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Big Ten Monday mailbag

6/10/2013

A raven arrived this morning carrying your questions. As you wish:

J. Young from A city in that state up north: Greetings from enemy territory. With Ohio State in its last BCS chance before the playoff, how many eggs do you think the Big Ten has in the Urban Meyer basket for national success and some good PR this season?

Brian Bennett: The Big Ten shouldn't really care whether Ohio State gets it done, or if Michigan or Nebraska or Wisconsin or somebody else makes a run at the national title. But here's what the league should be happy about: the Buckeyes are going to start the season ranked somewhere in the top three, most likely, and will be No. 1 on some ballots. That means the Big Ten will be in the national title discussions at least early on in the season, and that's something that really hasn't happened since the middle of 2010. Remember that no Big Ten teams were in the top eight of either poll to start last year, and then Michigan got blasted by Alabama in the opener. The league didn't have a team in the top nine of either poll to start 2011 and was out of the BCS title chase by late October.

It's sad but true: when a conference doesn't have a national title contender, it becomes irrelevant in many ways. Ohio State should keep the Big Ten in the spotlight as long as it takes care of its very manageable early schedule. Hopefully, other league teams can join the Buckeyes in that quest.


MJ from Ocean, N.J., writes: Hey Brian, interesting piece from the EPA numbers that Brad Edwards put together placing the Buckeyes in the top 5 overvalued teams of 2012. Doubtful that these numbers can go back as far as '02, but I'd bet the national champion Buckeyes could be in that overvalued section as well with the several close victories to teams that had were thought to have no business competing with that team. But that's why they play the game and as long as we keep a 0 in the loss column, I'm good with that. Not that it's groundbreaking news, but do those numbers affect your opinion of the season that was for Ohio State?

Brian Bennett: Here's my basic opinion of all that: Those 2002 Buckeyes might have squeaked by in a lot of close games, and, heck, they might have even gotten very lucky on a shaky pass-interference call in the title game against Miami. Yet there's still a crystal football in their trophy case, and they're not giving it back. It really doesn't matter how you win, as long as you win. I didn't need advanced stats to tell me that Ohio State was not a dominant team most of the time in 2012; heck, I covered four of the Buckeyes' games in person and obviously watched them all very closely. They were just a team that knew how to make winning plays when they needed them. My lasting image of last season's team is probably watching from field level as they simply willed their way toward a couple of first downs against a terrific Michigan State team on the road to close out that victory. I still don't think Ohio State could have beaten Alabama last season, but no one can ever take 12-0 away from them.


Matt from Farmington Hills, Mich., writes: Brian, you recently posted Athlon's predictions for the 2013 B1G season. In it, OSU was picked to go undefeated by beating UM in the league championship game. First of all, can someone please slow down the Buckeye hype-train? I simply don't understand how a team that had to out-score Indiana last year and evaded multiple near-loss games can be picked to go undefeated AGAIN. Not to mention having to replace the majority of a front-seven on defense. Talent is great and they have it in (largely unproven) guys like Washington and Spence, but what about depth? Additionally, call me a homer, but I am confident that Michigan's talent rivals OSU's, and if Athlon is correct in that the two teams meet in consecutive games, I believe Michigan has too much pride to lose twice in a row to a HATED rival. Thoughts?

Brian Bennett: Does Ohio State have some question marks? For sure. But as we have pointed out, Urban Meyer's teams tend to improve a whole lot in Year 2, and I believe the Buckeyes are still the most talented team in the Big Ten from top to bottom. You make an interesting point about depth. That's still a major concern on the offensive line and at linebacker, and a few key injuries could also wreck the defensive line and wide receiver positions. Ohio State managed to stay relatively healthy, especially on offense, in 2012. We should never discount how difficult it is to go undefeated in one year, let alone two straight. Again, though, the schedule is very favorable.

The idea of playing Michigan twice in a row is fascinating. If that were to happen, the Buckeyes would have to play the Wolverines away from home both times. The revenge factor for the second meeting would be incredibly high. If Ohio State could pull that off, it would mean a long and painful offseason for Brady Hoke and the Maize and Blue.


Tyler from Chicago writes: Northwestern is looking to be a good program for a long time and they are just starting to upgrade their football facilities. Since, their moving all their football activities except for games to the main campus, what will they do with Ryan Field? Any chance they build a new stadium on Lake Michigan? I think it would be amazing and they would get more fans and recruits if there as an open end of the stadium looking out to the lake. Or will they upgrade the worst stadium in the Big Ten?

Brian Bennett: Building a stadium on Lake Michigan seems like a pipe dream. There's not exactly a ton of land there, and construction prices could be astronomical. We could definitely see some upgrades to Ryan Field in the future, including the addition of more club seating and luxury boxes. But first, Wildcats fans need to prove that they can consistently fill the stadium and make it an intimidating environment for visitors.


Nick from Indiana writes: Which true freshmen do you expect to have the biggest impact on defense this year for the Hoosiers?

Brian Bennett: Nick, I know the coaches are excited about the potential of Darius Latham, the kind of athletic defensive lineman that Indiana has had trouble landing in recent years. Safety Antonio Allen also has a great shot at contributing right away, as well as defensive end David Kenney III. Rashard Fant will get a long look in the secondary. Kevin Wilson has shown that he's not afraid of throwing freshmen into the mix right away, so anyone who's ready will have an excellent chance of playing early on. It's just a matter of which ones adjust to the college level the best and the quickest.


Matt from Ann Arbor writes: With the B1G looking to strengthen the non conference schedule, what would the "dream matchup" home and home series be -- that is a realistic option -- for each team (or just a few) in the conference? A few that I would love to see would be Michigan vs. Stanford, Nebraska vs. Oklahoma, Ohio St vs. Oregon and even Illinois vs. Missouri.

Brian Bennett: Interesting that you would ask that today, Matt, as we're inviting fans to let us know what nonconference series they would like to see their teams play. Nebraska-Oklahoma and Ohio State-Oregon are already on the books for future series, and those are absolute dream matchups. I'd love to see Michigan-LSU because of the Les Miles factor, but Wisconsin-LSU is going to be pretty darn good in its own right. Some other potential dream matchups, in my opinion: Ohio State-Florida, Nebraska-Texas, Penn State-Miami (which is very close to happening), Wisconsin-Arkansas (duh), Michigan-USC and Wisconsin-Notre Dame.


Greg from Philadelphia writes: Alright, Brian, I found this on a random fact generator: In Kentucky, it is illegal to carry ice cream in your back pocket... so knock it off, jerk, or I'm calling the cops!I am curious, however, as to what flavor of ice cream you tend to keep in your back pocket? I take you for a rocky road kind of guy.

Brian Bennett: Well, yeah, the law makes perfect sense. It seems like a good idea to carry ice cream in your back pocket until the first time you forget it's there and try to sit down. I'm actually not a big ice cream guy -- cookies and pie are more my thing -- but when the urge strikes, I tend to go cookies and cream.