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Monday, April 22, 2013
Big Ten Monday mailbag

By Brian Bennett

Monday got you down? The Monday mailbag is here to lift you up.

Andrew from Omaha, Neb., writes: After listening to all of the local media (and more than a few here on the blog) freak out about the new divisional alignments, it's made me do a little thinking. There isn't much parity in the East/West alignments in the SEC. Yes, Georgia and South Carolina are good, but I don't hear many suggesting there is top-to-bottom evenness between the two. And yet, if say, Tennessee were to win the SEC out, I'm sure we would hear the same kind of chatter about them being the team to beat in the country. So, shouldn't we concern ourselves more with being the best teams possible rather than worry about who else is in division?

Brian Bennett: It's funny. It wasn't that long ago that the SEC East was considered to be a vastly stronger division than the West when Florida and Tennessee were dominating the conference. Now the West is clearly better. But that tells you these things are often cyclical. I've said repeatedly that the new Big Ten division alignment puts too much power in the East, and that Michigan State should be going to the West. Yes, it looks to me like Nebraska and Wisconsin are the big winners in re-alignment. But there are no guarantees. Who's to say Northwestern won't be the best team in the West in 2014, or that Iowa bounces back in a big way?




K. from Iowa writes: With its lack of depth at quarterback (a true freshman and two walk-ons behind Devin Gardner), Michigan appears to be an injury away from being a mediocre offense. Brady Hoke recently indicated Michigan might pursue a JUCO or grad student QB yet this year. How feasible is that at this point? I don't see those kind of guys growing on trees in April. It would seem to me that all the decent JUCO QBs have been signed and if a guy is looking to transfer as a grad student with probably only one year to play ala Russell Wilson, he'd want to go to a school where he has a shot at starting, not wasting it backing up a redshirt junior like Devin Gardner.

Brian Bennett: The good news for Michigan is it doesn't have to find a guy like Russell Wilson. In fact, someone like Danny O'Brien fits the Wolverines' plans better. By that I mean Hoke isn't looking for someone to come in and start, because he's got Gardner. He's really looking for an insurance policy, a player who can add depth and serve as a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency backup who can allow Shane Morris to redshirt in 2013. Florida State transfer Clint Trickett has been mentioned as a possibility, though I'm not sure why he'd leave one place where he couldn't win the starting job for another similar situation. Then again, spending a year on scholarship at Michigan -- even if you never play a snap -- is not too bad of a deal.




Samir from San Francisco writes: In your note about the NFL draft, it seems you missed out Denard Robinson in the list. I don't believe that he was not even on the list because he is surely a good value and worth the risk for some NFL team.

Brian Bennett: That post contained the mock first rounds from Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay and McShay's list of talent tiers. Robinson wasn't included because neither of our top draft analysts mentioned him at all. I understand why that was the case in the first-round mocks, but it was curious not to see him even listed as a solid third-round pick by McShay. Teams are worried about Robinson's arm injury, and picking Robinson will require some projection and creativity to get the most value out of him. But he has speed that teams can't often find, and I wouldn't be surprised if a team took a chance on him in the first few rounds.




PhilosopherJoe from SpartanNation, USA writes: With the new media rights agreement being implemented in the ACC and no such agreement existing for the SEC, doesn't it remain at least a SLIGHT possibility that the B1G picks off one of the SEC's teams? If this were to happen, who would be the most likely to make a move? That is, who would be the most likely to WANT to move even risking membership to the most successful on-field conference and who would be appealing to the B1G as far as academics (AAU membership), geography, and new media markets? Maybe Vandy?

Brian Bennett: How strange is it that of the five major conferences, the SEC is the only one that seems vulnerable to getting poached because it lacks a grant of rights agreement? Of course, "seems" is the key word here. In reality, the SEC doesn't need to reach such a deal, because none of its teams are interested in leaving. For argument's sake, the only AAU members in the SEC are Vanderbilt and Missouri. If any school were inclined to leave, it might be Missouri, which I believe still fits better culturally in the Big Ten than the SEC. The Tigers found out last season that they might just be in over their heads when it comes to SEC football. Maybe they have buyer's remorse, and maybe the Big Ten tries to capitalize on that. But the Big Ten showed no interest in Missouri a couple years ago when Mizzou desperately wanted in, and adding that school would mean the Big Ten would need another member to get to the round number 16. And candidates are hard to find right now. Plus, there's just no real monetary incentive for anyone to leave the SEC -- unless Nick Saban and Alabama decide to try the NFL.




Doak Walker hopefuls from Rochester, Minn., writes: As a fan, I'm well aware of the 1-2 punch residing in the Badgers' backfield. Can you enlighten me on any other B1G programs with similar RB combos?

Brian Bennett: Wisconsin has senior James White, a proven player with more than 2,500 career rushing yards, and rising superstar Melvin Gordon. Can any other Big Ten teams compare? Well, I like the possibilities at Nebraska, where Ameer Abdullah is coming off a 1,000-yard season and sophomore Imani Cross looks ready to emerge as a major contributor. I'm intrigued by the possibilities at Iowa (Damon Bullock and Mark Weisman) and Penn State (Zach Zwinak plus either Akeel Lynch or Bill Belton), and Minnesota could have a nice power combo with Donnell Kirkwood and Rodrick Williams. If Jordan Hall, Rod Smith or Warren Ball takes a big step forward, Ohio State could have a great 1-2 punch at running back with Carlos Hyde. But I don't see any teams with two ready-made Doak Walker preseason candidates like Wisconsin, which of course has a proud history of star tailbacks. The other top running combos in the league are actually quarterback-running back duos (Hyde-Braxton Miller, Abdullah-Taylor Martinez and Kain Colter-Venric Mark at Northwestern).