NCF Nation: big ten mailbag

Big Ten Thursday mailbag

November, 29, 2012
Happy Thursday, everybody? Who's coming to Indy? I've got a big dinner at St. Elmo's to pay for tomorrow night. At least I'll eat well, too.

J.P. from Washington DC writes: Is it possible that Ohio State actually BENEFITED from their postseason ban this year? You absolutely have to give them credit for being 12-0. Still, isn't it a bit too convenient that they can claim an undefeated season and everything that goes along with that (AP title?) without having to play in the B1G Championship game or face an elite opponent in a BCS game?

Brian Bennett: You know, I had that thought a few weeks ago, as the Buckeyes kept winning but did not look, in my eyes, like one of the best teams in the country. I thought they'd have a tough time handling a team like Alabama in the BCS title game. But then Ohio State's defense kept improving, to the point where, as Urban Meyer noted in his post-Michigan press conference, the Buckeyes could play with just about anybody. Add in the fact that an undefeated Ohio State team would most likely be playing Notre Dame for the BCS title. While the Irish would probably be favored in that game, they're a defensive-minded team that doesn't blow a lot of opponents out. Ohio State, especially if given a month to prepare, would definitely have a shot. That's assuming, of course, that the Buckeyes would get past Nebraska again in the Big Ten title game, but they did win the first one by 25 points.

Michael from St. Louis writes: I'd like to compare the stats of Taylor Martinez and Braxton Miller. Martinez had 6 more total yards. Martinez had one more total TD. Combining rushing and passing, Martinez averaged 0.24 more yards per attempt. On paper, it seems like a wash, maybe slightly favoring Martinez. Yet Braxton Miller, with the exception of a handful of coaches, is a consensus first-teamer and Heisman hopeful, while Martinez merely "had a good season". Why is this? Is Martinez's offensive support significantly better? Does Miller possess superior "intangibles"? Is it that Martinez got destroyed in their head-to-head? Or does it ultimately boil down to team records?

Brian Bennett: Martinez didn't have a "good" season. He had an outstanding season. There's no debating that. Miller, though, was simply spectacular at times this year, and made his biggest plays in the clutch. His 12-0 record is the ultimate stat. Martinez developed into a clutch quarterback as well in the second half of the season, but he also had some failures in the UCLA and Ohio State losses, and was pretty loose with the ball at times. It's a closer call than I would have expected, especially with the way Martinez finished the season and how Miller slowed down a bit after his injury against Purdue. Part of it is the early season narratives in college football are sometimes tough to change. But I'd still give a slight nod to Miller.

Brady M. from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Hey Brian, Does the fact that Bo Pelini expected to face Wisconsin in the B1G Championship game give the Huskers any advantage in terms of preparation? I mean, do you think Pelini had a rematch with the Badgers in the back of his mind?

Brian Bennett: As I wrote yesterday, Brady, Pelini knew early on that his team would probably face Wisconsin if it won the Legends title. That didn't take any great deduction, however, as the Badgers were always pretty heavy favorites to come out of the Leaders because of the probation at Ohio State and Penn State. I doubt that was much of an advantage. Pelini still had to concentrate on making sure his team won every week, and I don't think he could have afforded to waste any resources on doing any advance scouting on Wisconsin. If anybody had an advantage, it would have been Bret Bielema and his staff, who wrapped up their trip to Indianapolis with two weeks left and knew Nebraska was in the driver's seat. Again, though, Wisconsin went all out to try to win its last two games, and probably wasn't spending much time thinking about the Huskers.

Matt from Omaha writes: Wouldn't it be smarter for the B1G to adopt the Pac12 way of playing the CCG in a home stadium? Ticket sales in Indy are very low again, and if you can't get Husker fans to a CCG, something is wrong. What's wrong? Not many people can afford to travel to Indy, and then all the way to Cali a month later. I am sure it would be a lot different if the winning team weren't guaranteed to be traveling more than 1,450 miles (over 2,700 if you're a Penn St fan) for the BCS game.

Brian Bennett: That's a good point, Matt, and I think it's something every league but the SEC will have to think seriously about. (That league has ravenous fans, and Atlanta is a pretty easy trip for most schools). It really comes down to what's on the line in the game. When there's a potential national championship bid at stake, there will be a whole lot more interest. This year, it's understandable why the game is under the radar and why ticket sales are low. If 12-0 Ohio State were in this game with a chance to play for a national title, you'd be hard-pressed to find a ticket.

