Reader mail: How will Gophers fare at Indiana?

It is time to reach into my weekly BTN.com bag of mail and deliver my answers. With hoops heating up, basketball is on the mind of many of you, but I continue to get several lingering questions from the bowl season. Keep them coming either via the submission box at the bottom of this post or on my mailbag page.

Love your site. How will our Gophers do against Indiana, and Michigan at home in Williams Arena? – Randy Olson

It will be a great litmus test to see how good this Golden Gophers team is. And they were the only team to win in Assembly Hall last season. But I think Minnesota will fall at Indiana. The Hoosiers can match the Gophers’ depth and experience, but the matchups inside favor Indiana. To wit: Who will guard 6-9 Christian Watford and 7-0 Cody Zeller? Watford in particular is a real X-factor for the Hoosiers. If he comes dialed in and ready to play, Indiana is VERY difficult to beat.

[RELATED: Minnesota vs. Indiana airs on BTN/BTN2Go at noon ET on Saturday.]

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Tubby Smith and Minnesota sure are looking good. Do you see any potential flaw that could hurt them? – Joe

There are few—if any—holes in this team. The depth is remarkable, as the Gophers play up to 10 men. And there is ample athletic ability and experience. The guard is top-notch, too, which will be key in March. But if one thing could hurt Minnesota, it’s outside shooting. Both Andre and Austin Hollins have nice strokes, but there isn’t an abundance of terrific shooters on this team. As a squad, the Gophers are No. 8 in the Big Ten in three-point percentage (33.2). I may be nit-picking, but it’s something worth keeping an eye on.

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I don’t see any reason for the Big Ten or its fans to be too disappointed over the bowl games. There were nice wins by Northwestern and Michigan State. Minnesota was competitive and Nebraska had Georgia on the ropes until their old turnover bugaboo hit late. Wisconsin and Michigan played great games. Only Purdue got blown out against  a very nice Oklahoma State team. Losses always are disappointing, especially immediately after the games. But I saw a lot of very competitive games and teams. Nothing to be ashamed of. Bring on 2013. – Bob Jones

You raise some good points. The Big Ten looked good in all but one of the games. But, facts are fact: The conference went 2-5 in the postseason—1-4 on New Year’s Day. This Big Ten bowl slump all seems to have started after the 2006 seasons, when Ohio State was drummed, 41-14, by Florida in the BCS title game. Since then, the SEC has dominated the Big Ten with a 7-2 record since the leagues agreed to play three bowls against  each other beginning with the 2010 season. Take a look:

Jan. 1, 2011
Alabama 49, Michigan State 7
Florida 37, Penn State 24
Mississippi State 52, Michigan 14

Jan. 1, 2012
Michigan State 33, Georgia 30
South Carolina 30, Nebraska 13
Florida 24, Ohio State 17

Jan. 1, 2013
Northwestern 34, Mississippi State 20
Georgia 45, Nebraska 31
South Carolina 33, Michigan 28

But since the start of the BCS era in 1998, the SEC hasn’t been quite as dominant, going 21-17 vs. the Big Ten. Still, recent history hasn’t been good for the Big Ten. I think the league could be in store for a big bounce back in 2013 with Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska carrying the flag.

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Not counting FCS wins toward bowl eligibility just hurts the FCS teams. FCS schools need the money they get from playing at FBS schools. And the games are a good tune up for FBS schools. Instead of eliminating FCS games, how about having everyone in college football play six home and six road games instead? Then you will see some teams going on the road. – Tyler

Interesting idea. I understand that FCS schools need the loot they earn for playing “blood donor” games. The cash helps fund the athletic departments at many schools. And they do often act like a “preseason” game for FBS schools. To me, if schools want to “buy” a win or play a “preseason game,” that’s fine. A win just won’t count toward bowl-eligibility. That won’t matter to powerhouse schools that won’t have issues getting to the six wins needed for bowl eligibility. Rather, it will be an issue for those schools that fight to just get to six wins.

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What do you think of the defensive coordinator that Purdue hired? – Matt

I love the hiring of Greg Hudson, who was linebackers coach at Florida State. He did a nice job at FSU, helping the Seminoles rank second nationally this season in total defense. FSU allowed just 253.8 yards per game and a national-low 3.89 yards per play. And Hudson, 45, also was a standout coordinator at East Carolina from 2005-09, helping the Pirates to four bowls.

Hudson also knows the Big Ten, having served on Glen Mason’s Minnesota staff from 2001-04. Plus, the former Notre Dame linebacker who played for Lou Holtz is a Cincinnati native who knows the Midwest recruiting terrain.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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