Big Ten Thursday mailbag

Pretty boring week, eh?

Phil H. from Vancouver, Wash., writes: Now the Coach B is gone we have been hearing and reading a lot about Wisconsin having to hire a Wisconsin guy. What are your thoughts about trying to get a big name coach who can pull in some top recruits? Some ESPN top 100 4 and 5 star guys. Ohio State picked up Coach Meyer why can't we?

Brian Bennett: Simple answer: There just aren't many Urban Meyers out there waiting to be hired. What big-name coaches could Wisconsin possibly get? Recruiting is always going to be somewhat of a challenge because of the location, and the Badgers are not going away from their bread and butter of strong running games and powerful offensive lines. Bret Bielema wasn't a big name before he took the job, and he did pretty well. Guys like Iowa State's Paul Rhoads or Miami's Al Golden aren't necessarily "big" names but could be very good hires.

Mike from Minneapolis writes: Do you think there is any possibility Jim Tressel would join Darrell Hazell's staff at Purdue? They seem to be good friends and respect each other a lot. It could also be a good way for Tressel to take care of all his NCAA sanctions in a more below the radar role. I'm thinking QB/assistant HC role. If he plays nice at Purdue for a few years he could have all the heat off his back and be ready to move on to a new head coaching job.

Brian Bennett: It's an interesting thought. There's no doubt Hazell sees Tressel as a mentor. He said he talked to Tressel three different times the night he decided to take the Purdue job. Boilermakers athletic director Morgan Burke also spoke to Tressel and said he had great respect for the former Ohio State coach. The issue remains whether any school would want to deal with Tressel's five-year show cause penalty from the NCAA. In essence, Tressel's only real penalty would be that he would have to miss the first five games and the bowl for whatever school that hired him. Still, no coach with a show-cause penalty has ever been hired by a school. Tressel has publicly said he's happy in his job at Akron as an administrator, but he might be itching to get back into coaching. I think he'd be more interested in being a head coach, but it wouldn't shock me if Hazell at least considered that idea.

Dean from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Many people are saying that if Maryland has to pay the entire $52 million exit fee for leaving the ACC, it would mean no other team would leave the ACC. I do not buy that logic. For the money the Big Ten will be generating with further expansion, $52 million is chump change. If anything, the Big Ten could loan any future member money to pay the fee and then the school could repay the Big Ten over a few years time with the massive revenues the school would generate in the Big Ten. Am I missing something here?

Brian Bennett: It's not so much that ACC teams won't leave if the entire exit fee is upheld; it's more that those teams would be likelier to look around if Maryland is able to significantly reduce the buyout. The $50-plus million is enough to at least make a school stop and think. Besides, why would you make a potential move now if you could wait a few weeks or months to see if you can save yourself a whole bunch of money in exit and legal fees? The Maryland situation is more of a pause button than anything else.

Michael A. W. from Clearwater, Fla., writes: I was SHOCKED that you picked the Michigan-Northwestern game as "game of the year" over the Ohio St.-Purdue game! Ohio St., like UM, had to go the length of the field with less than a minute in regulation with no time outs, but OSU needed a touchdown AND two-point conversion to tie the game, not a field goal! Oh by the way, this late game comeback was engineered by backup QB Kenny G. (with their perfect record on the line) after Miller left the game with a head injury. The UM-NW game had the better winning highlight, but the Ohio State comeback was the better game.

Brian Bennett: A great comeback does not a great game make. (Wait, why am I talking like Yoda?). Purdue-Ohio State had the best comeback of the year, but the game itself was not that great until the final minute. There wasn't much offense from either side. The Northwestern-Michigan game was much more entertaining from start to finish, with several lead changes.

J.R. from Fairfax, Va., writes: SEC fan here! I know y'all haven't been fond of Arkansas hiring Bret Bielema, mainly because he is such a Midwestern man. My question is: wouldn't that fact make him less desirable to the SEC? The recruiting connections that made him so successful in the Big 10 will be what hurts him in the SEC, right? I know Arkansas gets a ton of recruits in Texas and I don't think Bielema has any Texas connections. I figured y'all would know.

Brian Bennett: First, J.R., thanks so much for using y'all twice in your e-mail. That made my day. And let's be clear, while the move was a stunner from a Big Ten perspective, I think it's a great hire for Arkansas. Bielema has not been known as an ace recruiter of blue-chip talent in Wisconsin, though he has had some success in Florida. Much of that is because Wisconsin is not a state with a lot of Division I talent, and because the Badgers recruit to a system, often finding diamonds in the rough. I would expect Bielema to hire some assistants who really know the Texarkana region and the rest of the South. Bielema has the personality to be a hit in recruits' homes, though there is a whole lot of intense and, shall we say, sometimes questionable competition for players down there.

