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Big Ten mailbag

This is normally Adam's mailbag space, but since he is gallivanting overseas you're stuck with me. Remember to shoot your e-mails to my mailbag link if you want your questions to be answered in the next two weeks while Adam's on vacation.

OK, Tuesday's children. Let's see what's on your mind:

Tony from Eagan, MN, writes: It's March, far-fetched thoughts help pass the time 'til Spring. I'm wondering, hypothetically, what 'trades' could benefit both teams in the B1G. -- i.e. who has depth where the other has need, and vice versa.

Brian Bennett: The problem with this exercise, while fun, is that some of the biggest areas of need are the same for many teams. For example, several teams could really use a proven big-play receiver, but the ones that have the most depth are mostly young and inexperienced themselves.

One interesting trade partner for someone would be Purdue because of its quarterback depth. With Rob Henry, Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve all back, the Boilermakers could afford to flip one of those signalcallers to someone in need, like Penn State or Wisconsin. Purdue could use some help at linebacker, so perhaps the two teams could pull off a Marve-for-Khairi Fortt deal. How about Wisconsin dealing from its depth at offensive line, sending Travis Frederick to Michigan in exchange for Devin Gardner? Frederick could step in for David Molk, while Gardner could give the Badgers another athletic quarterback.

Got any other suggestions for trades? Send 'em in and maybe we'll do a longer look at them in a future segment.


Wayne from Queen Creek, AZ., writes: Along with all the discussion on future 4-team/8-team playoffs, there was some tagalong talk about requiring bowl teams to have a minimum of 7 wins. Have you heard anything further about this topic? I am fine with the six win minimum; it certainly helps the Big 10 bowl scenario and teams. Plus, I am worried about what would happen to minor but decent bowls like the Little Caesars Bowl that would prefer a 6-6 Big Ten team over some 7-5 team from Memphis or Middle Tennessee.

Brian Bennett: That idea has been discussed, and mostly it relates to sagging attendance at those bowls and the costs that schools incur to play in them. I like the idea of going back to a seven-win minimum to make it seem like more of an achievement, but I am dubious that will actually occur. The NCAA sanctioned these bowls, which are businesses, and those bowls could sue to keep their licenses alive. Don't forget that those bowl games make for good TV programming during a slow month of sports, and many smaller conference and even underachieving big conference teams like being able to say they made a bowl after a 6-6 season.

My hunch is we'll see a four-team playoff but not a change to the six-win requirement. The question will be whether interest is still there for minor bowls once a true playoff system, albeit a small one, finally arrives.


Dan from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, writes: I think I have a solution to the problem of trying to keep the importance of the Rose Bowl when there is a playoff created. The Big Ten and Pac 12 form a partnership where the conference champions play in the Rose Bowl for the right to be included in the 4 team playoff. You could also have an SEC/ACC, Big 12/Big East, then some kind of At-large teams play for the other spots in the playoffs. This keeps the importance of the BCS bowls and keeps a playoff.

Brian Bennett: I like where you're coming from, but your idea has some major practical problems. The first is the timing. The Rose Bowl is not going to want to move off its traditional Jan. 1 slot, and the college football power brokers are trying to keep this four-team playoff from extending too far into January. In your plan, there would be no way to hold the finals before the third week of January.

It also adds a difficult hurdle for both the Big Ten and Pac-12 champs, who would have to play an extra game just to get into the four-team playoff. That would be a major disadvantage and would also be tough on fans to follow their teams. Neither league would want to do that. And what if the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions are ranked No. 1 and 2 at the end of the season (settle down, SEC fans, this is just a hypothetical)? Then the real national championship game would come before the four-team playoff ever began.


Mike from Columbia, MD, writes: It seems Bill O'Brien is wasting no time getting into the recruiting scene, getting verbal commits from three four-star recruits already. How do you feel that this influx will spur an influx in Penn State's average recruiting game, but also, do you believe that this would have an effect on the current players by getting them to buy into what O'Brien is doing in Happy Valley? I feel like while the recruits are great to be getting verbals from, having the team buy into the system will be what pushed Penn State through this changing of the guard and keep them in competition with Wisconsin and Ohio State atop the division.

