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Monday, June 3, 2013
Big Ten Monday mailbag

By Brian Bennett

Guess I won't be getting any thank-you cards from the Tully-Frey red wedding. But I can always count on letters from you guys:

Mikey from Seattle writes: As an Ohio State fan with a relatively low-level of sensitivity (just ask my wife), I'm pretty offended by the stuff that continues to come out of Gordon Gee's mouth. I can only image how non-OSU fans perceive him, and by extension, Ohio State. However, there doesn't seem to be too much talk of firing him. Do you think this might happen...and are there any major implications for Buckeye football?

Brian Bennett: There is definitely a sense that the trustees are getting tired of being embarrassed by Gee's careless comments, and they have already told him he's on thin ice. If I were Gee, I would keep my mouth shut about sports for a long time. He raises a lot of money for Ohio State, so as long as he can continue to do that, he should remain employed. Should the school decide that Gee should go, however, I don't think there would be much impact on the football program. Wasn't Gee employed by Jim Tressel, after all?




John from Sterling, Va., writes: Yes, some of Gee's remarks are quite frankly dumb, but there certainly is an element of truth in a lot of them. His comments on the SEC are spot on. Most of the schools in that conference are nothing more than glorified junior colleges. Missouri is the best of the bunch and they would jump at the chance to head to the Big Ten. If you ranked the soon to be 26 public schools, the top nine and 13 of the top 15 would be in the Big Ten. The results would be similar but not as extreme if comparing the SEC to the Pac XII and ACC.

Brian Bennett: Spot on? It's one thing to brag on the Big Ten's academic reputation and say it's far better than that of the SEC. No one could argue the opposite. To accuse SEC folks of not being able to read and write and calling their educational institutions "shameful" is a whole other story. I get that it was said in jest and was an exaggeration, but SEC school grads -- of which I am included -- would understandably be offended by that. And, really, it's a pretty weak joke.




Greg D. from Cranbury, N.J., writes: I just read your article about the next 3,000-yard passers ... why is it you guys constantly talk about QB inexperience when it comes to Penn State, but the No. 2 guy on your list is Cameron Coffman, at over 2,700 yds who as you put it "being thrust into the role" with no experience. You guys are always making a point in one direction with one team and then go 180 degrees with another? It seems to me, the key is the QB's receivers being able to hang on to the ball and a line to protect and give the QB enough time to throw the ball. Matt McGloin's biggest issue prior to last season was a bunch of receivers that would drop wide open passes in critical downs stopping drives (which I believe caused him to try to make things happen by forcing the ball at times).

Brian Bennett: You make a good point about the experience angle. I would say that when it comes to quarterbacks who have no major college game experience -- and you can throw Iowa's guys in here as well -- we tend to take the very cautious approach with our predictions. Quarterback is such a hard position to play, and you just don't know how players will respond in their first taste of Big Ten play. Coffman was a guy who had junior college experience before coming to Indiana, something that could also play into Tyler Ferguson's favor at Penn State should he keep that job over freshman Christian Hackenberg. The Nittany Lions also pass the ball a lot as Indiana does, which should help. Still, it's difficult to project someone to throw for 3,000 yards -- a very high benchmark in the Big Ten -- when they have no previous Division I track record.




Rick L. from Union City, Calif., writes: Just reading the Thursday mailbag and wondering how Wisconsin vs. LSU in Houston to open the season is considered much of a neutral game? According to most airlines, Baton Rouge to Houston is approx. 253 miles while a trip from Madison is more than four times that! So much for neutral.

Brian Bennett: There are varying shades of neutral, of course. The good thing about these kinds of games is that there is usually an even ticket split, so Wisconsin fans will have to travel and represent the Badgers in Houston (though LSU fans will likely still outnumber them). It's still a whole lot easier than playing in Death Valley. And something tells me Wisconsin fans won't be complaining about the return "neutral" game in Green Bay.