Even with no BCS title bid in play last year, Lucas Oil Stadium filled up pretty well. But there was a curiosity factor for the first-ever Big Ten title game, and Wisconsin and Michigan State had played an instant classic earlier in the season that piqued interest in a rematch. The upcoming four-team playoff likely will mean that this game has serious title implications more often than not. But your point about fan travel is a good one; while Indy is not a bad trip for teams like Ohio State and Michigan, it requires much more inconvenience for the far eastern and western schools. On the flip side, having a neutral site known in advance allows the Big Ten to plan out events around the game and all the infrastructure it requires. Simply playing it at a home site would make that process much more difficult, and the game wouldn't have the same type of atmosphere. There would also be questions about ticket distribution for the road team, which might face just as many travel obstacles, if not more, than Indianapolis would present. (There aren't exactly a ton of hotel rooms in Lincoln, Iowa City and State College, for example).

I think the Big Ten should stay at a neutral site for now, especially with the comfort that an indoors game at Lucas Oil provides to fans. But it's something the league should monitor if it becomes a sparsely attended event.

Matt from Mount Pleasant, Mich., writes: With the addition on Rutgers and Maryland in 2014, the 2014 conference schedules will have to re-done. Will the Big Ten attempt to keep the difficulty with cross-divisional games the same for the 2014 season as already planned, or will teams have to continue playing a more difficult schedule then other teams (Michigan State, Ohio State, Nebraska, Wisconsin are expected to have easier schedules the next two years. Where Michigan, Iowa, and Northwestern are expected to have harder schedules the next two years)?

Brian Bennett: That's a great question, and the only answer I can give you is: no one knows. First, the divisions will have to be aligned to accommodate the two new teams, which could totally change the schedule. The league will also at least consider a nine-game conference schedule. I would hope that consideration will be given to competitive balance, but we could be looking at a total reset button for 2014. These questions won't be answered until next year when the league athletic directors start to make these decisions.

Joshua from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Thinking how Ohio State went 12-0, and Michigan had a down year, do you think you could bring back the best case/worst case articles you wrote before the season, and review which one came true? I feel like Ohio State's season was more of the "best case scenario."

Brian Bennett: Sure thing. Here is Ohio State's best case/worst case scenario, in which I said the Buckeyes would go 12-0 (along with some other silly things). I did pick Ohio State to beat Nebraska by 21 in that one, which wasn't far off. Michigan didn't really hit either of its best case/worst case outlooks, in which I had the Wolverines going either 12-1 or 6-6. Although this line was fairly prescient in the worst-case: "Notre Dame extends the pain as the Irish finally manage to slow down Robinson and hold onto a lead in this rivalry. Robinson falls back on his poor passing mechanics, and all those jump balls that magically paid off last season turn into turnovers in 2012."

Megan from Chicago writes: Is there anything that can be done to clean up the coaches' All-Big Ten vote, because there seems to be some sort of grudge being held against certain schools (Ohio State) and coaches (Urban Meyer)? Does the Big Ten office give a damn about the voting?

Brian Bennett: It's hard to say there's an actual bias against Ohio State, since Miller was named offensive player of the year and quarterback of the year, while John Simon won defensive lineman and defensive player of the year honors. If coaches were truly biased against Ohio State, they could have easily chosen Martinez and Michael Mauti for the major player awards. The coaches' All-Big Ten voting is usually better than it was this year, when there were some really odd choices. If only we could throw the red challenge flag.

Jim W. from Naperville, Ill., writes: You didn't mention the most curious of all Big Ten first-team selections. How does an offensive line, blocking in front of a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate running back, get its offensive line coach fired, lose every important game, have the team finish well below expectations (and unranked), rank only 4th in the B10 in yards per carry, give up the 3rd most sacks in the B10, and still put 2 lineman on the 1st B10 team for the writers (and 1 for the coaches). The media must be voting on historical reputations and not on actual performance. Pat Fitzgerald must be doing it with smoke and mirrors. Northwestern only put the kicker on the 1st team, and still had the 3rd best overall record in the Big Ten.

Brian Bennett: As I mentioned in my post, it was a mystery to me how Wisconsin could get four players on the first-team offense with a team that struggled to score against the best opponents on its schedule (16.4 ppg in the Badgers' five losses, all of which came against the best teams on the schedule). I did not think Ricky Wagner or Jacob Pedersen played at a first-team level all season. Some of it, I think, was just reputation. That's my only explanation. Northwestern went 9-3 yet had only two position players on either of the two teams chosen by the media and coaches (Venric Mark, second team by both, and guard Brian Mulroe, second team by media). That seemed like a major oversight to me.