Brian Bennett: Mike, I don't know that recruiting has much effect on the current players. However, success in recruiting starts to build a buzz around a program, and that can put a little pep in everyone's step. The most important thing about this, in my view, is that Penn State finally has some positive news. There was real concern on how the Sandusky scandal would affect recruiting and the program in general going forward, but O'Brien has shown he can still get highly-rated players to come to State College. Whether these players turn out to be stars or busts is almost less important than the symbolism of their commitments.


George G. from Palmyra, Va., writes: Buckeye Nation is always on the big defensive when their toughness outside the B1G is questioned. Yet look at their 2012 schedule outside the B1G ... 3 little guys and a mediocre Cal team ... all home games at Columbus by the way. Why can't OSU get stronger competition outside the B1G, or overcome obstacles/schedulers in fixing this?

Brian Bennett: You can criticize some Big Ten teams' nonconference schedules (cough, Wisconsin, cough), but Ohio State should get a pass here. The Buckeyes have traditionally played one of the strongest non-league slates, or at least have faced at least one outstanding cross-sectional opponent. Remember those games against Texas, USC and Miami? Cal has slipped but was a pretty strong program when the series was scheduled. The Buckeyes will start a home-and-home series with Virginia Tech in 2014 and are scheduled to play Oklahoma in 2016 and 2017.


Ed from Dallas, TX writes: Hi Brian: Saw Adam was going on a long vacation ... my first thought is you guys live a vacation. You know what I do on my vacation? I go to BIG games ... but I don't get the luxury of hob-nobbing with the players/coaches and I have to pay for my travel/tickets. Anyway, here's my question: what are the Top 10 coaches by victories while at a Big 10 institution and part of the Big 10? (i.e. Paterno's wins don't count until Penn St. joined the conference) I tried to do my research but I just couldn't find a quick answer without going back season by season. If possible it would be cool if you could list all wins and conference wins.

Brian Bennett: Ed, no doubt we have one of the best jobs in the world, although after some of those 18-hour Saturdays in the fall, it doesn't feel quite like a vacation. Anyway, I can definitely answer your question. Here is the list of top 10 wins by a coach while his school was a member of the Big Ten:

1. Woody Hayes, Ohio State: 205

2. Amos Alonzo Stagg, Chicago: 199

3. Bo Schembechler, Michigan: 194

4. Fielding Yost, Michigan: 165

5. Joe Paterno, Penn State: 162

6. Hayden Fry, Iowa: 143

7. Henry Williams, Minnesota: 136

8. Robert Zuppke, Illinois: 131

9. Lloyd Carr, Michigan: 122

10. Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin: 118

Yost is the all-time leader in winning percentage (.888) among coaches who have spent at least 10 years in the league, while Schembechler has the highest conference winning percentage (.850) among those who have spent at least a decade in the conference. The active wins leader among coaches is Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, who has 96.


Herky from Iowa City writes: Hey Brian ! Is it an honor to be less nerdy of the two B1G bloggers ? Who is the best pocket passer in the B1G? Vandy? The B1G has great dual threats that are heavy on the run but who can pass.

Brian Bennett: Being the less nerdy blogger is kind of like being the best Flamenco dancer in Saskatchewan. But I definitely have my nerdy features, as you can tell by my Simpsons and Star Wars figures in the background of my videos. Anyway, it is fascinating to me how the Big Ten has evolved into a league full of mobile quarterbacks. By my count, eight teams have either dual-threat guys or at least not what you'd consider classic dropback quarterbacks -- Nebraska, Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Northwestern and Purdue.

That only leaves Iowa, Penn State, Michigan State and Wisconsin, and the Hawkeyes are the only team with a solid, proven starter there. So James Vandenberg takes the title for now. I am interested to see how Michigan State's Andrew Maxwell fares in his first year.