, let's get the joke right. I asked, what do the Lions know about postseason football, a little jab at that organization's utter lack of playoff success. As for Detroit, well, there are casinos right by Ford Field, some nice Greek restaurants and, um, yeah. Let's be honest, that city is no one's idea of a great winter holiday spot. But the bowl is also likely to take 6-6 type teams, and when you finish with that kind of record, deep in the Big Ten standings, you don't really get to be choosy. The best thing about Detroit is that it's very close for most Big Ten fan bases, and if the bowl replaces the MAC with the ACC as the other tie-in, that has the potential to create some interesting games. And as I wrote, Big Ten fans are often complaining about how they play virtual road games during bowl season. Here's your Midwest bowl. Embrace it.


Mochila from Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: A fellow reader indicated that MSU's secondary will not be very good this year due to their spring game performance and past dependence on Johnny Adams to operate on an island. I think the secondary has the potential to be improved considering MSU returns two All-Big Ten performers in Darqueze Dennard and Isaiah Lewis, Kurtis Drummond at the other safety position, who played very well last year, and a young Trae Waynes at the other CB position who started and performed very well in the bowl game. Do you think MSU's secondary will improve, regress, or stay roughly the same?

Brian Bennett: Adams was the Spartans' second-best corner last year, as Dennard outplayed him the entire season. Michigan State's secondary played well in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl without Adams, who was injured. I really like the potential of Waynes, and I think the Spartans will be just as good if not better in the defensive backfield.


Vince from Phoenix, writes: Which game on Michigan's 2013 schedule do they have to win to (finally) win the Legends Division?

Brian Bennett: Winning all of them would be nice. The one that obviously sticks out is the Nov. 9 game at home against Nebraska, but it's probably more the three-game stretch that includes a road game at Michigan State the previous weekend and a trip to Northwestern on Nov. 16 that will make or break the Wolverines in the Legends race. Remember that road losses to the eventual division champions (at Michigan State in 2011 and at Nebraska last year) were what doomed Michigan the past two seasons. Brady Hoke's teams have been really good at home but are going to have to win away from the Big House to bring home a division championship.


K. Norris from Detroit writes: Hello! Not that I disagree with the overall intent of Mr. Ted Miller's post earlier this week, but I will come rushing to the support of my 2 favorite Big Ten bloggers. Regarding the following quote: "Not to be outdone in prognosticative tomfoolery, the Big Ten blog picked Michigan State to win the conference. What were those guys thinking?" I would educate Mr. Miller that the 2012 Spartans did lose 4 games by a combined total of 10 points. It was the difference between 6-6 & 10-2 season. The team in the national championship game (Notre Dame) did only win by 17 against MSU. Yes, the Spartans were unable to find the extra gear when it was necessary to earn the 'W' at the end of games last year. That being said, it really was not a bad pick even from a national perspective. (Yes, green "Kool-Aid" tastes horrible.)

Brian Bennett: I'm pretty sure this is the first time in about eight months that anyone has told us our Michigan State title pick was not bad. In all seriousness, we clearly underestimated the inexperience of the Spartans passing game and gave too much credit to their offensive line. But 2012 was a weird year, considering that a team that finished 7-5 in the regular season (Wisconsin) went to the Rose Bowl -- and lost at home to Michigan State, I might add.


@sammyj108 from Twitter writes: Could the Hoosiers really play 3 quarterbacks? Or a two-quarterback system? Or just pick a starter based on matchups week to week?

Brian Bennett: Indiana coach Kevin Wilson wanted to see someone among Nate Sudfeld, Cameron Coffman and Tre Roberson really stand out this spring, but they all played pretty equally. Ideally, he'd like to redshirt either Sudfeld or Coffman this year and have one main quarterback play. The problem is that Roberson is clearly the best runner but needs to improve as a passer, while Sudfeld and Coffman are both good passers but not great runners. I asked Wilson this spring whether he'd be comfortable playing a two-quarterback system, as he did last year after Roberson got hurt. "I don't know if you want one in, one out," he said. "I'd love to see one guy totally separate ... but if not, we can play more than one. I want to keep them all happy, and I want to keep them all here. But more than anything, we've got to win."


Jay from Cincinnati writes: I am a little worried about Ohio State's recruiting class this year so far. I know it's early but seems like to would be better at this point.

Brian Bennett: Is Urban Meyer still the head coach? Then I'm not worried at all. He's one of the best closers in the game. If you're worried about the Buckeyes' recruiting in late May, take a deep breath.


Jay from Arlington writes: Title drought? Who cares. It is not like most of the SEC's titles during their so-called streak are legit anyway. And honestly, it is a lot easier to get to the BCS title game when you only have to beat one or two good teams a year, which is all that is required of SEC teams due, in no small part, to media bias. Don't sell the Big Ten short. Penn State has every right to claim a share of the 2005 title having lost one game directly due to officiating. While Penn State lost a game a lot closer than the score, the 2009 Rose Bowl between Penn State and USC matched the top two teams in the country while the Fiesta Bowl matched the third and fourth best team in Texas and Ohio State. Conversely the title game set up the sixth best team (Florida) versus the eighth in Oklahoma.

Brian Bennett: I enjoy your theories and would like to subscribe to your newsletter. Revisionist history aside, however, the records are what they are. Seven straight titles trumps every argument.


John from Iowa writes: In response you your Hope springs article: You have some misinformation posted when you talk about how many teams from each conference have made a BCS title game. The SEC has sent 4 teams not 5. They are: Tennessee, LSU, Florida, and Alabama. Also when you talk about the Big 12 sending 3 teams to the Big 10's only 1 team. One of those teams was Nebraska so you're essentially using the traditional power of one of our own teams to make your point about the Big Ten not being traditionally good.

Brian Bennett: Wow, Auburn fans must be steamed that John has already forgotten their 2011 national title. First Toomer's Oaks, and now this. I also find it funny that we get a lot of angry comments whenever we include Big-12 era Nebraska teams and coaches in our polls and lists, yet you want to include the Huskers when it might help out.


GOB Bluth from Gobias Industries, Calif., writes: Have you seen Franklin? I heard he's in Portugal. That's in South America, right?

Brian Bennett: Did you check the dryer? He has had some trouble down there. If you go looking south of the border, watch out for Hermanos. C'mon!