John A. from Ohio writes: I keep hearing the media trying to make a big deal out of the reception Jim Tressel received at the OSU-Michigan game the other day. They are wondering how Ohio State fans could cheer for someone who caused such a mess over the last couple years. I think the issue goes back to the 1990s. Buckeye fans had suffered through watching extremely talented teams miss out on national title chances because of late season losses to Michigan (multiple times) and Michigan State, and John Cooper's awful career record vs Michigan. Now imagine you could ask a Buckeye fan at the end of the Cooper era, would you want a coach to come in, dominate Michigan, win Big Ten titles most years, win multiple BCS games and a National Title, with the catch being it will end very badly with his forced resignation (oh by the way you will get an even better coach in the end). I think that Buckeye fan without hesitating would say yes every time. That is why Tressel received the ovation he did at Ohio Stadium the other day. Yes things ended badly, but Tressel did so much for the program that fans are ready to forgive and move on to possibly even bigger and better things.

Brian Bennett: Hey, I get why Ohio State fans view the entire Tressel era as overwhelmingly positive. I just thought it was tone deaf to cheer him so loudly on the same exact day the current team was finishing 12-0 but couldn't play for a championship because of the very man who was being lifted up on former players' shoulders. That was beyond surreal. I think in some ways Tressel has also benefited from the job Urban Meyer did. It's a whole lot easier to forgive a former coach's transgressions if the program is still in great shape and is winning big. Had Tressel's actions brought more damage to the program -- say, a second consecutive 6-6 type season -- then I believe fans would have been less willing to cheer him and would have blamed him for the team's decline.

Travis K. from Omaha writes: Still waiting on a apology from you and Adam for the lack of response to multiple emails telling you MSU was over rated.... still waiting...

Brian Bennett: We've said multiple times how wrong we were on Michigan State in the preseason. If we issued apologies for every bad prediction we made, we wouldn't have time to do anything else.

Big Ten Thanksgiving mailbag

November, 21, 2012
Since Thursday is the holiday, I'm giving you a special early edition of the Thursday mailbag. So, what are you gobbling about, turkeys?

J.W. Buchanan from Milwaukee writes: I'm sure this is the millionth question/comment you've gotten on the B1G division realignment... but, why is it so important to keep tOSU and UM in separate divisions? They already play every year to close out the regular season -- Does anyone really care to see a rematch the following week? Wouldn't The Game would be more meaningful if it decided the division? Secondly, since it seems to be true that the loser of the Championship Game is at a disadvantage in BCS consideration, why would tOSU and UM ever, ever want to play in it? Stop messing with Wisconsin and just do a basic East-West split! Everybody wins!

Brian Bennett: I am in full agreement with you on this, J.W. I thought Ohio State and Michigan should have been in the same division to begin with, and this expansion gives the Big Ten a chance to fix that. Think about some of the top intraconference rivalries in college football, like Auburn-Alabama, USC-UCLA, Georgia-Florida ... they're all in the same division. Same was true for Texas-Oklahoma when the Big 12 had divisions. Sure, you lose the chance of having an Ohio State-Michigan Big Ten title game, but you eliminate the potential of a rematch the following week and virtually guarantee that The Game will have major division title implications every year.

FFXlion from Washington, DC writes: As a Penn State fan living in the DC area, I am thrilled with the Maryland addition. Finally, I'll be able to see my Lions in action without having to trek to Happy Valley. You and Adam are probably getting tons of questions on alignment. I'd like to offer mine: the Sandwich aligment, which puts the far east and west in one division, and the central teams in the other. The "bread" division: Penn State, Maryland, Rutgers, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska. The "meat" division: OSU, Michigan, MSU, Indiana, Illinois, Purdue, Northwestern. I'd argue that this alignment is competitively balanced, separates the four big name programs two apiece, and reunites Wisconsin with their traditional rivals while also preserving their east coast access. What do you think?

Brian Bennett: I think a simpler geographic alignment would be far easier for everybody to remember and accomplishes the same thing. How about Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Maryland, Rutgers, Indiana and Purdue with the rest on the other? It's almost perfectly split East-West, and given that Wisconsin and Michigan State have risen and Penn State could be about to decline for a few years, it also maintains pretty solid competitive balance.

Robert R. from Enlightened City writes: I have become appalled by the separation the division format brings. Right now Michigan, for example, plays Wisconsin, Penn State, Indiana, Illinois, and Purdue 4 times in 10 years. Bringing in Rutgers and Maryland will make Michigan play those teams 1 in every 6 years (assuming the Big Ten keeps the 8 game conference schedule). If the Big Ten doesn't do something the conference is no longer going to feel like one. I propose that (especially if the Big Ten moves to a 9 game conference schedule) the Big Ten decide to make it one big conference and not even have divisions. Then at the end of the year the top two teams meet in the championship game. Michigan, for example, would have protected rivalry games with Ohio State and Michigan State. Then with the remaining 7 games play the remaining conference members (11) on a rotating schedule. A common point against this is that teams will have much harder schedules than others. But this is already a vivid reality. People may also complain that you will get ties for second and first place and it will be just like the old system but the current division format produces ties a top the divisions all the time. So explain to me why this shouldn't be the future of the Big Ten?

Brian Bennett: Well, whatever format you choose, you're going to have unbalanced schedules. And the thing I like least about this expansion is it means that traditional Big Ten teams will see each other less. Would any school really trade games with Ohio State and Michigan for ones with Maryland and Rutgers? Jim Delany was right when he said the Big Ten wanted to play each other more, not less. Now, the only way to accomplish that is by adding more conference games. Speaking of which ...

David from Chicago writes: From a revenue generation perspective, which seems to be foremost on the minds of Big Ten officials, what are the pros and cons of a nine-game league schedule? I know it would decrease the total number of games played by Big Ten teams (because they're playing each other more often), but I would think an extra intra-league game would draw a significantly larger tv audience than two games with MAC teams. What's the tradeoff?

Brian Bennett: You're right that more league games create more excitement and would be better both for fans and for TV packages. The downside is the league beats up on each more, resulting in more losses that could hurt bowl and playoff chances. The Pac-12 has found that out the hard way. The other big issue, and one coaches have reservations about, is a nine-game schedule means some teams are going to play five league road games in a given year, while others will only have four. There are some competitive balance problems there, as well as scheduling since most teams need seven or eight home games per year to make their budgets. Of course, it also means one fewer nonconference game, and the fear is most schools wouldn't cut out that game against an FCS or MAC school to make room; they'd eliminate challenging, marquee nonconference contests because A) they'd need a guaranteed home game and B) they know they have an extra, difficult conference game to play.

So while I'd love to see more Big Ten conference games, I don't want the Big Ten to shy away from playing fun, interesting nonconference games like the ones that have recently been scheduled for coming years.

Jason from Hillsborough, N.J., writes: I am a "yuuuge" Rutgers fan who you responded to in a Big East mailbag in the winter of 2009 concerning the possibility of any eventual transition (read: transcension) to the Big Ten. You're reply "I think Rutgers would bolt for the Big Ten in a New York minute." The greatest days in Rutgers Football History - November 6, 1869 (Rutgers v Princeton - The First Game), November 9, 2006 (Pandemonium in Piscataway), November 20, 2012 (Leaders Division, B1G). The State of Rutgers is delirious and cannot wait to take care of business this year en route to a first Big East Championship and BCS Bowl Berth and join our fellow Leaders Division competitors at the table...we're buying.

Brian Bennett: Welcome aboard, Jason. I enjoyed covering Rutgers in the Big East blog and look forward to re-uniting with some of the Scarlet Knights fans. There's no question Rutgers made out like bandits in getting the call from the Big Ten. As I pointed out on Twitter, the Scarlet Knights went 0-21 in the Big East from 2000-02, including an 80-7 loss to West Virginia in 2001. A decade later, the program is moving to the Big Ten. It's a stunning climb, and Greg Schiano deserves a ton of credit for building things up.

Brian from Washington DC writes: Brian: I am disappointed. I thought you were one of the good guys. Instead, it looks like you have indulged in elitism and traditionalism. Rutgers has a good football program. Stating otherwise to a mob of Big Ten fans is irresponsible. It's people like you that make it hard for clean, exciting, rising programs like Rutgers to get any respect.

