Friday, July 8, 2011
Big Ten Friday mailbag
By Brian Bennett
Every Friday that goes by means we get another week closer to the start of the season. Or something like that. I may just be going stir crazy waiting for some actual football.
But every Friday also happily means a mailbag and a chance to interact with you guys. Let's kick it.
Karl J. from Pflugerville, Texas, writes: I know by now that the press and specifically ESPN has really enjoyed the problems at OSU. We have seen story after story and theory after theory and every news bit comes with extra commentary by you and or Adam; it's fair game -- OSU screwed up and deserves the shame and penalty. But I noticed the problems at Nebraska barely got mentioned -- yes it was included in the News Links -- but no additional coverage from ESPN, no additional coverage from the Big Ten bloggers and no commentary, theories, thoughts, etc. I know the press gets very defensive of anyone challenging your bias and reporting. But let's be honest, this is a clear case of bias, when not even one additional comment was added to Nebraska's story and yet every time OSU seneezed you all commented (even on situations that OSU has cleared).
Brian Bennett: Karl, you're comparing corn to buckeyes here. Ohio State has been accused of major violations, and its head coach knowingly used ineligible players and lied about. That's a major scandal. The Nebraska situation seems very minor to me. According to the Omaha World-Herald, "the violations occurred over several years when a large number of Husker student-athletes inadvertently received “recommended” textbooks from the university bookstore when only “required” supplies were covered in their scholarship money. The total value of the non-required textbooks provided to student-athletes from spring 2007 through fall 2010 was $27,869.47, with the average amount less than $60 per individual."
That's hardly a major controversy, and the whole thing sounds like more of a misunderstanding than anything else. What extra benefit did the Cornhusker athletes receive, other than getting some books to read (which isn't a bad thing for a college student)? Perhaps there's more to the Nebraska story, and we'll keep an eye on it. But for now, it's not even in the same universe as what's going on in Columbus.
Matt from Farmington Hills, Mich., writes: Brian, I just watched your "X Factor" video on Michigan's Cam Gordon and couldn't disagree with you more. Unlike you, I predict that Cam Gordon will lose his starting job at SLB early in the season. Reasons why? As you mentioned, he is too thin at 207 lbs., and he has great difficulty getting off blocks. I watched him last season and in the spring game a couple months ago. Shedding blockers was clearly a deficiency in his game (and one that should not be overlooked considering the position he plays). Also, while he may have had better instincts at the safety position, he displayed very poor linebacking instincts at his new position. How is Gordon going to be a 'playmaker' at SLB if he can't get off blocks and doesn't have that "it" factor going for him? My prediction: redshirt freshman Jake Ryan will take over his job at SLB in short time.
Brian Bennett: Matt, you certainly make some valid points about Gordon's lack of size, which I noted in my video. Perhaps he is not big enough to play that position. But I do think Gordon will be on the field somewhere and be able to make plays. At this point, Michigan needs playmakers on defense just about everywhere. If you're correct, please feel free to write back and say "I told you so" this fall.
Teddyrukk from Blue Springs, Mo., writes: Brian, good to get through to ya! I've been a Nebraska fan since I was in the womb, and born on a farm outside of Lincoln in the '70s so I think that classifies me with the knowledge to make this statement, but I feel the Huskers defense could make a run for the best defense to ever touch the field in college football history this year. Would you be the least bit surprised to see them shut down the Big 10 this year, cause I don't see ANY offenses out there that scare me in the least bit coming from the Big 12! The Huskers win the B1G with solid D, and a very complicated offensive attack based around the running game just like the teams of the '90s.
Brian Bennett: Wow. I admire your optimism. The Blackshirts have a chance to be very good this season, with some outstanding players at every level of that defense. Best in college football history? Um, I'm not going that far. I'm really interested to see how Nebraska's defense fares in the Big Ten, though. They were facing some of the best offenses in the country, at least statistically speaking, in the Big 12 most years. But the Big Ten style of play is also different. It will be fascinating to see how that translates.
