Coming back at you with another edition of the mailbag. Remember, I'm going Mondays and Thursdays right now, so fill the bag up with your questions here. And get them answered here:
Bill from Ottawa, Ill., writes: I'd like to comment on the Danny Hope article. I find it ridiculous that he is claiming, still, that he deserved to continue his tenure at Purdue. Purdue, defensively, ranked among the worst teams in the B1G in almost every statistical category despite having according to Hope, "the best" talent of his tenure. Offensively the team was mediocre; I believe we had more potential but Hope limited us with his QB controversy (Marve was statistically better than TerBush -- even according to MINITAB (stat software)). He couldn't even keep it close to the B1G's elite teams save Ohio State. When you rank last in the B1G in XPs that speaks for itself. Lastly what is with his poor interview etiquette? Taking pot shots at your former employer is childish. If I was a MAC program I wouldn't hire him: whiny attitude, total lack of accountability, and poor coaching. Darrell Hazell is Hope's polar opposite, thankfully. Boiler Up!
Brian Bennett: Hope has always seemed like a decent enough guy, and his players liked him. Did Purdue give him the greatest resources? No, and you could argue that his pay scale for assistants was too low for a Big Ten team. The problem is that Hope just didn't show much in his four years to convince anyone he was a great head coach. His teams often were sloppy and at times looked unprepared, as they did in this year's game at Minnesota. And there was absolutely zero fan enthusiasm for him. Morgan Burke had little choice but to make a change unless he wanted another year of an empty Ross-Ade Stadium draining the entire athletic department budget. You make an interesting point about the impact of Hope's comments. Coaches don't often criticize their former employers so publicly, and that could make the next athletic director who's considering hiring Hope at least a bit wary.
Curtis from Evanston, Ill., writes: How come no one talks about any budding rivalry for Northwestern/ Nebraska? The first two games of the series have been extremely exciting and intriguing with both winning at the other's stadiums. As a Wildcat fan, Nebraska is the B1G football team I hate the most (they should be "UN" not "NU" which is Northwestern University) and the game I look forward to the most (well, maybe).
Brian Bennett: Well, there's no real natural reason like geography for a rivalry there. But a history of great games can turn two schools into rivals pretty quickly, and often more organically than forced rivalries based on nothing but geography. For example, which rivalry is more heated right now, Iowa-Nebraska or Wisconsin-Michigan State? Two good games alone won't do the trick, but if those schools keep playing tight contests and spoiling the other's season, it will ramp up fast.
Ray from Champaign writes: Tortured Illini fan here. Any chance Coach Beckman's gamble on juco transfers pays immediate dividends? Bowl game this season? Please?
Brian Bennett: Ray, I feel your pain. Tim Beckman brought in five junior college transfers, which to me isn't really a gamble as much as it is a move to fill desperate needs. If even three of those guys hit in a big way, that will help. But the Illini were so bad in so many areas last year that those guys alone aren't going to be enough to make this a bowl team. That will take vast improvement across all areas, especially the offensive line. I do expect Illinois to get better, because how could it be much worse than 2012? Bill Cubit was an interesting hire for offensive coordinator and should help there. But the schedule, which includes games against Cincinnati and Washington, plus conference crossover matchups against Nebraska, Michigan State and Northwestern, is unforgiving. This team could be a whole lot better and still go something like 4-8. Hang in there.
Jeff from Madison, Wis., writes: Hey Brian: I think I tried asking Adam this once before but no reply, so I will try you. Would the Badgers and Packers ever strike some sort of a deal to have Wisconsin play at Lambeau Field sometime, possibly for a marquee non-conference game? Seems like a great idea to me. Or am I just dreaming?
Brian Bennett: The idea has already been discussed, and athletic director Barry Alvarez said last fall that there was a proposal to play Cal at Lambeau. Wisconsin and the Green Bay Packers both seem open to the idea. The stumbling block is that Alvarez said he wouldn't move one of the Badgers' seven home games per season at Camp Randall Stadium to Green Bay. So an opponent would have to give up a home game to play there (think Northern Illinois versus Iowa last year at Soldier Field) or it would have to be a year where Wisconsin has eight home games on the schedule. With the likelihood of nine conference games coming, the logistics could prove hard to work out. But it would be cool to see.
Jon G. from Chicago writes: The new Badgers DC Dave Aranda has said that he wants to incorporate some 3-4 into the defensive playbook next year, and likely will make the permanent switch in a year or two as soon as he has the right personnel. Which B1G teams currently run a 3-4 defense, and has it been successful stopping B1G offenses?
Brian Bennett: No Big Ten teams currently run the 3-4 as their base or even main defensive scheme. Which makes sense in such a run-heavy league. But I can give you one example of a 3-4 stopping Big Ten offenses quite well: Notre Dame. The Irish allowed a total of 26 points in beating Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan last year and had one of the best defenses in the country. So it can definitely work. The key is recruiting the right kind of players, and that's why it's wise for Aranda to gradually transition into that kind of scheme
Samuel from Iowa City writes: Brian, just read your column about Iowa's forthcoming QB battle. As we all know, Vandenberg owned the position last season. None of the young men who will be vying for the position are seniors. So, do you think we'll be looking at Iowa's QB not just for next season, but for the near future? (Barring an epic collapse, of course.)
Brian Bennett: That all depends on whether one of the younger players seizes the position and runs with it. One of the candidates, Cody Sokol, is a junior, so the longest he could have the job is two years. Iowa would love to see one of the candidates create separation and play so well that everyone else fades to the background. The worst-case scenario would be for your starter to turn in a mediocre performance and have the competition linger into the season and beyond, creating controversy. If a younger player like Jake Rudock or C.J. Beathard does take control of the job, you could see a possible transfer or two. Same goes for any Big Ten team that has several players vying for the starting job, like Wisconsin, Michigan State and Purdue.
Phil from Indy writes: In looking at upcoming draft, only one Big 10 player is projected to go in 1st round. 15 SEC players are projected to go in 1st round. What are the main reasons for falling so far behind in the talent dept?
Brian Bennett: Adam did a good job earlier today of showing how the Big Ten has struggled to produce high first-round draft picks in recent years -- no top 10 picks since 2008 and no one higher than No. 23 last year. The league did have four picks in the first round last year, and there's plenty of time between now and April for Big Ten products to work themselves into the end of Round 1. But the conference hasn't been churning out the uber-elite draft picks of late, while leagues like the SEC, Big 12 and even the ACC have. The most rational explanation sure seems to be geography, as the best recruits and the best athletes are often located in the South. That's another big reason why the Big Ten wants to change its demographics in expansion.
Then again, if you can get a Big Ten player like Tom Brady in Round 6, that's not so bad.