Brian Bennett: Um, OK. Didn't realize that I had so much influence. Look, Rutgers is what it is: a program that has turned around from decades of irrelevance to become a perennial bowl team in the Big East. It's also true that the Scarlet Knights have yet to win a conference title, and that many of their bowl seasons were propped up by very weak schedules. I know what you'll say: Rutgers is 5-1 in bowls the past seven years. Here are the teams it beat in those bowls: Kansas State (pre-Bill Snyder's return), Ball State, NC State, UCF, Iowa State. Not exactly murderer's row. I like what Kyle Flood has done in succeeding Schiano, but I think this year's team is overrated after playing another soft schedule (and getting beat soundly at home by Kent State).

Bottom line: Rutgers is improving, and there is a whole lot of potential there. But the program hasn't really proved anything yet on a big stage, and it's not close to the level of Ohio State, Michigan or Nebraska at this point.

Rob from Morristown, NJ, writes: Bennett, can I call you by your last name? I feel we have bonded over these past couple seasons. Quick question, the BO'B to the NFL talk is rather annoying, as a PSU alum I cannot see this "having legs". With that in mind, if Billy O's name is being thrown around NFL circles why isn't a guy like Urban Meyer? He has been dominant at nearly every coaching stop? Is it because his style of football doesn't translate to the NFL. Does this give some legitimacy that O'Brien is the better COACH, while maybe Urban is just a good recruiter with a scheme? O'Brien hasn't even finished one year of coaching a senior laden team to a (hopeful) 8-4 record, what has he done to merit this attention. Turn a walk-on QB into a servicable D-I QB that still won't get drafted? This isn't a slight to O'Brien, I love what he has done for my school and our football team, I just don't understand the hype other than maybe its just the "trendy" thing to do by the media?

Brian Bennett: You can call me whatever you like, Rob. The reason Bill O'Brien's name is being thrown around in the NFL is obvious: he's already had success at that level as offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, and he proved he could get some previously underachieving offensive players at Penn State to excel in a pro-style system. Meyer has been a college coach all along and has shown no real interest in making the move to the NFL. He also runs a spread system that might not translate as well to the pros. I think Meyer would win at any level, and the fact that Chip Kelly has NFL suitors and more pro teams are incorporating spread elements show that things are changing.

Dave from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., writes: In your coaches' salaries post, you did the math incorrectly. You based it on an 11 game season. The correct way to go about doing this would be to either remove 1/12 (or 1/13, depending on bowl eligibility) of the entire year's salary and then divide it by number of wins OR you could just wait until January 10th, after the season is over, and recalculate on a per-win basis. Sorry for the technicality, but the season isn't over yet, and I'm a nerdy engineer who checks your math frequently on these type of posts.

Brian Bennett: Dave, I was obviously trying to make a point about the relative worth of the coaches' salaries to this point in the season. It was just for fun, and I don't think you can judge a coach or his pay solely on one year's worth (or slightly less than a season's worth) of results. For example, Kirk Ferentz might not be earning his $3.8 million salary this year, but he sure did when Iowa was playing in BCS games. But I'm glad you're checking my math, because like most journalists I can get very shaky in that area. Can I put you on retainer?

Ryan from Omaha writes: I'm wondering why Bo Pelini isn't getting heavy consideration for Big Ten COY. Nebraska currently sits at 9-2 (6-1), having faced the #3-rated schedule in America. They have a top-20 offense and defense nationally. NU's two losses are road losses to Pac-12 South champ UCLA (9-2) and undefeated Ohio St (11-0). NU has stayed the course after a humbling defeat in Columbus and instead of folding, has won 5 straight against some tough opponents. Their defense is a top-20 unit despite not really having any stars. Their offense is a top-20 unit despite starting most of the year with three walkons on their OL, and their best player/team leader sidelined (Burkhead) for most of the season. They have a first-time OC in his second year (Beck), first-time DC in his first year (Papuchis), and were predicted no higher than third in their own division before the season. It would seem to be a great coaching job thus far by Pelini and his young staff. Thoughts?

Brian Bennett: Ryan, I agree that Pelini has done a very good job this year and should get some consideration, especially if the Huskers wrap up the Legends Division title this weekend. However, coach-of-the-year awards typically go to those who have exceeded expectations. Pelini in an odd way is a victim of his own success here, having won at least nine games every year he's been in Lincoln. Compare that to a guy like O'Brien, who has his team on the verge of possibly going 8-4 when many people expected Penn State would fall apart. Or Pat Fitzgerald, who might well lead Northwestern to a 9-3 record with a young team. And of course, there's Meyer, who took over a 6-7 team and has it at 11-0, with a blowout win against Pelini's Huskers. Pelini isn't going to win the award, but a conference championship should suit him just fine.