Dave R. from Columbus writes: In the ever-changing conference realignment picture, do you see any scenario whatsoever where a B1G leaves for another conference, or is the money just too much to consider bolting (for giggles, say, Iowa to the Big 12)?

Brian Bennett: We've learned never to say never when it comes to realignment. But I don't think any team is leaving the Big Ten, or for that matter the SEC or the Pac-12. Teams are flocking to those leagues because the money is so good. I don't see them trying to get out for any reason.

Kevin from Westwood, N.J., writes: Having blogged for the Big East previously and now with a few years covering the B1G what are you thoughts on what Rutgers needs to do in order to become successful in the Big Ten? I certainly don't believe they will be a pushover against all teams but I don't expect RU to be up there with the powerhouse teams either. What do we need to do to be successful and become a player over the next few years?

Brian Bennett: Good question. Rutgers has definitely made tremendous strides in the past decade and has become a perennial bowl team. The Scarlet Knights have done a good job of landing some high-profile recruits out of their home state and elsewhere; they will need to continue to do that, especially now that they will be in the same league as Penn State and Maryland and other schools who will start looking east. In my time covering Rutgers, I felt like they had good players but not a lot of depth, so any injuries became very problematic. A revolving door of young quarterbacks the past few years hasn't helped, either. Rutgers should be able to compete with teams like Minnesota, Purdue and Indiana, but to take on the Big Ten big boys, it will need to keep finding and developing more talent.

Josh from Laramie, Wyo., writes: I take pride in being an optimist. But sometimes it is incredibly difficult being a Nebraska fan. I watched the B1G championship in front of non-Husker fans, and was absolutely floored and embarrassed by halftime (if not earlier). But the talk about Bo Pelini and members of his staff being in the "hot seat" is very discouraging. Bo Pelini has done an excellent job at Nebraska. His coaching staff has taken heat as being low-profile, inexperienced coaches. But they are doing a tremendous job. It is my firm belief that coaches and players gain valuable experience in situations like this. Players and coaches come together and learn from adversity (unfortunately, this adversity came in the tune of 70 points, and over 500 rushing yards). Nevertheless, I truly hope that this staff stays intact. It takes the right people at the right time, to win championships.... Maybe an upset win over Georgia will cool everything down for a while. But if/when Georgia beat the Huskers this bowl season, will you please help calm the nerves of impatient Nebraskans? I can't do this alone.

Ryan from Omaha writes: I understand a lot of people would love to have a 9 win season, but at Nebraska that's not enough. And more so we can't tolerate embarrassments like that B1G championship game and the Ohio State game.And the issue isn't in talent, the Cornhuskers are as good as anyone in the B1G on paper, but our coaching is pathetic. We played Cam Meredith at tackle through most of that game, despite the fact that everyone everywhere knows the Badgers are a power run team! We haven't won a game without 150+ yards rushing in years, yet the initial play calling is all air it out. These are obvious mental errors from people who are clearly in over their heads. ... So my question is, why isn't anyone talking about Pelini on the hot seat? After Georgia, arguably the best team in the country, embarrasses us on national television for the third straight bowl game is there at least a chance of Eichorst cleaning house?

Brian Bennett: I present these two e-mails back-to-back to illustrate where Nebraska is right now. Both Josh and Ryan have legitimate points. I thought the Omaha World-Herald's Dirk Chatelain put it perfectly earlier this week when he wrote that the Huskers are stuck in the middle with Pelini -- good enough to win nine or 10 games, not good enough (yet) to get over that hump. It's a weird position to be in for a program used to winning championships. I don't believe Pelini should be on the hot seat, but he really needs to deliver at least a Big Ten title in the next couple of years.

Ryan is right on one important account: Nebraska simply can't keep having these embarrassments on big stages like it did versus Wisconsin. That's unacceptable. I disagree with Ryan when he says it's not a talent issue. The reason Meredith was playing defensive tackle was because there was no one else, thanks in part to the injury to Baker Steinkuhler. The bottom line is that Nebraska has lacked elite, NFL blue-chip talent on the defensive line for a couple of years now, which is really critical in Pelini's scheme. That needs to change, and it will probably be the biggest deciding factor on Pelini's future in Lincoln.

