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Thursday, April 12, 2012
Big Ten Thursday mailbag

By Brian Bennett

My Michigan adventure continues (cue Eminem song, and I am actually driving a rented Chrysler). But time for a pit stop and your emails in the always delightful Thursday mailbag.

Tony from Iowa City writes: Now that you guys have completed your ultimate 2012 road trip schedule, are there any changes that you would make looking back? Maybe you didn't realize early on how much you would get to see some teams and would rather change some early games to other match-ups or teams on the field?

Brian Bennett: Looking back, I feel like I picked too many games involving the Michigan schools (an ironic thing to say as I'm spending a week here in the big ol' Mitten State). I could have spread it around a little more. But for the most part, I tried to choose the best games each week, and try to see a lot of teams. I just happen to think, today, that Michigan and Michigan State are the two top teams in the league for '12. In reality, my actual road trip itinerary this year will end up being a lot more diverse.

Tony from Denver, Colo., writes: Hey Brian, was reading your post about Ricky Barnum replacing David Molk at center, and it got me wondering. With you and Adam always headed to spring practices, do you see guys who graduated or decided to leave for the NFL show up at spring practices, to kinda help out/give advice for guys that are taking over for them. Especially in Barnum's case where he is switching positions.

Brian Bennett: That definitely happens. Maybe a little less now at this time of year, as so many guys are getting ready for the NFL draft in other locations. But players do hang around and offer a valuable resource to the current players. I saw, for example, that Aaron Henry was at Wisconsin's practice earlier this week.

Paul S. from Canton, Mich., writes: I have a couple questions. I'm curious about your opinion regarding Denard Robinson. I don't expect the most in-depth answer, but being 6-1, 193, according to ESPN, do you think it's a good idea for Robinson to put on maybe 10 more pounds so he's more ideal size-wise for a QB? Secondly, who do you think will have a better year: Iowa or Wisconsin? I ask that because they both are going through coaching changes and are bringing in new people for the positions.

Brian Bennett: Ideal for what, when it comes to Robinson? He's not going to play quarterback at the next level. He's been pretty good in college at his current size. Maybe a few more pounds would help him endure the pounding of a Big Ten schedule more, but Fitz Toussaint is the best insurance for that. Robinson pretty much is what he is in his physical stature at this point. I definitely foresee a better year for Wisconsin, simply because the Badgers have far fewer questions on both lines and at running back. I actually wouldn't be surprised to see both teams have similar records, but Iowa has a tougher path to get to the top of the Legends Division than Wisconsin does in the Leaders.

HP from St Louis writes: In regard to Rose Bowl and Playoffs, what about moving Rose Bowl to the beginning of the season? Since B1G and Pac12 are already going to be playing head-to-head each season anyway, so why not give conference winners right to open the next season at Rose Bowl. Now I understand that it means the players who did everything they can to get their team there might not be actually playing in Pasadena since they graduated or left for NFL, but Rose Bowl can still invite them and honor them. Any thoughts?

Brian Bennett: Well, that's certainly creative, but no game in September is going to have the same type of appeal as New Year's Day. And certainly not the Rose Bowl, where parade organizers are still gasping for air after reading your suggestion. I do think you could see the Rose Bowl used as a way to kick off the season as part of the upcoming Pac-12/Big Ten series, and that would be a great way to get things started.

Southern Spartan from Houston writes: Brian, 5 years ago MSU had one of the worst pass D's in the nation for 3 years. Out of nowhere in '10 we had a terrific pass D. Sure upgraded talent, experience, and development can help, but that much? I looked deeper and realized 10 out of 13 QBs we played against were rookies. We were clearly overrated as evidenced by the Iowa and 'Bama losses. My point is, UM goes from the worst 3 years of Defense ever to top 10 and every one is giving Mattison and Hoke all the credit. But honestly what quality offense did they shut down? The best 4 offenses in the B1G last year were Wisconsin, UM, MSU, and Iowa. They didn't play Wisconsin or themselves, and lost to both MSU and Iowa. Wake up, UM! Every team you beat last year was one dimensional or you luckily outscored them yet you are talking national champs!

Brian Bennett: Ah, rivalry smack talk. Truth is, Michigan did very well against some decent offenses, flustering Nebraska and shutting down Northwestern in the second half. But anyone who watched the Wolverines defense last year could easily see how much it had improved from the RichRod days. Before Hoke and Mattison arrived, mediocre and even bad teams had no problems scoring against Michigan. That definitely changed. The concern for Michigan's defense isn't who it played last year but who is no longer around -- mainly, those three very valuable departed senior starters on the defensive line.

Samuel C. from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: I'm not sure where you stand on the playoff. I think Adam has been pretty clear he's in favor of a selection committee to pick teams. Also, wouldn't a selection committee negate this nonsense about teams needing totally overwhelming records to be included? Sure, the teams with the best records might be the best teams. But I'm concerned. Will the best teams (no matter what their record) be picked or will a selection committee just rubber-stamp the undefeated teams?

Brian Bennett: I'm wholly in favor of a selection committee. Would it be perfect? Of course not. But it sure would be better than the current computer formulas whose methodology is secret and whose programmers' qualifications are sketchy at best. Such a committee would have to be diverse and hail from a wide array of backgrounds and regions to avoid the appearance of conference bias. But I'd much rather argue about what an informed group of former coaches, administrators, writers, whoever decided than a combination of two highly political polls and questionable computer data.

The committee could still have standards to follow, just as the NCAA basketball tournament selectors consider strength of schedule, RPI, etc. The odds are strong that there wouldn't be four undefeated teams every year, but there will be times when teams from weaker conferences have perfect records and could be selected against one-loss teams from power conferences. So be it. If you can't finish in the top four in the eyes of a representative selection panel, then you probably don't deserve to play for the national title, anyway.