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Big Ten Thursday mailbag

8/1/2013

All the Big Ten coaches have been car-washed. Now it's your turn to go through the wringer with me (waxing is optional).

Joe from Paducah, Ky., writes: Now that it has been confirmed that there will be no charges filed against Carlos Hyde and assuming that he is back on the team, is it now time to reevaluate all the hand wringing about Urban Meyer's rash of disciplinary problems now that the rash seems to be limited to Bradley Roby? I know you guys weren't killing him like many other media outlets, but is there any chance that we will see any sort of dialing back of the criticism?

Brian Bennett: Meyer made some interesting points yesterday when he said that Ohio State really hadn't had many disciplinary problems in a year, and then they had a group of them all at once. Hyde was not charged with anything, but certainly appears to be guilty of bad judgment, at the very least. Roby was charged with a misdemeanor. Don't forget that two other Buckeyes -- freshman tight end Marcus Baugh and freshman lineman Tim Gardner -- also had legal run-ins. While we don't know yet what Meyer will do with Roby, so far all of his punishments for the other three appear to be fair and anything but lenient.

Much of the Meyer criticism stemmed from the Aaron Hernandez arrest and the large number of problems at Florida, and the Ohio State arrests compounded the situation. It's completely understandable why Meyer has come under scrutiny. But if we're simply judging him by his disciplinary history in Columbus, then I don't see much reason for hand-wringing.


Jim from Happy Valley writes: I find it funny how college football is a money-driven sport but having a night game between two rivals is something that ADs are against. 1. High in-state or national tv rankings = more money. 2. Fans arriving early to tailgate and spending more time around and in the stadium = more money. 3. At most schools, lots of people arrive extremely early for games in order to enjoy the atmosphere and tailgate, no matter what time kickoff is. Does that include drinking? Yes. But it's a load of crap that AD's are worried about the "culture of people gearing up" for games. It's the cops and security that have to deal with those who don't know how to act. The AD's aren't doing crowd control and should worry about the game itself. Wake up Big Ten and get in the fast lane, night games are very appealing and fans want more of them, especially in November!!!

Brian Bennett: Jim, while I like night games in general, I'm not sure your argument holds water. First of all, the TV deals are already done, so no matter what time the game is or what the ratings are, the money doesn't really change for the schools. You could say teams benefit from the exposure, but it's very hard to quantify that monetarily. Most stadiums are also open for the same amount of time whether it's a day or night game, so I'm not sure teams make any extra money on concessions, etc., from a night game. Most people bring their own supplies for tailgating. There are added concerns about security at night games, and somebody does have to pay for the extra enforcement personnel. Of course, those concerns are valid at many places, and other rivalries have been staged successfully at night. So it can be done. Some Big Ten schools are just resistant to that change.


Josh from LA writes: Forget a Michigan-MSU night game. How about a once-a-decade game at Ford Field? That would have been a perfect solution for next year, instead of Michigan going to State 2 years in a row! Turn it into a tradition, do it every 10 years -- it would be great for fans, the teams, and the city of Detroit.

Brian Bennett: That could be a fun event, and the Florida-Georgia game is played at a neutral site in Jacksonville. I'd enjoy seeing the stands half green and half blue. Your idea of having it once a decade makes it a little more realistic, but I still have serious doubts that either school would be willing to give up a home game, especially in such a major rivalry. I'm not sure there's any incentive at all for Michigan to move a game from the Big House to Ford Field and give up more than 40,000 seats, not even including the ones that would go to Spartans fans. Still, I would love to see Big Ten teams start using Ford Field as a spot for big neutral-site nonconference games.


Brian from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., writes: Hey Brian. I know Ohio State is everyone's overwhelming favorite to win the B1G this season, but I just can't buy into it that easy. If you have one of the top teams in the Legends division (Neb, Mich, Mich St, or NW) get to the B1G Championship with 0 or 1 conference loss, I have to imagine they're going to have a legit shot at beating Ohio St, given how stacked the Legends division is at the top! Thoughts?

