Dienhart: The latest Big Ten mailbag answers

When BTN.com readers come to my BTN.com mailbag page to send their questions and comments, they may think I don’t read them all. But I do, and I answer the best ones each week. This time around many of you wondered when Ohio State will hear from the NCAA, why was Michigan picked for a BCS bowl and Michigan State wasn’t, if the Big Ten title game is a conference game or a non-conference game, and how I decided my Heisman vote order.

I’m tracking the bowl season with a collection of BTN.com posts and I’ll keep the football updates coming right up through the final games. If you need a bowl schedule, we’ve got a handy one inside. Remember: I’m also on Twitter (@BTNTomDienhart) and want to hear from you. Now for this week’s mailbag, dive in for my answers. And stay in touch.

Is there any update on the possible penalties that the Buckeyes may get from the NCAA? – Lonnie Braun

Nothing new for now. But during the Urban Meyer press conference in late November, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said the school expected to hear something in December. So, any day now.

What criteria allows Michigan to be selected for a BCS bowl over Michigan State? The Spartans beat the Wolverines and won the Legends Division. But Michigan is going to the BCS Sugar Bowl, and Michigan State is going to the Outback Bowl. -Rick

I have gotten a lot of questions on this. But know this about the BCS at-large selection process: A school must be ranked in the top 14 of the final BCS standings to be considered for selection. Michigan finished 13th; Michigan State was 17th. So, the Spartans weren’t eligible for selection by any BCS bowl.

But when all things are equal between schools, the bowls are under no obligation to select schools based on order of finish in the conference, or based on the outcome of head-to-head completion. Bowls can take the qualifying school they think will best fit their bowl. Bowls consider many things when picking a school. Will the fans travel to the game? What type of TV ratings will the team bring to the bowl? Things of that nature.

I know it’s early, but what do you predict for the Big Yen next year? Are we a conference to be reckoned with? We have had some pretty good success lately, and now I’m positive the Buckeyes are back in contention. Are we a top-notch conference? -Kenneth Crosby

I’m not sure the Big Ten will be top-notch in 2012, but it will be better with Urban Meyer at Ohio State and Brady Hoke continuing to build at Michigan. But what will happen at Penn State, another traditional Big Ten power? For now, I have to say the SEC is best—and will continue to be so. It will crown its sixth national champion in a row in January. Impressive.

In the Big Ten in 2012, I think Michigan will be the favorite in the Legends Division. The Wolverines will have QB Denard Robinson and RB Fitz Toussaint back to lead the offense, but the defense will lose the likes of Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen up front. And the offensive line will miss C David Molk. Still, there is talent on hand and in the pipeline for this well-coached team. In the Leaders, I think Ohio State may be the favorite. The program has to get a lift from new coach Urban Meyer. QB Braxton Miller only will get better, along with those young receivers. And there always is plenty of talent on defense.

I like your vote for Baylor’s Robert Griffin for the Heisman. However, can you explain your reasoning for putting Alabama’s Trent Richardson over Wisconsin’s Montee Ball on your ballot? I don’t get that one. -Kurt

I went with Richardson over Ball for two reasons:

1. He played in a league with MUCH better defenses. And those defenses were geared specifically to stop him each week. And they didn’t.

2. He didn’t have the benefit of working with a top-notch, seasoned quarterback. Instead of Russell Wilson, Richardson had A.J. McCarron, a neophyte sophomore who didn’t keep defensive coordinators awake at night.

Is the Big Ten championship game not considered a conference game?-Mary

For the purpose of stats and standings, it is considered a non-conference game. Wisconsin is still 6-2 in conference this year, and MSU is still 7-1. And the stats from the game count in the “all games” stats but not the eight-game conference-game only stats.

I can’t believe you are not even giving Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg any credit. He is the best quarterback in the Big Ten. He did more with less than the other quarterbacks.-Dan

I don’t recall “not even giving” any credit to Vandenberg. I think he’s a heck of a quarterback with a bright future. His problem: There were other great quarterbacks in the Big Ten this year. I think Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson and Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins have to get the nod over Vandenberg. No shame there. And Michigan’s Denard Robinson and Northwestern’s Dan Persa are pretty special, too. Next fall, Vandenberg may be considered by some to be the top quarterback in the conference, along with Robinson, as Wilson, Cousins and Persa will depart as seniors.
Other quarterbacks set to return in 2012: Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden of Penn State; Nathan Scheelhaase and Reilly O’Toole of Illinois; MarQueis Gray of Minnesota; Braxton Miller of Ohio State; Tre Roberson of Indiana; Taylor Martinez of Nebraska; Caleb TerBush and Rob Henry of Purdue. Pretty good lineup of signal-callers!

Why was Penn State passed up by so many bowls? The committees know that we as fans travel well. -Gregory

After finishing 9-3 overall, Penn State deserved a better postseason destination than the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas. The only bowl with a Big Ten tie-in that is lower in the pecking order is the Little Caesar’s Bowl in Detroit. Without a doubt, the off-field issues at Penn State played a huge role in the Nittany Lions falling in the bowl selection process. I’m guessing there was a fear the off-field child sex-abuse scandal would overshadow whatever bowl Penn State went to. But the matchup between Houston and its high-flying offense and Penn State and its rugged defense will be great!

Why are all the championships played in Indianapolis? Don’t you think the other cities in the conference should get a shot at it? -Bob Elliott

The conference solicits bids from cities to play host to its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, as well as its football championship game. So, it’s a fair process. The football title game is locked in to Indianapolis until 2015. The men’s basketball tournament will be hosted by Indianapolis in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Chicago will get it in 2013 and 2015.

Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com. Find all of his work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow Dienhart on Twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, send a question to his weekly mailbag here, and click here to subscribe to his RSS feed.

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