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Monday, July 1, 2013
Big Ten Monday mailbag

By Brian Bennett

First mailbag of July. Bring the heat:

Rob from New York, N.Y., writes: I disagree with the response you had to Michael from Evanston regarding cold weather bowls and also the success of the Pinstripe Bowl in New York. First, the Pinstripe Bowl traded the Big 12 and the old Big East for the Big Ten and the ACC. That's a "win" no matter how you slice it, especially with the huge alumni bases for both conferences on the East Coast. But also, I think Michael's general suggestion of a Chicago Bowl is a fantastic idea. Don't get me wrong, Detroit is a decent place and there are quality people there, but I have literally zero interest in seeing my team play there, ever. Chicago, on the other hand, even if it is in December/January... that's a draw. And the whole point of the new bowl lineup is to go towards major population centers where there are alumni, so why neglect the Big Ten's de facto capitol? I'd go to a Chicago Bowl against a lower tier SEC team, no question. The only question is whether an SEC team (or any other conference) would.

Brian Bennett: Don't get me wrong on the Pinstripe Bowl. I think that's a nice addition to the Big Ten lineup as a mid- to lower-tier game, especially with the Eastern expansion of the league. But the question was whether that bowl has been a big success so far, and if you ask anyone from the Big 12, they'd definitely say no. As far as Chicago, I like the idea in theory. But let's remember the Big Ten has to this point rejected the idea of playing the conference championship game in its marquee city, primarily because of weather concerns. If the league doesn't want to play there the first week of December, what makes you think other conferences would want to sign on to play at Soldier Field around Christmas-time?



Rob NitLion from Morristown, N.J., writes: I can NOT understand why some of my fellow B1G fans continue to think it's a good idea for Midwest cities to host bowl games in late December. I think its' a refusal or inability to understand what makes bowl games successful and that is the draw of warmer weather for us northern football fans to escape from ... Chicago is my favorite US city (I like it even more than NYC which is only 45 minutes away from me)... I love visiting Chicago...in the SUMMER! Are fans of the southern schools really going to want to travel north for a game in the cold that really means nothing (assuming its not a "Playoff" game)? Also, I'm a grateful PSU football season ticket holder, but if I have to pay for one more Youngstown State game at full price, plus the cost of gas for my four-hour drive, I might lose my mind. The conference, in my opinion, and I hope the opinions of the almost 1,000,000 B1G football ticket holders (approx. capacity of 14 future Big Ten football stadiums), is doing a great service to those that foot the bill for these football programs by providing us quality, meaningful entertainment, and let's be honest, how often will a B1G team that has an FCS school on its schedule be seriously considered for the "playoff?" If the FCS schools need the "funding" maybe the FBS should start a joint fund to share revenues with all those schools instead of wasting a home game...and the fans' hard earned money.

Brian Bennett: Great minds think alike, Rob. Rittenberg might like dealing with the winter weather in Chicago, but most people want to go somewhere warm if they spend money to travel for a bowl game. And with a few exceptions, most Big Ten teams' fans could drive to Chicago the day of or before the game and wouldn't spend much money or time in the city, which is the only reason Chicago would want to stage such a game. On the FCS topic, I couldn't agree more. The elimination of those games will be a huge net win for fans, even if there are a couple of casualties like Northern Iowa vs. Iowa. The idea that FBS teams somehow are responsible for helping fund FCS programs is ludicrous to me.



Brian from New York City writes: Like usual, you guys are in love with OSU. Why do you provide them a headline for their recruitment of Jamarco Jones and not for PSU getting Troy Vincent Jr? Like everyone else at ESPN you are bias! Are you guys in the business of reporting all Big 10 sports news or only the stuff that gets you viewership/ratings/readers?

Brian Bennett: Yep, we're so -- ahem -- bias against Penn State recruiting here at ESPN.com that we have a whole team site called Nittany Nation that focuses heavily on Penn State recruiting news. In this blog, we don't spend a whole lot of time on recruiting unless there is a really significant development or something is unusual or signifies a trend. It's why we might write about Iowa doing well with in-state stars, or Purdue and Indiana beating out big programs for a recruit on the same day but most other commitments might get a lunchtime link. The difference between Jones and Vincent was that Jones is an ESPN 150 prospect, which carries more weight, and Vincent is not, plus the fact that Michigan and Michigan State were also heavily involved in his recruitment. Vincent is still a four-star prospect, and his commitment was terrific news for Penn State.



