- Dan Murphy, ESPN Staff Writer
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Hope still abounds in the mailbag, at least among Nebraska and Penn State fans. Let’s get straight to the questions:
@DanMurphyESPN Will Penn State be able to compete for a B1G (or National) Championship with the way Franklin is recruiting? How soon?
— Greg Korslund (@G_Kors) September 18, 2014
Right now Penn State is the only Big Ten team with a unanimous top-10 recruiting class from the ranking services, and Franklin definitely has some positive momentum rolling in Happy Valley. They have some issues to iron out before they can get past Ohio State and Michigan State to reach the conference title game, but there is no reason to think the Nittany Lions won't be a threat in the East Division in the next couple years. There's still a more significant gap, one that might be out of Franklin's control, to close before Penn State fans should be thinking about national championships.
@DanMurphyESPN If Nebraska somehow goes undefeated this season and wins the B1G championship how would we stack up against the other power
— Brandon Williamson (@Husker_bran) September 18, 2014
Nebraska has a very long way to go for an undefeated season. ESPN's FPI rating gives the Huskers a 0.8 percent chance of winning out (tied for 29th among FBS teams). If they do defy the odds, that will mean beating Michigan State and Wisconsin on the road along with the East Division champ (most likely Michigan State again or Ohio State) at a neutral site. With that resume, it would be almost impossible to leave them out of the College Football Playoff. They would still be a No. 3 or 4 seed, and I don't think they have the individual skill level to compete with the Alabamas and Oregons of the world this season. The consolation prize? If they get that far, you would have to imagine Ameer Abdullah would be a Heisman front-runner in December.
@DanMurphyESPN How many non power 5 schools would finish in the top half of the B1G? ND, BYU for sure, but ECU, Marshall, others?
— Mark (@msmeraglinolo) September 18, 2014
Let's start by setting the bar for "the top half of the B1G." Rutgers is currently in sixth place in our weekly power rankings and plays the same newcomer role that any hypothetical additions would assume. Teams that could reasonably expect to compete with or beat the Scarlet Knights will make our cut.
I think that group includes the three major independents (Notre Dame, BYU and Navy), three from the American Athletic Conference (UCF, East Carolina and Cincinnati), Northern Illinois and Boise State. Marshall and maybe one or two others could sneak into that conversation if they continue on an upward trajectory, but at this point I think they would still be underdogs against Rutgers. To be fair to the beloved Big Ten, I'm not sure this list would be much shorter if you asked the same question about the Big 12 or the ACC.
@DanMurphyESPN do you think hoke is done if Michigan loses this weekend and who could possibly replace him?
— andrew busovsky (@andyb1821) September 19, 2014
The boo birds showed up at Michigan Stadium last weekend against Miami (Ohio) and Michigan won that game 34-10. If Utah beats the Wolverines on Saturday, the calls for Brady Hoke's job will get a lot louder, but it's way too early in the year to starting writing anyone off. Even if he has another mediocre season, Hoke can save himself by beating Ohio State in the season finale. Combined with a relatively easy month of November before the rivalry game, a win against the Buckeyes would produce enough optimism for the future to buy a fifth year. There are way too many dominoes still standing upright to predict who could be next in line for the job.
@DanMurphyESPN who are you and what have you done with Rittenberg?
— Eric Shuman (@eshuman34) September 18, 2014
Hello there, I'm Dan. I enjoy chocolate-covered almonds, romantic comedies and the read option. Adam's just fine, I promise. See you all next week.