Parker from Portland, Maine, writes: Just saw the list of Maxwell Award potentials among the Big Ten. Although I am an avid Hawkeye fan, don't you think it is a little bit too early to consider Marcus Coker as a Maxwell Award candidate? Don't get me wrong, I love that guy and how he plays, but I would probably wait and see how he handles the pressure and how well he executes this fall. What do you think?
Brian Bennett: First, a little insight into how these awards work. Usually the school or perhaps a voter from a certain region will nominate players for a preseason watch list. I've already seen an academically ineligible player and one who is no longer in the FBS pop up on some of these lists, along with lots of misspelled names. So these shouldn't be viewed as flawless lists. Is it a bit soon to nominate Coker for an award like this? Sure. If he can play like he did in the bowl game, he could pull a Shonn Greene and be up for national awards. But he's got a lot to prove still.
Will from Columbus, Ohio, writes: I'm looking for your opinion more than an answer to a question. Let's fast forward 12 years. Penn State falls to mediocrity when JoePa retires, OSU never recovers to glory after the NCAA gets done, Fitz get Northwestern to a league contender, Michigan is back, and Michigan St. plays like 2010 every year. Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska stay consistent in playing for a league title. Where I'm getting at is, what if the league has an imbalance of power down the road and the Legends Division has 4 of 6 teams as powers and the Leaders only 2 of 6? Do you think that the B1G will be open to possible realignment if a Big XII sorta imbalance takes place? We didn't choose divisions according to region, so I feel Delany, or whoever is commissioner in a dozen years, will think about it hard. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett: That's an interesting question. Jim Delany is not afraid to think boldly, and surely the league isn't wedded to these particular division setups forever. But I also think these things tend to be cyclical. The SEC East, for example, was much stronger than the SEC West for several years, and now the pendulum has swung the other way. The Big 12 North was weak, but I think that was a function of the setup in the first place, as Nebraska was the only superpower. Programs like Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, etc., just don't stay down that long.
I actually think there's a better chance of realignment being forced if Michigan and Ohio State reclaim their old status and start winning division titles, which would mean they play twice in a row. Let's hope if anything about the divisions gets changed soon that it's the names.
Joe from Toledo writes: I think everyone who is arguing against Russell Wilson making Wisconsin the preseason favorite is overlooking some important details. Yes Tolzien had a better passer rating and averaged more per attempt but he also attempted about half as many throws as Wilson did and Wisconsin will not be looking for Wilson to throw as much as he did at NC State. Yes the Big Ten is a tougher conference than the ACC, but Wisconsin is a tougher and better team than NC State was so he will be surrounded by better players. Just look at the running game -- NC State ranked 95th in rushing compared to 12th by Wisconsin. As for the fact that he is coming in late, Wilson is a very intelligent player and person (graduated in 3 years) and isn't coming from a completely different offensive scheme like a spread. What do you think?
Brian Bennett: I'm on record as saying Wilson makes Wisconsin the preseason favorite. You can pick apart some of Wilson's numbers, but after watching some NC State games the past two years, it seemed like the Wolfpack put most of the offense on his shoulders. If he didn't make a play, the offense wasn't going anywhere. Like you said, Joe, Wilson doesn't have to be spectacular at Wisconsin because of the running game and offensive line. The play-action passing game alone should be much better. My only real concern is how quickly Wilson can build chemistry with an entirely new cast of teammates in a short time.
Dustin R. from Cedar Falls, Iowa, writes: After reading a 'blogger debate' between yourself and Adam discussing Iowa and Cincy two years ago, I really didn't think you had any idea what you were talking about. However, since you have joined the Big Ten I thought you have done a great job. What is the best advice Adam gave you as you joined the Big Ten family that helped you ease into a new league?
Brian Bennett: Easy. He told me, "Never criticize the Hawkeyes."