The holiday didn't slow down the Big Ten Monday chat. We had a lively discussion, and you can view the full transcript here. Or check out these highlights:
Blake (Fort Wayne): What do you think the hiring of Knorr does for this Indiana defense for 2014 and beyond? 6 or 7 wins a reasonable goal now with an upgraded DC and 10 returners on defense?
Brian Bennett: I thought six wins was a reasonable goal this past season with eight home games. Life isn't going to be easy for Indiana in the new East Division, but the offensive talent is still there and lots of experience returns on D. I like that Knorr has a track record of succeeding without the most resources at Wake Forest. He still has a lot of work to do to fix a Hoosiers defense that has struggled for a long, long time.
Pete (Minneapolis): Are you buying the reason for Nelson's departure from Minnesota? He claims he wants to go to a system that better fits his skill set. Since he was recruited by Coach Kill, he knew what the system was when he committed to Minnesota. Makes me think it's not necessarily the system he's upset with but rather the lack of talented players (receivers) around him in that system.
Brian Bennett: I'm sure he knew a lot about the system, but Minnesota threw the ball a lot less this year than it did a year ago. A lot had to do with the inexperience and lack of talent at the receiver position. Nelson himself didn't light it up as a passer, but he might not want to run it as much as Minnesota seems to want from its QB. If that's the case, I have no problem with him transferring somewhere else.
Kirt (Dothan, Ala.): Hey Brian, I actually have two questions: Where do you see the Wolverines record at the end of 2014 and also how do you see the Big Ten faring in its upcoming nonconference schedule. There are some big games -- UM-Notre Dame last meeting, MSU-Oregon, Wisconsin-LSU.
Brian Bennett: It's too early to be making 2014 record predictions. Michigan should be better than it was this past season, but the division is loaded. I doubt I'll predict more than an 8- or possibly 9-win season. Much better nonconference games, but Wisconsin vs. LSU is a tough matchup and MSU has to go to Oregon. Winning one of those would be huge for the league, as would Ohio State taking care of Va. Tech and Michigan beating ND.
Paul (Dublin, OH): Maryland and Rutgers will improve or drag the B1G football conf down?
Brian Bennett: I don't see how those programs really improve the Big Ten, save for opening up some new recruiting ground. I think both could be competitive and make bowl games. But they don't enhance the league's football reputation and won't be competing for titles.
Ryan (Iowa City): How do you see Iowa doing this next season?
Brian Bennett: It's an interesting year for Iowa, which got back on track in '13 and has a lot to build on. Replacing those three outstanding LBs won't be easy. And we need to see some growth from that offense, particularly in its explosive play potential. But the schedule is rather favorable, and I think you have to consider Iowa a legitimate threat in the wide-open West. A 9- or 10-win season would not surprise me.
Sean (Colorado): While it seems improbable due to the level of output this season, will the tandem of Gordon and Clement be more productive (and explosive) than this year's duo of Gordon and White? Scary talent on paper, could it be enough to lead a conference title run, despite Stave's questionable decision making and the loss of Abbrederis, Peterson, etc?
Brian Bennett: It should be very explosive. Wisconsin might miss James White's veteran leadership and blocking, but Clement and Gordon are super talented. I'm worried about who will catch passes, and that defense loses a ton of valuable seniors. Those are major concerns, though the schedule after the LSU game is almost unfathomably advantageous. No reason Wisconsin shouldn't be in West Division contention.