Big Ten Thursday mailbag

Mailing it in on a Thursday ...

Chris from Temecula, Calif., writes: Are the expectations for this year's Buckeyes starting to feel the same as the USC Trojans last year? Both teams were anointed preseason No. 1 coming off years with little to no pressure between a win or a loss. With the light 2013 schedule I don't think tOSU will lose 6 games, but it's seems like they might be in for a letdown season with the bar raised so high.

Brian Bennett: That's an interesting comparison, but I'm not sure how valid it is. USC played some very good games in 2011, beating Oregon on the road and losing to Stanford in triple overtime, and it had a veteran quarterback in Matt Barkley coming back. That's why many people were high on the Trojans last year. Ohio State is not dealing with the type of scholarship reductions that USC faced, which certainly cut into the Trojans' depth. And, to be frank, Urban Meyer is far more of a proven coach than Lane Kiffin. It's certainly possible that Ohio State won't live up to sky high expectations, but I can't picture the Buckeyes collapsing a la 2012 USC with their talent, coaching and schedule.

Mochila from Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: Looks like the Nebraska fans are in force for the top WR poll, as well as the PSU fans and everybody going with the status quo (picking Robinson). I however think that Jared Abbrederis will take the cake this year if Stave can stay healthy. I know the QB position is anything but decided, but Abbrederis exploded in the time that Stave was starting. 565 of his yards came in those six games, including the MSU game in which Stave was injured. I expect Abbrederis to have a big year and to finally break 1,000 yards.

Brian Bennett: Abbrederis is definitely a good choice. It's kind of incredible that he managed 833 receiving yards despite battling injuries and the Wisconsin quarterback carousel. The quarterback situation should be much more stable this year, and if Abbrederis can stay healthy, he definitely has a great chance of going over 1,000 yards. He does still need help from the other Badgers receivers, though, so defenses can't shade their coverage his way so much.

Dean from Nelsonville, Ohio, writes: How much do you think recruiting in the B1G will be impacted by having Rutgers and Maryland on board? Is there enough talent in this region to have a positive impact on conference recruiting?

Brian Bennett: There is a whole lot of talent in New Jersey and in the Baltimore/D.C./Northern Virginia corridor. It's the latter that I find the most interesting, since several Big Ten teams have already worked New Jersey pretty hard for years. If Big Ten can start to make inroads into Maryland's area, that will open up another important recruiting pipeline. Of course, now you'll have 14 teams going after some of the same talent, and it remains to be seen whether the Big Ten's presence in that area will entice more recruits to the league. But that was unquestionably a key factor in why Maryland and Rutgers were invited in the first place.

Hodor from Hodor! writes: Hodor hodor hodor, hodor... ... hodor hodor. (translation: Who are the top 5 or so players that you think threaten the Spartans the most -- hopefully they all play for other teams)? It seems like Narduzzi's Dawgs can lock down a threat like Braxton or Taylor, but I'm curious to hear from you on which players we should be most on the watch out for in the upcoming season.)

Brian Bennett: Where's the threat, eh? Michigan State's defense has done an excellent job against mobile quarterbacks the past few years under Pat Narduzzi, though Taylor Martinez did burn the Spartans last year for 205 rushing yards and four touchdowns in that comeback win. I'd definitely put him on the list, especially with Michigan State having to go to Nebraska this year. In that regard, I'd also put Devin Gardner on the threat list; his ability to throw downfield and make some plays with his feet is going to give even the best defenses trouble, and I think Michigan State fans might miss Denard Robinson even more than Wolverines backers. I've also got to mention Iowa's Mark Weisman, who ran for 116 yards while bringing his bruising style right at the Spartans. I'd add Cameron Coffman or whoever starts at quarterback for Indiana; remember that Coffman threw for 282 yards and three scores in a near-upset in Bloomington last year. Finally, I'd add Venric Mark. Even though the Northwestern star didn't do much against Michigan State last year and missed the second half with an injury, he's still a gamebreaker.

Michigan State's defense should be elite again and benefits greatly from not facing Ohio State or Wisconsin this year. Also: Hodor!

Denzel B. from Columbus, Ohio writes: Brian, I'm not a Indiana fan or anything but I do see some serious potential there if they could just get a good defense. So my question is, why aren't they looking for a good D coordinator -- maybe someone with a NFL background or an up-and-comer from a non-Big 6 conference team?

Brian Bennett: Denzel, I think you're shortchanging Doug Mallory, who has an outstanding résumé and pedigree. It's hard to judge him or Mike Ekeler -- who was Indiana's co-defensive coordinator before getting hired by Kiffin at USC -- too much on the past two years' results simply because the Hoosiers lacked depth, experience and upper-level talent on the defensive side of the ball. That is changing with Indiana's recent successes on the recruiting trail, and if the numbers don't improve in the next year or so, then criticism of the coaches will perhaps be warranted. But I'm not sure many defensive coordinators could have made IU a Big Ten-caliber defense the last two seasons.

Urban Meyer from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: It seems that most big stories have been covered thus far in the blog. Besides the watch lists coming out in July, what big events will be newsworthy for the dedicated blog readers? I know media days are big, but until then, what more can we expect to get? Thanks for the great job you both do.

Brian Bennett: I have a sneaking suspicion that this is not actually Urban Meyer writing in. Adam and I appreciate your dedicated readership, so we're not going to lie to you: this time of year is the slowest period for news, and it's a time when a lot of coaches take much-needed vacations. Still, as you know, the blog never stops, and you can't predict what big news stories might happen. Unfortunately, this is also a time of year when some players run into trouble that can lead to suspensions. We'll also keep the blog filled with as many interesting items as we can manage, and Big Ten media days are a little more than a month away. So keep reading, because you never know what you'll miss around here.