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Monday, January 6, 2014
Big Ten Monday chat wrap

By Brian Bennett

My Big Ten Monday chat after a one-week, Orange-Bowl-related absence. If you missed it, you missed some fun topics of discussion. But never fear. I'm here with the full transcript, along with some highlights:

Ken (Columbus, Ohio): Hey Brian! All season long I was telling all of my non-Michigan fan friends that OSU was overrated and hadn't played anyone. With their losses to MSU and Clemson, was I finally justified?

Brian Bennett: Ken, I do think the lack of top-flight competition hurt the Buckeyes when it came time to finally play two top 10 teams. But injuries also played a role. It wasn't like Ohio State got blown out of either game, and the Buckeyes didn't win 24 in a row on accident. I think we saw the team just wasn't championship-caliber because of its defense. But that's still a top 12 kind of team to me.

Mike Munchak
Mike Munchak is aiming to help the Steelers improve off of consecutive 8-8 seasons.
TK (Philadelphia): I am CONFUSED about what is going on with the Nittany Lion coaching search. I thought Golden to PSU was a virtual lock and now no one is admitting they even interviewed for the job (Munchak, Franklin). Why do I have a sinking feeling that they are going to hire someone that NO ONE is talking about and sell us on some obscure OC from the Sun Belt Conference?

Brian Bennett: TK, coaching searches often hit some road blocks. Look at Texas. Munchak can deny all he wants, but he interviewed. He and Franklin are still in all likelihood the top choices. If neither takes the job or if the committee is not impressed, then we could see it going a different way. But it has been less than a week since O'Brien left. No time to panic yet

Pete (Milwaukee): Brian, in watching Big Ten bowl games over the recent years, it seems the biggest mismatch is the QB position. Time and time again the Big Ten's opponent has a superior QB who often is a threat to beat you with his leg or his arm. I know Gary Andersen hopes to incorporate a mobile QB into his offense. Do you see other Big Ten teams doing the same thing?

Brian Bennett: It's not just the QBs. I wasn't very impressed by the QBs at LSU or Georgia, Connor Cook played well and Braxton Miller nearly matched Tajh Boyd -- though he got roughed up in the process. But there is a lack of explosiveness in too many Big Ten passing games. Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota were prime examples of that, and Ohio State still has a ways to go there. Football has become a passing game, and Big Ten teams need to get better there.

Gill (Mpls, MN)" Good seeing the BCS Champ Game being played outside the South. Basketball, pro baseball and except for the Super Bowl, Pro football plays home games to determine champs. If the new college formula still makes Northern schools play "away" games why have a playoff at all?

Brian Bennett: The reality is that major sporting events are almost always going to be in the South and West. That's where people want to be this time of year. And considering the weather up North and in the Midwest on Monday, can you blame them? Would you want to tailgate Monday night for a BCS title game in the North? That said, places such as Dallas and Pasadena are hardly home games for many SEC or ACC teams, and the same for Miami and New Orleans for the Big 12 and Pac-12. There were far more Ohio State fans at the Orange Bowl than Clemson fans, even though Clemson is closer. Just the way it is, though the Midwest/Northern cities should get an occasional title game.

Jimmy (Lincoln): Where do you think Nebraska is headed after this season? They don't really lose many seniors that played in conference play this year. I personally believe next year their defense will be one of the better in the country. So is Nebraska a top 25 team next year? Maybe better?

Brian Bennett: All the pieces are there, Jimmy. The defense should be pretty good with all the returnees, as you mentioned. Tommy Armstrong Jr. got a lot of experience, though he needs to continue to improve as a passer. The schedule is manageable, with the toughest nonconference game a visit from Miami. Nebraska does go to MSU and Wisconsin, which will be challenges. But the Huskers are probably my pick right now as West Division favorites. Time to live up to that and do better than a four-loss season, don't you think?

Sparty (Unfortunately Chicago): How sustainable is MSU's success? Is the Rose Bowl possible 2-3 years from now?

Brian Bennett: I don't see why not, with the understanding that the Rose Bowl won't be the same starting next year. Lot of talent returns on offense. Defense loses some valuable guys but has shown an ability to reload. Excellent coaches and stability. Playing in same division as Ohio State and Michigan won't be easy, but Spartans have proven they can take down those guys.