Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Big Ten Wednesday mailbag
By Brian Bennett
I'm flippin' out down in Clemson right now but still have time to answer your Big Ten emails. Bring it:
J.R. from Houston writes: If either Alabama or Florida State loses, who do you think has the best chance of moving up: Baylor or Ohio State? I looked it up, and Ohio State falls behind the Bears in every category except rushing yards, for which Buckeyes are eighth, only one spot ahead. Also Baylor has three ranked teams on its schedule (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas) while Ohio State only has one (Wisconsin). Not to mention the Big 12 is third in the conference power rankings with an overall rating of 73.9. The Big Ten is fourth with an overall rating of 66.8. If both teams win out, does the Big Ten blog think that Baylor would pass Ohio State and secure the No. 3 spot? P.S. The College Football playoffs can't come soon enough!
Freshman Dontre Wilson and the Buckeyes will need style points down the stretch.
Brian Bennett: Great question, J.R. Right now, Ohio State does have to worry about winning with style points to make sure it stays ahead of Baylor -- and Stanford. Things are getting very, very close.
The good news for the Buckeyes is that Baylor is currently No. 5, not No. 4. Stanford is only .237 behind Ohio State, but I don't believe a one-loss team will pass an undefeated Big Ten champion. So the Bears have some work to do. But Baylor is only 25 points behind Ohio State in the coaches poll and 69 points back in the Harris poll. And it has some marquee matchups still to come by playing at No. 12 Oklahoma State on Nov. 23 and No. 24 Texas on Dec. 7.
If Baylor beats Oklahoma State, that will be a very good win that should propel the Bears in both the polls and the computers. Ohio State could suffer in the next three weeks as it plays Illinois, Indiana and a down Michigan team. That's why having Michigan State win out and play in the Big Ten title game could really boost the Buckeyes. And if Wisconsin wins out, Ohio State's wins over the Badgers and Spartans will look just as good if not better than Baylor's over Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Baylor cannot criticize the Buckeyes' nonconference schedule, either, since it played the murderer's row of Wofford, Buffalo and Louisiana Monroe. Ohio State should still worry, because Baylor wins with so much offensive flair that voters could become more sympathetic toward that team. But the best thing the Buckeyes have going for them is that they started out higher in the polls than the Bears, and that poll inertia will be tough to overcome.
John from Newark, Del., writes: Just a quick note about the BCS computers. The Colley Matrix--which has disliked Wisconsin the most all season -- allows you to add and remove games at will. Reverse only the Wisconsin/ASU result and take a peek at what Colley's computer results would look like if Wisconsin had taken and made the FG.
Brian Bennett: John, I like the cut of your jib. Excellent find. You can go here to that function on the Colley Matrix site and reverse the Arizona State result for the Badgers. What happens is that Wisconsin jumps to No. 10 in the hypothetical Colley Matrix rankings, all the way up from No. 26 in the real life ratings. (It also helps Ohio State, which moves up from No. 4 to No. 3).
Now, you could argue that maybe Wisconsin misses that field goal, because the Badgers' special teams have been suspect. And this is just one computer ranking system out of several used for the BCS. But the point about how much Wisconsin is getting punished by that terrible officiating crew is still valid. It makes 16 spots' worth of difference in one major computer ranking, and voters who still aren't giving the Badgers enough credit would likely have them ranked much, much higher. Wisconsin would go from being criminally underrated at No. 22 in the BCS to a an extremely strong candidate for an at-large bid.
There's only one word for it: Injustice.
M.V. from Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: If Iowa finishes 8-4 and so does Minnesota, does the tie go to Iowa for beating Minnesota or does Iowa "traveling well" give them the go ahead? In all fairness the better bowl goes to Iowa no matter what. Wouldn't it?
Aaron M. from Purcellville, Va., writes: I'm starting to get upset with the perception of Gophers. Everyone seems to think that they are just an average football team, and that they don't deserve a good bowl because the fan base apparently doesn't travel well. Let's be real: Minnesota hasn't been to a halfway decent bowl game since 2003 when they went to the Sun Bowl and played Oregon. Michigan is self-destructing. Wouldn't the bowl gain more interest if they took the Gophers especially with Coach Kill's leave of absence? That should provide more storyline.
