Big Ten Thursday mailbag

Questions from readers who I am at least 49 percent sure are real:

Justin from Chicago writes: Hey, Brian. My question pertains to scheduling in the next few years. As an Ohio State fan I was disappointed to not see Nebraska on the schedule for the next 4 years. I was wondering if you could shed some light onto whether those schedules are now void, or if they will simply add a game for each team? I know the conference wants to stay at an eight-game schedule, and I just wanted some clarification. Thanks!

Brian Bennett: Justin, I would say that all conference schedules from 2014 on should be viewed as written in pencil only at this point. Since the Big Ten is adding two teams for 2014 and will realign the divisions, nothing beyond perhaps Ohio State-Michigan on the final weekend is set in stone. There remains the possibility as well of a nine-game schedule, something commissioner Jim Delany has spoken in favor of but which appears to be unpopular among ADs. Once the divisions are settled, it will be interesting to see how the league handles crossover games. Will games like Nebraska-Ohio State be back on the table, or will the conference try to mix up the opponents?

Mochila from Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: I'm going to play devil's advocate for the recent Northwestern band-wagoning going on around these parts. There's no denying that Northwestern has a potent offense, and with Kain Colter and Venric Mark rolling, they can put up big numbers. But while it's clear Northwestern improved in run defense, they still ranked among the worst in the Big Ten in pass defense, even with their supposedly improved secondary. Their yards per attempt allowed did improve from last year to this one, but so did everybody's in the Big Ten during what was a relatively weak year for passing games. Is everybody jumping the gun in thinking Northwestern has really changed much?

Brian Bennett: That's a fair question. We saw Northwestern's secondary get torched in key moments against Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State. The injury to cornerback Nick VanHoose really hurt the defensive backfield, and you saw a big difference when he played in the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl. But one player shouldn't make that much of a difference. The good news is that three of the four starters will be back next year and all three were sophomores or younger. So there should be some growth. But there's doubt the Wildcats secondary will remain a question mark.

Luke from Tennessee writes: Crossover blog question...as a fan of a current ACC school, do you see the Big Ten expanding further south in the near future? A lot of chatter has focused on Georgia Tech as an expansion opportunity, and that makes me curious if football tradition/success matters as much/less than TV markets and AAU membership when finding a new member?

Brian Bennett: Luke, I can answer your question on whether tradition/success matters as much as TV markets/AAU membership in two words: Maryland and Rutgers. The latest Big Ten expansion push was almost all about demographics, and I'd expect that to continue. The south is the most logical place for the league to expand should it decide to add more teams.

Keenan from Maine writes: I feel like I'm in the minority, but I really like the Legends and Leaders division names. You wrote an article declaring we should bland down our divisional names and I disagree. Sure, bold names will always be poked fun at, but one of the things I enjoy about college sports is the tradition, heritage and unique names and mascot names schools have based on its own or area's history. Cornhuskers, Hoosiers, Sooners, Minutemen, Crimson Tide, Buckeyes, Rebels etc... college sports are cram-packed full of less than generic names. Perhaps, just perhaps maybe other conferences should embrace their own heritage and makes less generic divisional names instead of trying to embrace bland NFL images.

Brian Bennett: Keenan, I've certainly gotten used to Legends and Leaders if not grown to like them. I, too, enjoy a unique mascot name. I just don't think division names are the place to get creative. No other major pro sport does it, and the only other FBS conference that doesn't use identifiable geographic division names is the ACC. And I'm still not sure I could tell you who's in the Atlantic and who's in the Coastal divisions. Plus, when you use names like Legends and Leaders, you sure as heck better not have any high-profile failures on or off the field, because you've just set yourself up to be criticized and mocked. College football is full of colorful tradition and pageantry. We don't need to make division names a part of that.

Greg from Philadelphia writes: I like your bold prediction of the B1G adding 2 ACC teams and playing a pod-style schedule. Here's how I see the pods shaping out: P1 -- PSU, Maryland, Rutgers, Virginia P2 -- OSU, Illinois, NW, Ga Tech P3 -- Michigan, MSU, Indiana, Purdue P4 -- Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa. Geographically consistent, and somewhat competitively balanced (keeping in mind that you will play all the teams in another pod as well). What do you think?

Brian Bennett: I like it, except that we need pod names. How about: Heroes, Icons, Saints and Masters of the Universe?

Ryan from Toledo writes: Why are you guys so hung up on "Ohio"? Michigan's defense shut down Ohio for most of the game this year and they have the speed and athleticism to shut down Urban Meyer's option attack. There is no way Meyer beats Brady Hoke in the Big House. Just sayin...

Brian Bennett: Well, Ohio had a pretty nice season, going 9-4 and winning a bowl game, though it finished just third in the MAC East Division (haha, East. What a funny division name!). But of course you're trying to reference Ohio State. Why are we "hung up" on them? I'm not sure what that means, but I do know that the Buckeyes went 12-0 and haven't even yet begun to get Meyer's recruits fully integrated on the team. We'll see about next year in the Big House. I'm already excited for that game.

Steve P. from Richmond, Va., writes: I suggest "Great Plains" and "Great Lakes" as the division names for the two division in the Big Ten. Leaders and Legends is fine, but two historic North American geographical regions such as the Great Plains and Great Lakes are too good to pass up for this Great League.

Brian Bennett: That's better than Legends and Leaders but still wouldn't quite describe every team. Is Rutgers or Maryland located near a major lake or situated on a great plain? What about Penn State? It reminds me a lot of Coastal and Atlantic.

Josh S. from Waverly, Iowa, writes: Hey Brian, I hate your guts and wanted you to see what I sent your worthless, pathetic work-mate: You are the 2nd worst sports writer I have ever read. For the record, 1st goes to your worthless partner, Brian Bennett. I really wanted to swear and tell you two how I really feel, but I knew my post would not be read if it was full of "f" bombs. So, to sum up my post, you ruin the life of big ten football fans every where. Please do us a favor and either kill yourself, or at the minimum, at least put in your letter of resignation. My daughter, whom is 5, writes far better than either of you incompetent morons!

Brian Bennett: Hey, I finished No. 1 and No. 2 on Josh's list of worst sportswriters! That's an impressive feat, even if I was not aware that I am my own partner. (My wife will be surprised by that information. OK, mildly surprised.). Let's hope for that 5-year-old's sake that Josh S. is a hoax.