Joe from South St. Paul, Minn., writes: If healthy, do you think Ed Olson will be an All-Big Ten member? Also. who do you think could be All-Big Ten members from the Gophers beside the obvious Ra'Shede Hageman?

Brian Bennett: I like Olson a lot and think injuries have been the only thing really holding him back. If he can get through the entire season, he has a chance to really show some things, especially as the Gophers go to a more power-run attack. Making the first team will be tough with Michigan's Taylor Lewan and Ohio State's Jack Mewhort around. Olson should also get plenty of competition from Wisconsin's Ryan Groy, Nebraska's Jeremiah Sirles and others for the second team. As for other All-Big Ten candidates besides Hageman, I think the best bets are both in the secondary in safety Brock Vereen and cornerback Derrick Wells.




Denzel from Columbus, Ohio writes: Brian, I'll keep it simple. "Ohio" has so many question marks for their team yet they are a pre-season title contender, yet Michigan has only an O-line to figure out (Fitz and Green will split carries). So why is Michigan not considered at least a dark horse title contender?

Brian Bennett: One team went 12-0 last year, while the other finished 8-5. That's the easy answer. Michigan probably does deserve some darkhorse national title recognition, but that offensive line and the running game is a big question (and what, if anything, Jake Ryan can contribute this year is another). Ohio State has questions in its defensive front seven but also has loads of talent there, and a user-friendly schedule certainly helps.




Mike N. from Parker, Colo., writes: You made an interesting point with regards to the question on the BCS when you wrote: "You wouldn't have to worry about three- or four-loss teams in an eight-team field, and a team like last year's 10-2 Texas A&M -- which was as hot as anybody down the stretch -- would have a chance to play for it all." I think that's the issue. If you're a College Football fan, your entire history of a mythical "National Champion" was as close to unbeaten as possible. To change focus to who is hot down the strech turns the attention away from the entire season to who's hot at the end.. Which I believe is not what College Football is about.. the NFL can have its joke of a Champion *cough* NY Giants *cough* but I don't want to start to reward teams for being HOT. I want teams that are great through the season and not just lucky at the end.

Brian Bennett: I get where you're coming from, and I definitely want to protect the value of the regular season as well. Texas A&M had its season opener postponed last year, and the Aggies lost by three points to Florida. They also fell to LSU by five, but did beat Alabama on the road and destroyed Oklahoma in the bowl. You really wouldn't have wanted to see Johnny Football in the playoffs? This isn't college basketball, where a team can be mediocre for months and then get hot in March. You'd still have to have a great season to get into a college football playoff, though a larger field would make room for teams that might have stumbled once or twice. Remember, LSU had two losses when it won the BCS title in 2007.




Josh from LA writes: I just wanted to offer my services to the College Football Playoff Committee. Do you mind passing my résumé along? I've been a college football fan for about 29 years now, watch a lot of games (probably more than anyone actually being considered for this role), have some free time (again, more than anyone being considered for this role) ... and at least I'll admit my bias instead of pretending to be objective (8-4 Michigan deserves to be in the playoffs every time). Also, I'm well educated -- I read this blog as well as other football blogs on a daily basis, and there's no better source of information than the internet! Thanks! PS If I get chosen, you can shoot me an email with teams you hate and I'll make sure to never vote for them.

Brian Bennett: You sound like the perfect candidate to me. Move to the front of the line.




Dave from Honolulu writes: I am a native Detroiter serving in the Navy at beautiful Pearl Harbor. I appreciate Vasav from Alaska sticking up for Detroit. It is a great city with some great things to do, but I am with you. I marched in the band at Michigan and it is GREAT to get on the plane and go to sunny LA for the Rose Bowl. A bus ride to Ford Field would have been a little depressing (45 minutes to think about all those loses during the season). Give me LA, Florida or Honolulu (would love to see the BIG out here for a bowl game) during bowl season any time.

Brian Bennett: So, if you're scoring at home, the guy from Alaska thinks Detroit is a great winter getaway, while the guy living in Hawaii prefers warm weather.