David Cobb and the Gophers already have posted eight wins, but will their reward be the best bowl it could be?
Brian Bennett: I can understand why Minnesota fans are worried. If we were just talking about merit, the Gophers would be in line for a really nice bowl destination right about now. But a lot of things go into bowl selection, including fan support and team momentum. If all things are relatively even, Iowa could very well get the nod over Minnesota because of its fan base. Michigan could do the same because of its brand name.
But the Gophers could also have momentum on their side, if they end up with six straight wins or five of their last six. The Jerry Kill story is a great one, and bowl games love that kind of positive publicity. So all of that is good news. Here's my main concern: Minnesota has yet to draw sellout crowds to its own stadium. Last week against Penn State, the announced attendance was 48,123, or more than 2,000 below capacity at TCF Bank Stadium, and there were even more empty seats than that, according to media reports.
I'm not sure what else Gopher fans are waiting for to get all the way behind this special team. If that stadium is not absolutely full next week against Wisconsin -- and not because of visiting Badgers fans -- then Minnesota can't complain if it gets passed over for a bowl slot.
Mike R. from Camp Lejeune, N.C., writes: While Michigan has certainly gotten better under Brady cHoke they clearly are still far and away from being elite again. I honestly feel that cHoke's Year 1 win against one of the least inspired/worst coached Buckeyes teams in recent memory, is the only thing keeping him off the hot seat at this point. What do you think it will take for Michigan fans to start calling for his replacement as he has said all the right things but continues to not produce?
Brian Bennett: It's an interesting hypothetical, at the very least. Let's say Michigan doesn't beat Ohio State in 2011 (it was a three-point game with two minutes left, and Braxton Miller missed on what could have been a game-tying touchdown pass on the Buckeyes' final drive). Michigan finishes that regular season at 9-3 and does not go to a BCS game. Hoke would have a two-game losing streak to Ohio State with a likely third loss pending this year.
I still don't think that would put Hoke on the hot seat. He has built up a lot of goodwill by being a Michigan Man and by not being Rich Rodriguez, and his recruiting prowess provides hope for the future. But he'd be on a much shorter leash, and I think Maize and Blue fan anger would be much hotter right now without that win. You can do a lot of things right at Michigan or Ohio State, but if you don't win The Game, it's never enough.
Marcus from NY, NY, writes: Is it time for Michigan to just start playing Shane Morris? I know this sounds crazy, and I am not advocating that Shane Morris will get Michigan out of its funk. Quite the opposite. Michigan will stink with Shane Morris out there. However, the future is now at Michigan, look at the offensive line and the secondary, it's a lot of freshmen and even Hoke has admitted its necessary to get the offensive linemen going to get some experience now. Morris' redshirt has been burned, so get him out there and get some experience. Gardner is completely lost and getting battered, and he's going to struggle from now until whatever pizza bowl Michigan gets to play in. At the very least a somewhat experienced Morris can push Gardner during the offseason and provide another QB for 2014.
Brian Bennett: Marcus, I think if Morris were ready, he would have played more by now, because Gardner has had his troubles. But Hoke and Borges obviously don't think he's ready. You also run the risk of putting a young quarterback in there behind a bad offensive line and having his confidence shot (along with possibly some of his limbs).
Since Michigan doesn't have a whole heck of a lot to play for this season -- by Hoke's standards, the season is already a failure -- then it wouldn't hurt to get Morris some experience. At the same time, Michigan will be in a dogfight its final three games, and its best chance to win those is still probably with Gardner. I think the bowl game would be the perfect time to work Morris in, especially after he gets those extra bowl practices to develop. An open quarterback competition next spring would be good for everybody.
Steve from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Brian, love the blog, just wondering why the media isn't pushing for an Urban Meyer-Nick Saban BCS finale. Seems like a journalist's dream, dozens of storylines. FSU is pretty good but no one wants to see another freshman quarterback get worked again. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett: Call me naive, but I think most journalists have the integrity to "push" for the two teams they feel are the most deserving. And Alabama and Florida State have that edge right now in a big way. There would still be plenty of storylines in an FSU-Bama clash. And have you seen Jameis Winston play? I'm not too worried about him "getting worked." He's a special player, and quite possibly this year's Heisman Trophy winner.