Andrew from Los Angeles writes: For the next round of Big Ten expansion, don't you think the logical choice would be the Indira Gandhi National Open University in New Delhi? Sure, it lacks a prestigious football program and traditional rivalries, but its television market would reach roughly 1/6 of the planet's population. I think it's about time the Big Ten expands its footprint to include the Indian subcontinent.

Brian Bennett: Shhh .... Delany might read this, Andrew.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

Big Ten Thursday mailbag

September, 13, 2012
Is it time to tailgate yet? Well, let's answer some mail until the meats hit the grill.

Nick from GoBlueBABY writes: Unlike most of the Michigan faithful I'm not going to be naive and think Michigan is positioned for a repeat of last year. Obviously there are some big question marks about the strength and depth of the O and D line, but I think people are hitting the panic button a little early for Big Blue. I'm a numbers guy and if you look at Michigan's first two games this year compared to last year it's not that different. They allowed 848 yards and 66 points so far this year compared to 792 yards and 41 points last year. However if you look at the turnover margin they were +5 last year compared to -3 this year so there is a need for the defense to step it up and create turnovers and take some pressure off the offense. At this point last year Michigan was unranked and nobody expected them to beat Ohio, get a BCS bowl bid and win, make it to 11 wins, and finish as a top 10 team. Last year's start wasn't pretty but it turned out pretty darn good so isn't it a little early for everyone to be jumping ship?

Brian Bennett: You make some solid points. Michigan's defense was not nearly as good in the first two weeks last year as it would become. Anyone remember the Notre Dame game last year? It really seemed like things started to click last year in the fourth game against San Diego State. I guess the big difference, besides the competition level this year, is that last season was the first under a new coaching staff. Even with new starters, there was an assumption that the Wolverines would be able to pick up where they left off. It's far too soon to write off Michigan, however. This team should be in the thick of the Big Ten race all year long.

The thing that has concerned me ever since the spring is the lack of depth on the lines and what would happen if there were injuries. The Wolverines already appear to be hit harder by injuries this year than they were last season. A lot of freshmen are playing, and it's tough to win the Big Ten with so much youth in key spots.

Adam from Ann Arbor writes: I hate to remind people of last weekend, but I have a question about the B1G playing on the West Coast. I saw an article on NPR today about NFL teams from the East playing on the West coast at night - - turns out over the past 25 years West Coast teams that play east coast teams at night win 70% of the time due, in part, to our natural body clocks. I know this is starting to sound like another excuse, and I'm not excusing the B1G's horrific play, but I was curious if anyone has bothered to conduct a similar study in college sports. College kids keep strange schedules and the effect might be better or worse on them. If there is a similar effect, shouldn't the B1G at least try to schedule day (3:30) games when they go out West (not that it would have helped Wisconsin)?

Brian Bennett: Anyone who has traveled across several time zones can tell you that it takes a while for your body to adjust. It would be naive to think the time change plays no role. But Big Ten teams played at several different times last week out West -- Wisconsin played at 3 p.m. Central time, Nebraska at 6:30 and Illinois at 9:30. And of course all three lost, with the Illini looking the most listless. College students should have more energy than pro players in their 30s, and charter flights make the trips more manageable. I'm not sure how much of an excuse the Big Ten can make for that showing last week. Oh, and Cal will be at a potentially bigger disadvantage this week at Ohio State, playing at 9 a.m. Pacific time.

Nathan from Denver writes: I can understand the reactions to the B1G losses this weekend. And maybe this is the weakest the conference has been in several years. My concern is for the Spartans, who no one seems to be taking very seriously. Will the bad view of the B1G, in general, effect MSUs chances of playing the title game if they end the year undeafeated? I truly believe if Maxwell can line things up with the unproven WRs on this team, they will be nearly impossible to beat.

Brian Bennett: While it's too early to be thinking about undefeated seasons, that's an interesting question to ponder. A 13-0 Michigan State team might well suffer from the Big Ten reputation if there are more than two undefeated, major conference contenders out there. If it's a choice between, say, Michigan State, a 13-0 Alabama and a 13-0 USC, then the Spartans wouldn't get the benefit of the doubt (and they started way behind both in the polls). If there is only one undefeated team, a 13-0 Michigan State team would likely make the title game, though you can already imagine the howling and crying if there's a 12-1 SEC champion out there. The Spartans need to root for Boise State and Notre Dame to have strong seasons to bolster their reputation.

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