Thursday, April 4, 2013
Big Ten Thursday mailbag
By Brian Bennett
Adam will have a live blog from Michigan soon, so here's an earlier-than-usual and somewhat abbreviated Thursday mailbag:
Mike M. from Wapakoneta, Ohio, writes: Can Michigan pull a Wisconsin and pick up a Q.B. transfer soon?
Brian Bennett: Russell Bellomy's ACL tear does put the Wolverines in a little bit of a dicey situation. Right now, Devin Gardner is the only scholarship quarterback on the roster, and incoming freshman Shane Morris could be thrust into duty instead of redshirting this fall if Gardner has to miss any time. But while coach Brady Hoke would probably love to have another quarterback on the roster, I don't think we'll see a graduate transfer a la Wisconsin in 2011 and 2012. In those cases, the Badgers had no clear starting QB when Russell Wilson and Danny O'Brien came in, respectively. Gardner has a stranglehold on the position and has another year of eligibility; most players who transfer don't do so just to serve as a backup. I don't think that's Michigan's style, anyway.
Jackson from Colorado Springs, Colo., writes: Braxton Miller vs. RGIII at Baylor: Is it just me, or do they have very similar stats/playing styles? I am feeling a Heisman coming to Ohio State and the Big Ten. What do you think?! (especially since Johnny Manziel has already won the trophy and it's almost impossible to win it twice).
Brian Bennett: While both guys are incredible athletes at quarterback, their stats aren't all that similar. Miller completed only 58.3 percent of his passes last season. Griffin III worst completion percentage was 59.9, and that came during his freshman year. As a junior, he completed 67 percent of his throws, and as a senior he connected on an incredible 72.4 percent. That allowed him to pass for more 3,500 yards in 2010 and 4,293 in 2011. Miller barely cracked 2,000 yards passing last season as a sophomore. So the Ohio State star is more of a runner right now -- despite his sprinter's speed, Griffin ran for under 700 yards in each of his last two seasons at Baylor -- and needs to become a much better passer. Miller is working on it, and that will be the final step to make him a true Heisman contender.
Hayden B. from Lavista, Neb., writes: I really don't understand what the fuss is about the division being East/West and the power not being equal. The way I see it there are four teams in the top tier of the B1G -- Ohio State, Nebraska, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Then you have the next tier of teams that are either likely to get slightly worse or have been improving on a yearly basis. On the rise would be Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue and Indiana. On the fall would be Illinois, Michigan State, Iowa, and Penn State (due to loss of scholarships). Finally the Newbies who will probably be near the mid-level to bottom of the division for a couple of years, although they did have some impressive recruiting classes this year. The East definitely has the advantage at top with Ohio State going undefeated last season, but from top to bottom I would give a distinct advantage to the new West division especially with the Rose Bowl consistency of Wisconsin and Nebraska always winning 10 games.
Brian Bennett: I take issue with your reasoning that Michigan State is on the decline. Yes, the Spartans had a bad year in 2012, but they won 11 games in each of the previous two seasons. And even in last year's disastrous campaign, they still managed to win seven games, beat a ranked team and win a bowl, which not many other Big Ten teams could claim. Perhaps 2012 was the beginning of a decline, but I think Mark Dantonio deserves the benefit of the doubt right now. And while Penn State will be hurt by the penalties, Bill O'Brien's work could help the Nittany Lions get back on their feet ahead of schedule. If either Nebraska or Wisconsin goes through a down period, or if Iowa, Northwestern and Minnesota don't become serious division contenders, the West could become way too top-heavy.
Samuel from Iowa City writes: Brian, regarding your answer to Chris from Rapid City, S.D., on Monday about Jim Delany and de-emphasizing athletics, I'm not so sure the B1G wouldn't go for it if push comes to shove. Remember, we are the league that refuses to add non-AAU schools. And I suspect more than a few folks within the schools' administrations and academic departments wouldn't mind seeing athletics take a hit, even if it might be painful overall.
Brian Bennett: I have no doubt that there are many administrators at Big Ten schools who would love to see sports lose influence and for more money to go to academics. And there is much substance to that argument. However, I also know that college sports is an enormous business that is not going to go away quietly. Let's take Delany, for instance. He is making about $2 million per year in salary and benefits, and he would certainly see a pay cut if the Big Ten suddenly became a Division III league. Do you think he'd willingly give that up? And what about the massive stadiums on campus throughout the league? What would become of them when the loss of big-time sports killed attendance? (Please, please don't say soccer). Putting the toothpaste back in the tube is nearly unthinkable at this point.
Craig from Braintree, Mass., writes: As for covering Minnesota games on the ultimate road trip, you chose two and Adam chose one. I am awarding you the Fake Visits to Minnesota Gophers Games Blog (FVtoMGGB) Award. I especially like the reference to Prince (though if you were a Voice follower, you should have mentioned Nicholas David). Good luck in repeating next year!
Brian Bennett: Just one question: Is this honor anywhere near as prestigious as the Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence?