Hey, everybody, it's time for another Big Ten Thursday mailbag. I know that many of you have Penn State fatigue, and understandably so. Still, Penn State questions filled up my mailbag. So I'll answer just a few right off the bat and then -- pinkie swear -- we'll get to other topics. Actual football can't come soon enough.
To the mail we go:
Keith from Tyler, Texas, writes: As a recent finance graduate and life-long fan of Penn State, I have an interesting solution to how PSU should go about imposing its own sanctions that would make it almost impossible for the program to get the death penalty. It's estimated that on the average game day, about $60 million dollars is generated in revenue. Let that happen, and divvy up the money as they would to the programs, students, and athletes like the usually do. However, whatever amount the actual team usually pockets, announce a pledge to donate it all for a year or two to victims of child abuse, including bowl revenue. I would have to guess it would be around $100 million (Estimation) in total. At this point, if the NCAA bans the football team from playing, all that money to help victims goes away too. While this might sound almost like blackmail towards the NCAA, it's a solution that helps victims of child abuse, while not hurting the other athletes/students/programs the team funds, nor does it hurt the town and the innocent people who live there (Which includes the families of the abuse victims).
Brian Bennett: Keith, I think you're on to something, and it's the approach I've been advocating of late. Banning Penn State football would hurt a whole lot of people who had nothing to do with the mess, including the other sports at the school who are largely funded through football proceeds. But whether it's by NCAA decree or the school's own doing, the football program should take a hit in the pocketbook. Remember that the Nittany Lions did donate money from their bowl game to a child victims' group last year and held various fundraisers during the final home game of the season. Make sure the money keeps flowing to the right places to help the victims as much as possible. If that means salary cuts for administrators and coaches or holding off on building a nicer weight room, well, that's the least Penn State could do.
Matt from DeWitt, Mich., writes: Brian, First, congrats on the wedding and nice vacation. You must be ready for football to start now the stress is over. Anyway, with the disclosure that Joe Paterno's family is starting its own "independent" review of the Freeh Report; will it really have an impact? It seems like many will take the Freeh Report as independent and one that truly looked for the facts. It seems like all the family is trying to do is write its own version of history. Will this move potentially harm the legacy of the name Paterno at Penn State even more because it looks more like sour grapes with the very intense investigation, by a former FBI director no less?
Brian Bennett: Thanks, Matt. If you ever get the chance to go to Barcelona, jump at it. I'm recharged and itching for some football games to start. I'm highly skeptical, at best, of the Paterno family's review. You think the family has better resources than a multi-million dollar investigation headed by a former FBI director? And how can it possibly be anything but hopelessly biased? Unless the family is sitting on some documented proof we don't know about -- and remember, Paterno didn't use e-mail -- then I fail to see what could possibly come of this that will be beneficial.
Jason from Jackson, Mich., writes: As a Michigan State fan, I am a little upset about the idea of Penn State taking down the statue of Joe Paterno. I am still upset about the B1G taking Paterno's name off the B1G Championship trophy. To me as a fan of college football, not Penn State, Joe Paterno is a legendary person in the sport, having made numerous contributions to this sport. Not only has he helped put college football on the map, he has also put Penn State on the map. However, to let one bad decision jeopardize the legacy Paterno has left is crazy. If they do take the statue down, I am sure the number of loyal Penn State fans across the nation will keep Paterno's legacy alive. I am sure fans like me across the B1G will join them in that cause.
Brian Bennett: With all due respect, Jason, "one bad decision?" Really? Paterno, according to the Freeh report, participated in an active coverup to harbor a child molester and ignored or possibly impeded accusations in 1998 and 2001. You think all the Sandusky victims view that as "one bad decision?" If Paterno was willing to do that to protect his program, what other things did he sweep under the rug? I could not care less about Paterno's "legacy" or some pointless statue. But to suggest he only made one minor misstep is a gross underestimation of what occurred in this horrible case. The Big Ten should be applauded for taking Paterno's name off the championship trophy when it did, despite the criticism it took from Penn State backers at the time. That was one good decision.
Ben from Ann Arbor writes: Brian, ever since the B10 took Paterno's name of the Championship trophy, the only name on it now is "Stagg". While Alonzo Stagg was a pioneer of college football and clearly one of the game's most important names, his team doesn't even play football anymore, let alone play in the B10. So, in my opinion, the B10 should change the name to people who still represent the conference, like Schembechler-Hayes. Or why does there even need to be names associated with the trophy, why not just call it the Big Ten Championship Trophy?