Brian Bennett: Great name there, Brian. It doesn't really matter how stacked the Legends Division is (and I do agree that it is stacked), because Ohio State will only have to play whichever team comes out of that side in a potential title-game matchup. In a one-game shot, all four of the teams you mentioned would definitely have a chance at knocking off the Buckeyes. Yet Ohio State deserves to be the favorite because of its talent, last year's 12-0 season, and the fact that it gets Wisconsin at home and Penn State remains ineligible for Indy.


Andy F. from Lincoln writes: Does being from Lincoln, NE make me less credible? I'm sitting here staring at all B1G team schedules. All the top teams have patsy pre-conference schedules. Kind of sad. Anyway, I'm saying that Nebraska and Michigan are headed for a showdown on November 9. There won't be a bigger game prior to the Championship game in the B1G. Maybe, we'll have 2 undefeated teams in the Championship?????

Brian Bennett: It doesn't make you less credible, Andy, but I have a feeling I know which team you're picking for that Nov. 9 game. While I've had that game circled as the biggest one of the season in the Big Ten, I don't think we can say both the Huskers and the Wolverines will cruise into that showdown. For starters, Michigan plays at Michigan State the week before that matchup, not to mention its Oct. 12 game at Penn State. And Nebraska will have to deal with a very good Northwestern team on Nov. 2. Both teams also have tough nonleague games against ranked opponents (UCLA for the Huskers, Notre Dame for the Wolverines), though both are at home. The league's nonconference schedule is subpar this year, to put it kindly. But November is going to be very exciting in that Legends race as all of the top teams play one another.


Kevin from Fairfax, Va., writes: Deion Barnes is way underrated. He was the top end in the Big Ten last year and by a large margin. What you must keep in mind when considering him is the FACT that Penn State faced a significant officiating bias during Big Ten play. How significant? Penn State went 22 consecutive quarters of football starting with the Northestern game and ending with Wisconsin (who was called for one) without an opposing linemen being called for holding despite Barnes and Jordan Hill being completely unblockable during league play. On a neutral field, both players would have hit doubt digits with ease and Penn State would have run the table in conference play.

Brian Bennett: Barnes is no doubt an extremely talented young player, though I disagree with your assessment that he was easily the top defensive end in the league in 2012. He was very good as a pass-rusher, but still needs to develop as a complete player, which I believe he will. John Simon had better stats in fewer games last season, and there's a reason why neither the coaches nor the media named Barnes first- or second-team All-Big Ten last season. That should change in 2013, and Barnes definitely has the potential to move way up from our No. 18 preseason player ranking. As for your officiating conspiracy theory, well ... a new season is nearly upon us. Let's move forward, shall we?


Paul from St. Louis writes: A big Cardinals/Pirates series [is underway]! Does it strike you how many Husker fans are complaining about the Nebraska-Iowa game on Black Friday? The game is only 2 yrs. old; yet, Husker fans are ready to shove Iowa aside. The Huskers last went to a BCS bowl in 2002 (Rose Bowl). Iowa last went in 2010 (Orange Bowl). And, Nebraska just got killed in the B1G title game. What's with the Nebraska superiority complex?

Brian Bennett: Paul, the real difference between the two programs is the national titles. But Scott Dochterman did a great job in this story pointing out that Nebraska and Iowa aren't that far off if you look at both since 2000. In fact, Iowa had a better 2010 season than the Huskers, and both went into the first Heroes Game in 2011 with very similar records. The problem is that fans (and often we the media, too) have very short memories, and so the Hawkeyes' recent struggles heavily influence our perception. Add to it that there wasn't a lot of history between Nebraska and Iowa in the first place, and you can understand why the rivalry feels blasé after two blah games. The Big Ten really needs Iowa to bounce back, not just for the Nebraska series, but also to maintain some competitive balance when the league splits into east and west divisions next season. As for the Cardinals, let's not talk about that. I might need some therapy after this past week.