Thursday, June 13, 2013
Big Ten Thursday mailbag
By Brian Bennett
As Kanye West says, all I want is dopeness. Bring it.
Denard R. from Columbus, Ohio: Brian, what do you think the chances are two BIG teams make it to a BCS game, and should they win one or both how much would that improve the perception of the conference?
Brian Bennett: Denard, what the heck are you doing in Columbus? I would say the chances of getting two teams into a BCS game are actually quite good. Remember, that was a regular occurrence until last season; the Big Ten had received an at-large BCS bid for seven consecutive seasons before 2012, and that was an odd year where both Ohio State and Penn State were ineligible and teams like Wisconsin and Michigan underperformed. Getting the Buckeyes eligible again helps a great deal. The second BCS bid could go to a team that does not make the Big Ten championship game, a la Michigan in 2011, because losing in the title game often hurts a team's cause. Wisconsin, if it finishes second to Ohio State but manages to run roughshod over the rest of its manageable schedule, is a strong possibility, along with whoever finishes second in the Legends Division.
As for perception, winning two BCS games would obviously be big for the Big Ten, which needs all the help it can generate for itself in that department. The league needs to get back to winning Rose Bowls. In theory, perception shouldn't matter as much with the four-team playoff beginning next year since a committee should only look at that year's body of work. But in reality, perception likely still will play a role as selectors try to determine strength-of-schedule and conference power factors.
Bryan from Chicago writes: I saw your article on the B1G APR scores this week. This was great to see coming off of the article I read about Alabama's APR score last week. I was curious if you could do a comparison of B1G to the SEC APR scores. The leagues are so often compared on the field where SEC has left the B1G in the dust, it would be interesting to see how the fair against each other in the classroom.
Brian Bennett: Sure thing. You can find the Big Ten scores in that post from Tuesday. Here are those from the SEC (Note: Missouri and Texas A&M are not included because they weren't part of the league during the scoring period):
Mississippi State: 967
South Carolina: 966
The SEC's league average was 955.3, compared to 966.2 for the Big Ten, which was the highest among the power conferences. Six SEC teams ranked below the Big Ten's lowest team (Michigan, at 951), and Tennessee scored under the 925 cutoff. The Big Ten's top three teams -- Northwestern, Wisconsin and Ohio State -- were all better than Alabama.
Brian from Portland, Ore., writes: In regards to your post about APR scores, wondering what Penn State's score would've been had it not been for the transfers directly tied to the NCAA sanctions? Just another "unintended" outcome from the sanctions that fly directly in the face of the "culture change" that the NCAA was supposedly trying to facilitate through these sanctions.
Brian Bennett: Brian (great name and proper spelling), the most recent APR scores are four-year averages that go through the 2011-12 school year, so the transfers from last summer were not counted in Penn State's stats. They will start to be reflected in next year's APR. That will be another thing the Nittany Lions have to worry about, although the NCAA does take into account transfers who leave in good academic standing. You would have to think the great minds in Indianapolis will grant exemptions for Penn State on the transfer issue, because that would be like double jeopardy if the school was penalized in the APR for that.
They call themselves Ohio from Michigan writes: You didn't really answer the question in your mailbag from Farmington Hills about OSU beating UMich twice. What do you really believe the odds are for OSU to beat Michigan twice in consecutive weeks; once in Ann Arbor (where Hoke has not lost) and the other at a neutral site? In my least biased, most purely historical-and-mathematical-fact-based mind, I give them no better than 1 chance in 4. Too many factors stacking against them. Meyer's got a capable team with a remarkable guy at the helm, but you can't ignore history, and historically the loser of game one has won the majority of rematches (at least through 2012, haven't checked last season).
Brian Bennett: It's awfully tough to predict what's going to happen in Game 12 and Game 13 when we're in June. Who knows how the season plays out? I agree that it would be very difficult for Ohio State to pull off those back-to-back wins, but if the Buckeyes are good enough to win in Ann Arbor, I would think their chances of winning the following week at a neutral site would improve. I did some research on rematches when Michigan State and Wisconsin played in the 2011 Big Ten title game. At that time, the team that won the regular-season meeting was 14-8 in the title game rematch. Of course, Wisconsin reversed the trend that year and again last year by beating Nebraska, though those weren't consecutive-week games. The most analogous example was last year's Pac-12 title game between Stanford and UCLA, in which the Cardinal beat the Bruins twice in seven days to claim the championship. So it can be done.
@jearly76 from Twitter writes: Jerry Kill's teams have always made big jumps in year 3. Any chance of that happening with Minnesota or is there not enough talent?
Brian Bennett: I think it's very possible this year. I like the vibe coming out of Minneapolis this year. The Gophers sound pretty confident that they will make a major leap forward. Last year's team made a bowl game but really wasn't very good in the second half of the regular season, thanks mostly to injuries. The bowl game performance against Texas Tech was a revelation. I think Minnesota will definitely be a better team this year and will prove a tough out most weeks in the Big Ten, with the potential to pull off a few upsets. The problem is that the Legends Division is loaded, so it's going to be hard to move up too far.
Andy Gress via Twitter writes: The Huskers have a good shot at being undefeated going into November, what do you think their record will be coming out of it?
Brian Bennett: Unless Minnesota is able to really jump up and pull off the upset at home on Oct. 26, the only game I can see Nebraska losing before the Nov. 2 showdown against Northwestern is in Week 3 versus UCLA. And that game is at Memorial Stadium, with some nice revenge motivation going for the Huskers. I think Nebraska will be 7-0 and 6-1 at worst. Then the real fun begins.
Chris from Chicago writes: We talk a lot about the "best WRs/TEs" in terms of catching the ball or "best RBs" in terms of running, but never look at the other roles of those positions. For example, who are the best run-blocking wide receivers/TEs in the B1G? Who are the best receiving/pass blocking RBs in the B1G? What O-lines are best built to run-block vs. pass block? I'd love to see you break down units by the "secondary" yet important things they're required to do....
Brian Bennett: Some great points, Chris. It's much easier to look at the receiving/rushing numbers because those are simpler to quantify through statistics. Judging who is really a great blocker requires a lot more film study and intricate knowledge of what a team is trying to do. I do know that Nebraska's receivers deserve a ton of credit for their blocking in the run game; that has been an underrated aspect of how good the Huskers' running game has been. Same could be said of Wisconsin's tight ends and Northwestern's receivers. As good as Montee Ball was in 2011, he missed a few key blocks in pass protection before he shored that part of his game up. That's something we'll keep in mind while evaluating those positions down the road.