Brian Bennett: Well, Ben, as you probably know, the Big Ten likes to name everything. We already have the Hayes-Schembechler coach of the year award. I'm fine with just naming the Big Ten championship trophy after Alonzo Stagg, as that gives us the chance to say each team that wins it will be throwing a Stagg party. But here's a novel idea: why not, in a few years perhaps, name it the Delany trophy? Few people have been as influential in the league as Jim Delany, and he was instrumental in the forming of divisions and, of course, the title game itself.
Ben from Connecticut writes: I for one am not sorry to see the BIG/Pac-12 partnership fall apart. Had that agreement been in place years ago, I'd have never seen my Buckeyes play Texas, USC, or Miami, and they likely wouldn't have Oklahoma, Va Tech, and Tennessee in future years. Sure it's nice to have a partner, but a little variety is the spice of life.
Brian Bennett: You make a good point, Ben. While the Pac-12/Big Ten series would have been a whole lot of fun, it would have pretty much guaranteed that teams would not schedule any other high-profile opponents on the nonconference schedule. And after you cycled through USC, Oregon and maybe Stanford or Washington, things would get less interesting. The key will be for Big Ten teams to continue scheduling marquee nonconference games and to get cooperation from marquee opponents to do so.
The Like Ninja from Unknown writes: We know that Ron Zook is a horrible gameday coach, but we also know that he can recruit talent... Tim Beckman can actually coach this talent... I think that OSU will be the best team in the division, but their bowl ban means that the 2nd place team will go to the CCG... IMO the division comes down to the Illinois @ Wisconsin game that will decide which team finishes 2nd... and Wisconsin will lose due to a hangover from losing in Lincoln the week before. So am I crazy, a genius, or a crazy genius?
Brian Bennett: I admire your optimism about the Illini and agree that the opportunity is there. But I see two issues. One, you're discounting Penn State and Purdue, both of whom I think will be strong teams in the Leaders race this season. And two, while Beckman might be a better gameday coach than Zook, he didn't recruit most of his current players. I'm not sure the roster, especially on offense, is especially suited for his schemes this year. I do think Beckman can build a contender in Champaign, but this may be somewhat of a transition year.
John from Au Gres, Mich., writes: It will be very interesting to see how your post-season quarterback rankings compare to your pre-season rankings. I predict there will be some movement, with James Vandenberg probably having the best shot to stay near the top. Do not be surprised if O'Brien and Maxwell end up having the best QB ratings, they are likely to get a ton of help from their run games.
Luke from Marietta, GA., writes: Andrew Maxwell is seriously the 10th best quarterback in the conference? I don't think that any rational football coach (unless the coach ran a spread-option offense) would, in a million years, take Kain Colter, Denard Robinson, Taylor Martinez, Caleb TerBush, or Marquise Gray over Andrew Maxwell. TerBush, Gray, and Colter aren't even good in their systems, and Denard and Martinez are wildly-overrated and overhyped running backs who take snaps.
Brian Bennett: Something you need to keep in mind with these preseason rankings: we are heavily weighing them in favor of previous performance. While I like Maxwell a lot, it's also true that the Michigan State quarterback has never started a college game or ever played in a crucial situation. That lack of experience is why he starts so low on the list, though he could easily climb up as well as O'Brien (whom gets downgraded for his bad 2011 season). That's why we play the games.
Jim from Albuquerque, NM., writes: Why is Nebraska maligned after their first year in the Big Ten? I don't think anyone could really expect a team to come through with a perfect record going straight into a different conference. And I expected them to beat Michigan and Northwestern at least. Two losses would have been better than 4. It's Nebraska. But can you really malign Bo Pelini for his efforts? I would cut him some slack if I were an athletic director.
Brian Bennett: I'm not sure who exactly is doing the maligning to which you refer. Around here, we've repeatedly said that Nebraska has been close but hasn't quite gotten over the hump under Pelini. Hard to knock a guy who wins nine games every year, but at the same time Huskers fans want more. Nebraska's big problem in 2011 was consistency. They had some nice wins (Michigan State, Ohio State, at Penn State, Washington) but also got blown out by Wisconsin and Michigan, lost one they shouldn't have at home against Northwestern and committed way too many mistakes in a winnable bowl game against South Carolina. That kind of up-and-down play is not a hallmark of a championship team, and Nebraska will have to be more focused this season. Speaking of ...
Walter White from ABQ writes: Who has a better season 5, Me or Bo Pelini?
Brian Bennett: Since there is no conceivable way that "Breaking Bad" ends without you dying in a "Scarface-"type hail of bullets or going to jail for life, I'm going to have to pick Pelini in a landslide here. And what I wouldn't give for Pelini to clench his jaw and tell his team, "We're done when I say we're done," in the fourth quarter of a game this year.