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Big Ten Thursday mailbag

I can neither contain nor curb my enthusiasm about the start of the season arriving in just one week. I tire of preview stories and speculation. Let's kick this thing off.

First, though, let's kick it mailbag-style:

Phil from Friesland, Wis., writes: Do the Badgers have what it takes to make a National Championship run?

Brian Bennett: That's the key question this season, Phil. Does Wisconsin -- or Nebraska or Ohio State or anyone else from the Big Ten -- have enough to get to, and hopefully win, the BCS title game? My perception is that the league doesn't have a team quite good enough to do it, and that the difficult conference schedule and relative evenness among the top Big Ten teams will prevent anyone from going undefeated. And I think the Big Ten needs an undefeated team to get to the BCS title game, because at least one other league champion will be undefeated, and an unbeaten or one-loss SEC champ will be there. I really like what Wisconsin has, and the Badgers weren't that far away from making the BCS title game a year ago. I want to see how this defense comes together, especially up front. And it all comes down, I think, to whether they can win in Columbus and East Lansing.


Vic M. from Rensselaer, Ind., writes: Would you be willing to tell me what you believe are realistic odds of Michigan competing for the Big 10 Championship this year are?

Brian Bennett: Ready and able, Vic. Adam said in his Best Case/Worst Case video for the Wolverines that a 10-2 record and Legends Division title are possible, and I agree. Michigan should remain an explosive offense even in a new system with Denard Robinson leading the charge, and the schedule sets up pretty well for the team to get off to a good start while working out some kinks. It will depend so much on whether that defense can improve enough to compete against the better teams in the league. I see more of an 8-4 type of year because I doubt the defense can make that big of a jump, and the Legends Division will be stacked with Nebraska, Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa. But a stunningly successful debut for Brady Hoke could happen if everything goes right and Robinson has a Heisman-type year.


Michael from St. Louis writes: Would you rather take a take one hit from Jared Crick at full speed, without pads *OR* not watch, listen to, or read about any college football this season?

Brian Bennett: That's a tough one, because if I stopped paying attention to college football, I'd lose my job. But if I got hit by Crick, I might lose several teeth and my ability to walk upright. You know what? I can always find another job.


Trevor from Denver writes: Can the University of Iowa marketing department please stop with the trophies? They have proven they should not be allowed near any trophy decisions. The Heartland Trophy doesn't really fit the Wisconsin rivalry (which really didn't need a trophy to begin with). This new Cy-Hawk "trophy" has nothing to do with football and seems to be a marketing tool for people other than the Universities involved. This leaves me very concerned about the Iowa-Nebraska game trophy. Have you heard any rumblings? In my opinion they need to wait, at some point a trophy will organically develop from the rivalry. That is how some of the best trophies have come to be.

Brian Bennett: Trevor, I agree that some of the best trophies happen organically or out of weird circumstances. Any time you have marketers trying to appeal to the broadest base of people and include sentiment in the design, you end up with a Cy-Hawk Trophy that looks like a collectible plate advertised in Parade magazine. I shudder to think what the Heroes Trophy will look like (though may I suggest a giant Han Solo in carbonite replica?) The schools would be better off with a generic trophy that could later be redesigned to fit the series than to have a PR firm try to please everyone.


Alex from Davenport, Iowa, writes: My brother and I were recently discussing the B1G non-con BCS schedule. There are 12 BCS AQ teams on the slate and we ranked them.

First Tier: 1. Alabama 2. Arizona State 3. Notre Dame

Second Tier: 4.USC 5.Oregon State 6. Pitt 7. Boston College 8. Miami

Third Tier: 9. Virginia 10.Colorado. 11.Washington 12. Iowa St.

How would you rank them?

Brian Bennett: First off, you have Washington way too low. I like what Steve Sarkisian is doing in Seattle, and even without Jake Locker this Huskies team should be decent. Remember they beat Nebraska in a bowl last year. I would have also ranked Miami higher if not for the Hurricanes' recent troubles; who knows what shape that team will be in when Ohio State visits. Otherwise, I find little to quibble about with your list.


Tyler from Lincoln writes: Your continuous "Breaking Bad" references are fantastic. I don't know if you like the show just because the alliteration is like the one in your name or if you genuinely enjoy well-written and well-acted dramas, but I appreciate it nonetheless. Do you also like "Big Brother?" In any case, kudos to you.

Brian Bennett: I've never seen a second of "Big Brother" and don't watch any reality TV. For my money, "Breaking Bad" and "Louie" are the best two shows on the air right now. I'd make more "Louie" references, but most of them aren't suitable for a family website.