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Big Ten Thursday mailbag

Let's get to some of your e-mails. Don't anybody mention Albert Pujols.

Adam from Miami, Fla., writes: Go Hawks! Well, now that that's out of the way, this is a follow up to your question about Michigan State and Michigan. The loser of the Championship game (MSU) is basically being punished for winning their division. What do you think of a possible guarantee that the loser of the CG goes to the Capitol One Bowl? I don't have a problem with someone getting picked over them to go to a BCS bowl, but a guarantee to fall no farther than the Capitol One Bowl would be a good incentive for winning their respective division. Thoughts?

Brian Bennett: I see where you're coming from, Adam, and I don't like the way a championship game loser is often punished (unless you're Virginia Tech, and you can go to a BCS game after getting blown out. But I digress). Anyway, the Big Ten already has a rule in place that the title game loser can't fall below the Insight or Gator bowls, depending on how many BCS teams the league gets. And I think that's as far as the league and the bowl partners are willing to go with that arrangement. Just think if some year a 7-5 teams ends up in the championship game and loses. Then you'd have a 7-6 team ticketed to the biggest non-BCS bowl, and that doesn't make a lot of sense. Think that would never happen? We almost had a scenario where Ohio State could have been 8-5 after a title-game loss.


Kevin G. from San Diego writes: In response to your post about what fan fared better for Michigan or Michigan State, it has to obviously be Michigan. Who would have ever expected that a 7-5 Michigan team from last year, turns around to become a 10-2 team going to a BCS bowl? Michigan State had BCS bowl hopes going into the season and didn't achieve that, while Michigan had hopes of maybe getting a B1G January 1st game, and achieved way more. Also Mich was among the worst defenses last year and was able to have one of the best defenses in the country. Not to mention the dominance the Wolverines had on recruiting. Yes the Spartans did win head to head, but Michigan ended a bigger rivalry drought, and the one that matters more, in beating Ohio St. Coming down to it the future looks brighter for Michigan, so how could you argue that the Michigan St. fan fared better?

Brian Bennett: You make some good points. On the flip side, Spartans fans can always counter by saying they beat Michigan and won the division title. It's an interesting conundrum, and there were a lot of good takes on the issue. Such as ...


Vasav from Tokyo writes: As a Michigan fan, I'd rather have been Sparty. And not just for the head-to-head win -- not to denigrate the the Michigan-MSU game, but I think I speak for all Michigan fans in that we care more about beating Ohio and that's always going to be a more defining game for us. But if we were to lose to Sparty and still win the B1G West, and play for the Rose Bowl while they were almost guaranteed a spot to another BCS game -- I'd take it in a heartbeat, without even thinking about it. At the end of the day the Rose Bowl is the GREATEST bowl game, the "Granddaddy of them all" and the definition of Big Ten excellence. The only reason I'd want to be anywhere else during the holidays is to play for the BCS Title.

Brian Bennett: Domo arigato.


Gary from Urbana, Ill., writes: In response to your "Would you rather" poll, I think the answer here is easier than you suggest. I would never trade my heritage as a Wolverine to become a Spartan, but you didn't mention that Michigan beat Notre Dame and Ohio State. These victories, in my mind, make this decision a no-brainer.

Brian Bennett: What's odd is that Michigan beat Notre Dame while Michigan State didn't; Michigan beat Nebraska while Michigan State didn't; Michigan State beat Iowa while Michigan didn't; and Michigan State beat Wisconsin while Michigan didn't have to play the Badgers. And of course, the Spartans beat the Wolverines. Anyway, moving on ...


Andrew from East Lansing writes: How about creating a list of the best B1G teams to not receive an at-large BCS bid? Allow me to nominate 1999 MSU (passed over for a UM team it beat), 2010 MSU (passed by a UW team it beat and a weaker OSU team it didn't play), and 2011 MSU (would've been passed by a UM team it beat even if it were 12-1 and ranked #5). Can you please just tell us, once and for all, that MSU will never receive an at-large bid unless it finishes in the top 4? Having hope every year is starting to get old.

