Big Ten Thursday mailbag

Back for some more of your emails. (And a quick note to "Ray from Detroit," who conveniently didn't include an email address: if you're going to use literally every curse word to insult me, including weird racial epithets, at least tell me which story upset you so much. So I can write more of them.)

MrVandy212 from Bethlehem, Pa., writes: Regarding end-of-year opponents, couldn't the Big Ten go the route of ACC and let a few of those games be out of conference? Like pairing Penn State with Pitt and Michigan State with Notre Dame (and leave Maryland-Rutgers together). If we can't get Notre Dame on board, then pair Michigan State with Cincinnati, and Rutgers with UConn (leaving Penn State and Maryland together).

Brian Bennett: It's an interesting idea. Georgia-Georgia Tech and Florida-Florida State are examples of this. I doubt Notre Dame could be worked in, or at least no more than every other year since they end the season against USC when the game is in Los Angeles. And the Big Ten is trying to build drama into those games in November by focusing on conference games down the stretch. All things being equal, I'd prefer a division game on the final Saturday, though an occasional out-of-league rival game might be fun.

John from Philadelphia: Reading the blog for a couple of years now and I have to say I don't think Rutgers or Maryland are deserving of the "rival factor" for Penn State. Just not moving the needle much. I never liked the idea of a rivalry with Michigan State either (felt too pushed because of OSU and UM) but I liked where the league was going when we started playing Wisconsin; however I believe our "natural" rival would be Nebraska. Okay, okay I know what you might say: "No history playing each other" (few but great games in the past though) but come on man this has the potential to be a great rivalry (end of year) game. And in case you mention it: Iowa does not deserve Nebraska. Thoughts???

Brian Bennett: There is some potential there, but clearly there's a push to make Iowa-Nebraska into a real rivalry. Time will tell whether the Hawkeyes can challenge the Huskers enough to make that so. Maryland and Rutgers may not move the needle right now, but if one of them can become at least a division contender, it will make a natural geographic rival for Penn State. The league is not going to create another protected rivalry for Penn State-Nebraska because it harms the ability to rotate cross-division opponents. We should let these games play out for a few years and see if rivalries can develop organically.

Marcus A. from Nome, Alaska, writes: Interesting piece on MSU as a BCS title contender. However... one can say that having an easy schedule could get a team to the BCS title game, but actually winning the game? I'm more likely to go with a team that has played and survived a more demanding schedule... Put me in the camp that thinks that MSU is solid, but overachieved for the two prior years rather than underachieved last year.

Brian Bennett: I disagree that Michigan State overachieved before last year. The Spartans have had an elite defense for a few years, and when they had an experienced, talented quarterback in Kirk Cousins and excellent receivers like B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin, they were a tough team to beat. The problem last year was that the team was too one-dimensional and as a result found itself in too many close games that it couldn't find a way to win. If Michigan State's offense can make a major leap, I think it can beat anybody on its schedule. I just don't bet on that happening. And sometimes we go too far in basing a team's national championship prospects on the schedule; it's difficult for even really good, well-rounded teams to go undefeated. Ohio State did it last year but needed some breaks along the way.

Dennis F. from Lititz, Pa., writes: You ended your article on Bill O'Brien and the PSU Trustees by writing "Nittany Lions head coach Bill O'Brien has said the school needs to move on, and he told the trustees last week that going to war with the NCAA does nothing but hurt the program. If there's one person who's shown great leadership throughout this whole terrible ordeal, it's O'Brien. The trustees would be wise to follow him."I beg to differ. Getting to truth and justice is more important than the football program, and the trustees would be UNWISE to ignore the bigger picture -- that is, unless they believe Emmert was right that football drives the University, or should. O'Brien is great -- for the football program. But that's not the only thing that matters here.

Brian Bennett: OK, but when, exactly, have the Penn State trustees shown great or even good leadership throughout this whole ordeal? They've been wildly inconsistent, fractured and subject to whichever way the political wind is blowing at the time. A whole bunch of lawsuits and public backbiting is not going to do anything but hurt the school's chances of ever getting the NCAA to relent on the penalties. O'Brien has seen the big picture here better than anyone, in my opinion.

Craig from Braintree, Mass., writes: Regarding your thoughts about Minnesota vs San Jose State: I guess you are saying that the Gophers won't recover from their loss of their senior DBs from last year. Is that right?

Brian Bennett: Not at all. I think Minnesota's secondary will be good. I saw that a couple of people took issue with my take that a San Jose State win at Minnesota wouldn't be much of an upset. People must be underestimating the Spartans, who went 11-2 last year, won a bowl game and have an outstanding, possible NFL first-round quarterback in David Fales. This is clearly the best team on Minnesota's nonconference schedule, and even though I like the Gophers to get back to a bowl game this year, this won't be easy.

David from Chicago writes: Hey Brian, when did it become so wrong to refer to Ohio State as simply "Ohio", for short? Is it merely the context (Hoke, Muschamp) that Buckeye fans find offensive, or is it the moniker itself? I realize OSU fans would have the world refer their institution as The Ohio State University in every and all situations, but given that no sensible person outside their state would ever do that, is referring to their program as "Ohio" really such a bad thing? No slight intended to Bobcat fans, of course.

Brian Bennett: David, I don't get the sense that Ohio State fans are truly irked when Brady Hoke or others call them "Ohio," but it's clearly a sign of disrespect. I mean, what if people called Penn State "Pennsylvania?" It's not like it takes a long time to add the extra syllable and say Ohio State. It's obviously a jab at a school that takes pride in putting "The" in front of its name. Plus, I always imagine the Bobcats seeing those headlines and thinking, "What did we do?"

Dave C. from Columbus, Ohio, writes: You can move the Ohio State v. Florida A&M back to 48. The Rattler band is NOT coming to Columbus! (per OSU Band staff)

Brian Bennett: This is a travesty. Can we take up a collection to get the FAMU band to the 'Shoe? If not, why in the heck is this game even being played?