(Note: Due to a technical error, this did not publish on the blog Friday. But better late than never, right? Wait, don't answer that.)
Since you're no doubt watching basketball right now, I'll keep this intro short. I'm once again occupying Adam's usual Friday spot as he wraps up his overseason excursion. He'll be back next week, so you can send him emails about how much you missed him and how I mistreated you in his absence. (Also: ask him if he's ever been in a Turkish prison).
But for one more Friday, you're stuck with me, so let's get to it:
Dane from Spring Grove, Pa., writes: Why does this Big Ten Championship Tournament cover just the past 15 years and the last 25 years to include, say, the Penn State '94 team? If they were added I think they win that debate easily.
Brian Bennett: Why not 30 years? 100? Or 5? At the end of the day, whatever cutoff you use is completely arbitrary. I chose 15 years because I wanted to limit the field to eight contenders, and there's no clear-cut winner from the beginning. You can (and I hope will) make a solid case for 1997 Michigan, 1997 Nebraska or 2002 Ohio State and not be wrong. I'm not quite sure anyone could convincingly argue against 1995 Nebraska if we went back farther.
Brandon from Ann Arbor writes: I'm trying to figure out how you can put the 2006 OSU team as a 4 seed in your tournament and not include the 2006 UM team in the tournament at all. If anything, OSU was only marginally better that year than UM, proven by a 3 point game that came down to the wire at the Horseshoe. UM featured one of the best defenses from the B1G in the past decade, allowing only 40 rushing yards per game. What gives?
Brian Bennett: Easy, Brandon. I wrote that my criteria dictated that a team had to win a conference title plus either win a BCS bowl or play for the national title. Michigan did none of those things in 2006 and ended the year on a two-game losing streak, so those Wolverines didn't make the cut.
Corry K. from Chicago writes: I read the blog every day, and have been particularly interested this week as you drop Radiohead nuggets. Did you see them somewhere along this tour? I went to see them in St. Louis with two buddies and my wife and was utterly amazed. I have seen them four times and each show has amazed me. With all that said, how does Iowa project this fall, in light of the new coaching additions and the recruiting class?
Brian Bennett: You and I are sympatico, Corry. I was also at the St. Louis show for my fourth time, and it was great. I'm going again later this summer in Cincinnati. As for Iowa, the Hawkeyes look like a giant question mark to me. Not only do they have new coordinators for the first time in the Kirk Ferentz era, but there are major question marks at offensive line, defensive line, running back and receiver. Maybe Ferentz will surprise us, but I think the Hawkeyes probably have a few too many holes to fill and will be too young to cause a lot of damage in the Big Ten. I would say an eight-win season in 2012 would have to be considered successful.
BodyByBacon from Chicago writes: What does my man Jeremy Ebert need to do to get some love? He has been awesome for two years in a row. He ranked 4th or better in the B1G this year in almost every receiver stat and did that with a QB carousel. He gets snubbed from the combine, because rumor is he slow. Yet the most memorable play of his this year (and probably for the NU team) was his 80 yard TD against Neb where he clearly outran Dennard a future early pick. It wasn't even close. At his pro-day he runs a 4.38 40. And he gets a snub from your top 25 list too. I'd bet if he put up those numbers at MSU he'd have made your top 15 players.
Brian Bennett: Ebert was a tough omission for us, but at the end of the day he just had too many games where he didn't make a major dent. That was more the result of the quarterback situation than anything he did, but our criteria was on-field impact only. That said, somebody is going to draft or sign Ebert and be very happy that they did.
Robert R. from New York writes: Love your additions to the blog, although I disagree with the thought that the Michigan State-Michigan match up is bigger then Michigan-Ohio State this upcoming year. As a Michigan fan I would rather have a 1 and 11 year but beat Ohio State than a Big Ten Championship but a Loss to Ohio State.
Brian Bennett: Be careful what you wish for, Robert. When I was in college, my team beat its archrival in the first game of the year. A buddy and I were so inebriated on the victory that we said we didn't care if the team didn't win another game all year. And it didn't. Miserable. Anyway, I totally get why Ohio State-Michigan is always enormous. I just think this year, given the losing streak to Michigan State and my opinion that the Spartans and the Wolverines will be the two best teams in the Big Ten, plus the Buckeyes' probation, makes the other rivalry a little more important.
Pavlov's Dog from Mother Russia writes: You stated that due to the fact Michigan played USC and lost by 2 TD's, they did not deserve a shot at Ohio State again. I now dispute that since after LSU was destroyed by Bama 21-0 in by far the worst BCS NCG in the history of college championship games and did not sniff the 50 yard line during the game that LSU should have never been in the BCS Championship game against Bama. It's easy to go back after and claim you were right. So by all accounts, all of you at ESPN are wrong that 2 SEC team should have been playing each other.
Brian Bennett: Sorry, Pavlov, but I have to ring your bell. LSU had one of the most impressive regular seasons in recent history with as many ranked teams as it beat. The Tigers played very poorly in the BCS title game but lost to clearly the best team in the nation on that night. Michigan lost to a USC team that wasn't even in the top 5 before the game. And that came after Michigan lost to an Ohio State team that got humiliated by Florida. So the two are not the same.
Pat from Carmel, Ind., writes: Hey, Brian, other than bowl season this is my favorite time of year! But I'm curious, who do you have in your Final Four? (Go Green!)
Brian Bennett: My Final Four is way too chalk-heavy this year. I have Kentucky, Michigan State, Ohio State and North Carolina. I was tempted to take Marquette, and after seeing the Golden Eagles in person on Friday, I'm starting to think that might have been a wise move.