Brian Bennett: Andrew, I feel your pain. It's hard to argue that Michigan State really got passed over last year when it got creamed by Alabama while Ohio State beat Arkansas and Wisconsin lost a nail-biter to an undefeated TCU team. But certainly the Spartans did enough in the regular season to qualify for a BCS bowl the past two years. As for best Big Ten teams to not make a BCS bowl, here are some candidates:

2006 Wisconsin: Finished 12-1, beat Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl.

2009 Penn State: Finished 11-2, beat LSU in the Capital One Bowl

2003 Iowa: Finished 10-3, beat Florida in the Outback Bowl

2004 Iowa: Finished 10-2, beat LSU in the Capital One Bowl

2002 Michigan: Finished 10-3, beat Florida in the Outback Bowl

Any others come to mind?


Aaron from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Brian, In your assessment of Nebraska's season you referred to it as a disappointment. Sure there were high expectations but should it really be considered disappointing to go 9-3 when the team was preparing for the unknown every single game? Nebraska fared much better than any other team that switched conferences and with a pretty tough schedule. I wouldn't call the season an overwhelming success but I can't justify labeling it a disappointment either.

Brian Bennett: Nor can I, which is why I didn't. Read this again, Aaron, and tell me where I said it was disappointing. I wrote that it was an odd year, that Nebraska was wildly inconsistent and that the Huskers had some good wins and some puzzling losses. I also wrote that it the inconsistency made it "a good, but not special, first season in the Big Ten." That's not the same as disappointing by any stretch.


Brian from Atlanta writes: As usual, you are completely wrong. A playoff is bad for the B10 and for CFB in general. Delany is right about the calendar and right to protect the Rose Bowl. Bracket creep is real and has happened in every single sport, even ultra-conservative MLB. Most playoff advocates are counting on it, in fact, as they see a plus one as opening the door to let them push to 8 or 12 or 16. Playoffs are no better at determining a champion than the BCS, unless you really believe the Giants were better than the undefeated Patriots. I'd rather they focus on fixing the current system. No human polls, a more diverse set of computers, let the computers use points, you have to win your conference, no 2 loss teams, and play on 1/3. Simple.

Brian Bennett: Yeah, that sounds really simple: don't use any human voters, but let's have a bunch of computers tell us who the best team is. Brian, haven't you ever heard of Skynet? This is why a plus-one is the best model, in my opinion. It allows for the regular-season to remain special and adds only one more week to the schedule. Yes, there will be some yelling from teams left out, but wouldn't you rather withstand a debate over who's No. 4 than who's No. 2? If you can't finish in the Top Four, you probably don't deserve a shot at the national title, anyway. And this argument about bracket creep makes no sense to me, because it's as if the commissioners believe some other group is going to come in and take over their sport. If they don't want to go past a four-team tournament, then don't do it. They've sure proved to this point that they're willing to be obstinate and not listen to what the public wants.

Not to mention the fact that an eight- or 16-team playoff would be, you know, awesome.


Rob from Chicago writes: Thanks for doing an excellent job covering the B1G. I was wondering what you think of Iowa being matched with Oklahoma. Iowa was the 4 place team in their division while Oklahoma was preseason #1. How is this a fair match up for the B1G? This kind of match up is what leads to poor bowl records for the B1G and then all ESPN will talk about is how weak the B1G is. Why can't the B1G play teams that more even?

Brian Bennett: I see what you're saying, Rob, and in many ways Iowa failed upward. The Hawkeyes probably don't belong in the same game with Oklahoma, even a Sooners team that disappointed -- there's that word for you, Aaron from Lincoln -- this year. There's no question that the Big Ten usually takes on the toughest competition in bowls and its teams often take on more highly ranked opponents on unfriendly turf. That's a major reason for some of the bad bowl records. On the flip side, I don't think this is a bad thing. Most bowls are little more than exhibitions anyway, so why not see your team take on the best? Wouldn't you rather watch Iowa try to match up with Oklahoma instead of playing, for instance, a MAC or Big East also-ran? I just wish there was a little more understanding of why the Big Ten's overall bowl record is not always great.


Not J.T. from Green Bay, Wisc., writes: What is the final head to head result of Leaders vs Legends?

Brian Bennett: Glad you asked, J.T., as I've fallen behind on my pledge to update the Leaders vs. Legends scorecard. Obviously, Wisconsin's win in the title game was a big one for the Leaders. However, the Legends owned the season matchup against the other division, with a 12-6 record in the regular season (not counting the championship game). The teams that really enjoyed cross-divisional play were Michigan (3-0) and Michigan State (3-0 before the second Wisconsin game). Ohio State (0-3) could have done without it.