Jon Arens via Twitter writes: Given the schedule, is 9 wins the barometer for Gary Andersen's success?

Brian Bennett: At first, that sounds unreasonable, considering Wisconsin only won eight games a year ago. But then you look at that schedule and ... maybe so. The toughest road games are at Arizona State and at Ohio State, with trips to Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota also on the docket. Wisconsin could very well be favored in 10 games, including home contests against Northwestern, Purdue, BYU, Indiana and Penn State. Lots of things can happen, of course, and we're judging teams now based on what we see on paper. But this is a schedule that sure looks set up for nine or 10 wins, and that will add to the first-year expectations for Andersen.



Jeff from Olathe, Kan., writes: Brian,I am a little surprised to not see a short article about Tom Osborne retiring today from the Universty of Nebraska. One of the greatest coaches in the history of college football should get a mention on the Big Ten Blog and on the ESPN College Football homepage.

Brian Bennett: Jeff, Osborne retired as athletic director on Jan. 2, which to us was the more significant move that we wrote quite a bit about. He stayed on for another six months in the athletic department to help the transition to new AD Shawn Eichorst, and Thursday was his last official day in the office. Osborne is such an unassuming guy that he left without much fanfare. But you can't say enough about what he has meant to that program, that university and that state. We'd love to see him have a role in the College Football Playoff selection committee.



Joseph M. from Chicago writes: The BCS standings usually do not come out until almost midseason. What would your thoughts be on doing the same with the top 25? It would give every team an equal shot at the beginning of each season to reach the National Championship or highly attractive bowl games. This way say by week 6 you determine the top 25 by the records of all the teams and then order them by that as well strength of schedule and maybe a few other elements. I think it would replace a system where teams for instance like Arkansas last year were not a top 10 team and lost right away to some sub par quality teams. It would tighten the core of the top 25 rather than just being placed in their by recruiting and last year's record.

Brian Bennett: Great in theory, Joseph, but it wouldn't work in practice. The reason is that fans, whether they admit it or not, love polls. So organizations like the AP and USA Today keep putting them out there in the preseason, along with dozens of other really early rankings. Plus, we already have a system like you suggest in place with the Harris Poll, which does not come out until the first BCS standings are released and makes up one-third of the BCS formula. Yet the Harris voters, who have had about a half a season to make up their own minds, usually vote almost exactly along the same lines as the AP and USA Today pollsters. Groupthink and strict adherence to records and preseason expectations are largely to blame. The good news: starting next year, the polls shouldn't be nearly as relevant because a committee will pick the four playoff teams. It would be naive to think that committee members won't be influenced, at least subconsciously, by the polls. But hopefully the committee will have strong enough people who can think independently and pick the teams they really believe are the most qualified.



Darren F. from Rock Island, Ill., writes: Thanks for your article related to the Directors' Cup showing how the Big Ten fares against all D-1 schools. Also, check out the Capital One Cup standings that wrapped up Thursday as the Big Ten did well there as well ... (full disclosure: IU alum).

Brian Bennett: Good idea. The Capital One Cup separates men's and women's programs while awarding points to schools' athletic departments. Indiana finished No. 2 in men's sports, while Michigan was No. 7. Penn State was No. 5 in women's sports. You can see the full standings here.



Corey C. from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Hey Brian! Love the blog. Who do you take in this year's fantasy draft -- Tay Tay or Brax? I think Taylor will score more TD's and deliver the most points. Thanks!

Brian Bennett: I've got the No. 1 pick in this year's Big Ten fantasy league, thanks to Adam's shocking upset win in 2012. It's going to be an interesting call for the No. 1 pick. Braxton Miller might not run as much this year, but he could be improved as a passer. Taylor Martinez can rack up the points, but given Nebraska's early schedule, he might not be finishing many games. Devin Gardner could be a darkhorse No. 1 pick a la Anthony Bennett. I'm not sure yet whom I'll take, but even if I did know, I wouldn't tip my hand to Rittenberg.