Tyler from Fayetteville, Ark., writes: Just a question...a "Mid level" SEC job!? I mean...I realize I'm a homer...but let's be real..before the John L Smith fiasco...Arkansas for the previous 3 seasons was considered a top 3-4 Job in the SEC..and a top 10 job even after John L,we have top 10 facilities in country,deep pockets,great tradition,an "enabler" of an AD that wants to win while also having integrity doing so,being only major attraction in the entire state....so I'm confused..what part of your brain is telling you Arkansas is a "Mid level" SEC job?

Brian Bennett: Tyler, I'm assuming you're not a regular Big Ten blog reader given your address, so first of all greetings. To your question, let's see where Arkansas ranks in the SEC. Is it as good a job as Alabama, LSU or Florida? Absolutely not, and I'm sure you'd agree with that. I'd rank it behind Texas A&M because of A&M's location. How about Auburn and Tennessee? Auburn is in Alabama's shadow and Tennessee doesn't have great in-state talent. But both have won a national title in current high school players' lifetimes, unlike Arkansas. Georgia is about equal. The Razorbacks have never won an SEC title, and in their lone BCS bowl they lost to ... a Big Ten team (Ohio State).

So it's safe to say that Arkansas is at best the No. 5 job in the SEC and at worst No. 8. That sure seems mid-level to me.

Jay from South Africa writes: Aside from my Hawkeye 3rd-year players who are clearly coming back to win a Big Ten Title next season, can you give us a breakdown of the Big Ten players who are going/may go pro?

Brian Bennett: Here are the top eligible Big Ten underclassmen who have NFL decisions to make, in my view:

I would say of that bunch, Lewan, Bell and Hankins are the best bets to turn pro. Lewan and Hankins are likely first-rounders, while Bell has 350 carries this season. Sims, Hageman and Frederick have very interesting decisions to make, and Roby's call might be the most pivotal one in regards to next year's Big Ten race. It may come down to how the NFL draft advisory board grades them.

Mark from Shelton, Neb., writes: "While Chicago would draw more casual fans, I don't think we can truly judge Indy until there's a national title/playoff bid on the line in the game and/or if Ohio State or Michigan are in it."This doesn't make sense...Indy and Chicago would both draw fans with a playoff bid on the line. Heck, Yankton, SD would draw 75,000 with a playoff bid up for grabs. So why is that what you want to judge Indy on? This year's attendance is much more telling to me. If they'll both sell out when it matters, but Chicago will have more interest in down years....Chicago wins.

Brian Bennett: I just don't think you can judge Indianapolis on this year, when there was a 7-5 team involved. That's going to drive down interest no matter where the game is played. Many Nebraska fans appeared to be saving up for a Rose Bowl trip. If that were the case, why would they have made a similarly expensive (maybe more so with hotel rooms, restaurant prices) trip to Chicago? And while I agree with you that Chicago has more casual Big Ten fans who are likely to come out and watch the game, what happens when it's 28 degrees and snowing in Chicago? Do you think those casual fans will still be as excited to sit outside at Soldier Field for four hours?

If you'll recall, I advocated for playing the game in Chicago when the league was deciding where to put it and still hope it goes there at least once in the future. I'm just saying that we shouldn't make a final judgment on Indy just yet. Curiosity and newness played a positive factor last year, while having a third-place team was a negative one this year. Let's see what happens when there are more normal circumstances.

Daniel from Bowling Green, Ohio, writes: Speaking as a Michigan fan myself, I think Michigan fans need to reconsider when resting on the whole "the season wasn't that bad since the Wolverines lost to #1, 2, and 3 plus the division champions (possibly because Robinson got hurt)" concept. I'd say that's a cop out. Those are still games that need to be won. In the words of Brady Hoke, "This is Michigan, for God's sake."

Brian Bennett: I couldn't agree with you more, Daniel. Remember, the Wolverines started the season No. 8 (which I always thought was too high, but regardless). It's hard to boast about who beat you. You've got to beat somebody great to be considered great, and Michigan has much higher standards than just playing great teams.

Rob from Chicago writes: Brian, as a Buckeye fan, I am sick and tired of how lame the competition is in the Big 10. Recent additions downgrade it even further. I think I am going to start a campaign to have OSU leave the Little 13 and join the SEC. I know you cover this league, but isn't my idea genius?!

Brian Bennett: Good luck in Dixie. If it were me, I'd rather only have to win the Leaders Division than the SEC East or West. Just make sure you learn how to use "y'all" correctly.