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Big Ten Friday mailbag

It's Friday. You made it! Let's celebrate by dipping into the mailbag one more time before game day.

David from Chicago writes: The other day I wrote in and asked if it was too early to put J.T. Barrett in the Heisman talk, but then I looked at his comparison stats and it shows he should be ... If he wins or gets invited to NYC for the Heisman can Meyer bench him next year for Miller?

Dan Murphy: Thanks for your persistence, David. With Todd Gurley seemingly out of the picture, I think your new frontrunner is Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, who has thrown for 1,232 yards and 13 touchdowns with only two interceptions. Barrett's numbers at Ohio State (1,354 yards, 17 TDs and five interceptions) stack up well with Prescott's. The one thing he's missing at this point is his "Heisman moment," which would probably have to come in a win over Michigan State for him to get serious consideration.

Meyer already said he's going back to Braxton Miller when he's healthy next season. That will be a tricky situation if the Buckeyes keep winning with Barrett, although it's a problem any coach would love to have. Miller has only one more year before he turns pro, so transferring wouldn't get Barrett on the field any faster than waiting behind Miller for a season.




Brian from Chicago writes: I love that the Big 10 is guaranteeing scholarships over 4 years. Why is this not gaining bigger press around the landscape of the NCAA and do you think the other power conferences will soon follow suit?

Dan Murphy: The multi-year scholarship story has been a slow burn. The NCAA started giving schools the option to offer more than a year at a time in 2012 when its hand was forced by antitrust laws. It's not totally clear how many schools jumped on board immediately. This week's announcement from commissioner Jim Delany guaranteed every Big Ten player's scholarship for as long as they are eligible to play, a significant step. It also guaranteed players who leave school for a professional career or other legitimate reasons can finish their degree on scholarship at a later time. It's a smart move for a conference that is searching for ways to keep up with its southern brethren in recruiting. I don't think it will be long before other leagues around the country follow suit.



Dan Murphy: Any team that can go unbeaten in the second half of the year will be in line to help themselves greatly. Brady Hoke and Tim Beckman could save their jobs. Ohio State and Michigan State could get invites to the playoffs. Northwestern could knock off some impressive opponents and show things are headed in the right direction again. But of every school in the Big Ten, I think Minnesota could take the best perception leap if they continue to roll this season. The Gophers' only loss this year is to an undefeated TCU team that just upset Oklahoma. A strong second half of the year could elevate that program to a new level. Other than the Buckeyes and Spartans, the odds that any Big Ten team finishes the rest of its schedule unblemished are slim.


Dan Murphy: The current problem starts at quarterback. C.J. Beathard and Jake Rudock will split time for the Hawkeyes this weekend because neither has proven to be a reliable option at this point. If you want to take a bigger picture approach, though, it's hard to attract top-level talent on offense when your playbook looks like it was borrowed from the 1980s. Blue-chip prospects want to play in fast offenses that can post gaudy numbers. If Iowa wants to improve its talent on that side of the ball, philosophical changes are in order.


Dan Murphy: I'm going to guess this was a question about Nebraska meeting Michigan State in Indianapolis based on your Twitter profile, Jake. In which case, yes, that's still the most likely scenario for the Big Ten title game -- but by no means is it a guarantee. The Spartans still have to get past Ohio State. The West is wide open right now. If it is in fact a rematch of last week's meeting in East Lansing, the edge has to go to Michigan State. The Spartans dominated that game for 47 minutes before clicking into cruise control and allowing a fourth quarter comeback.