I managed to complete an entire Big Ten Monday chat while my beloved Cardinals were playing in an elimination game. Now that's dedication, folks.
So you officially have no excuse for missing it. But I'm a generous guy, so here's the full transcript, along with some highlights.
Rob (Dayton, Ohio): What can the B1G do (other than win games against non-conference opponents) to improve their national perception? I think they need to start appealing to the younger generation and become a 'cool and hip' conference rather than the rigid, 'stuck in the past' perception we seem to have a reputation for...
Brian Bennett: Winning big games is obviously the most important thing. But I think the past two Saturday nights helped in that regard. You had two incredible atmospheres and two great games featuring tons of great plays. Getting the best games in primetime at night would help exposure, especially compared to those noon (11 am CT) kickoffs when kids are still half asleep.
Ryan (East Lansing, Mich.): With the improved play on offense, does Michigan State have a legitimate shot of making it to the Big Ten Championship game?
Brian Bennett: I don't want to go overboard after one good performance, but that was encouraging. I liked the way Connor Cook played, and the receivers finally stepped up and made plays. Michigan State really should be 7-1, 4-0 heading into the Michigan game, which is at home. The Spartans have as good a shot as anyone in that division right now.
Craig (Braintree, Mass.): Do you see a future with Nelson or Leidner at QB for Minnesota or too early to tell?
Brian Bennett: I like both guys and am particularly intrigued by Leidner's combination of size and skill. The problem in my mind is a lack of playmakers at the receiver position. Minnesota just doesn't seem able to push the ball downfield. Jerry Kill and his saff have to recruit the heck out of that spot.
Tommy [via mobile]: Was Penn State loss to Indiana a hiccup or the start of a long season?
Brian Bennett: I think Penn State has real depth and personnel issues. I don't think the Lions will go 8-4 again, especially not with games remaining against Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Nebraska. But there's still enough talent and O'Brien is a good enough coach that Penn State should at least win six or seven games. Does that count as a long season, when considering the sanctions?
Brian (NYC): What has Wisc really done to be ranked 4th in the power rankings? They do have 2 losses and probably a third coming against NW. The Ariz St loss to ND this weekend doesn't make that L look very good at all. They seem to be getting respect for Beilema's history.... Their wins are Purdue, Umass, and Tenn Tech. They haven't won a game this year that's vs. legitimate good team. Close losses deserve a higher power ranking?
Brian Bennett: You have a point about the schedule, but we're also basing it on the eye test. I've seen Wisconsin in person, and that just looks like a really good team to me. Very underrated defense, obvious offensive weapons. Played Ohio State to the wire on the road. And it's not like the rest of the league is swimming in great wins.
Brad (Philadelphia): You referred earlier to the lack of passing on Northwestern's final drive Saturday night, and many NU fans would agree. It seems as if Fitz and OC Mick McCall get too conservative with leads in the fourth quarter, which would explain the Wildcats' fourth-quarter issues against strong teams. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett: I get what they were trying to do: bleed the clock so they could win with a TD and not have to put the defense back on the field. But the passing game had been so successful and -- get this -- Kain Colter is completing 83 percent (!) of his passes this season. (And why not take a timeout before that fourth down play to make sure you get it absolutely right?). Still, the inability to stop Ohio State's running game or convert more scoring opportunities into touchdowns early is what killed the 'Cats on Saturday.