Mailbag: Any chance Big Ten would want UConn?

Mailbag: Any chance Big Ten would want UConn?

It’s the time of week when I reach into my mailbag. Even with the offseason in full swing, there are some good questions this week. Thanks a lot! Let’s get started.

Games started aside, why should Mark Dantonio stay with Andrew Maxwell? He didn’t look great in the spring. He doesn’t do well under pressure. He isn’t mobile. Maxwell had tough shoes to fill with Kirk Cousins gone, but he hasn’t played to expectations. – Crunchy

No doubt, Maxwell had his struggles during a sometimes-bumpy 7-6 mark last season. He finished 10th in passing efficiency among the 11 Big Ten quarterbacks eligible, hitting just 52 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and nine picks. No doubt, an inconsistent receiving corps hurt Maxwell. But, as you point out, he had his struggles. And, the last time we saw him in a game, he was replaced by Connor Cook, who led MSU to a bowl win over TCU. Dantonio says Maxwell is the starter—for now. Stay tuned.

If everyone on the offensive side of the ball stays healthy, and the defense continues to improve, how far can Michigan go? What are its chances of beating Ohio State to end the season? – Jeremy Rieger

I think Michigan could win the Legends—and then advance to the Big Ten title game to play Ohio State. (If that happens, it will mean back-to-back meetings.) This is a program that still is transitioning its roster under Brady Hoke. The talent on defense continues to improve, while the offense finally can be fully functional under coordinator Al Borges, who wasn’t able to run his pro-style scheme with Denard Robinson. As for beating Ohio State, I think the Wolverines will have a shot—with the game being played in Ann Arbor. Remember, Michigan won the last time the teams met in the Big House.

Keep your eye on Nebraska junior cornerback Josh Mitchell. He has all the pedigree–not to mention the instincts and ability–to be better than his dad, who coached him in high school. He has a younger brother headed to Nevada as a corner this fall and an older brother who played at Colorado State as a corner, too. This family breads DBs. – Mo

Yes, he will be a good one for a Cornhuskers secondary that could be the strength of a Nebraska defense that has a lot to prove in 2013. Stanley JeanBaptiste, Andrew Green and Mitchell all started games last year at corner. Mohammed Seisay and Jonathan Rose are in the mix. Ciante Evans may be the best player on the defense, according to some, and he returns, too, after playing nickel. Both safeties are gone, but the Husker safeties were inconsistent–at best—in 2013.

NYC has been captivated numerous times by Big East basketball over the years. With UConn being readily available, and seemingly only hindered by its lack of academic heft, wouldn’t the Huskies be the perfect addition to the B1G?  If NYC is the prize, how can a team that has rocked MSG for decades be ignored as a possible addition? – Sean P

No doubt, UConn would bring some nice qualities to the Big Ten. But, I think the league already has the “eastern” presences that it desires. I have to think UConn will find a nice landing place someday. The basketball programs for the men and women are top-notch, and the football program has great facilities and continues to improve.

Do you think putting all of the power teams in one division is an attempt to make it easier for the weaker schools to have their day in the sun? – Jack Isaacs

No!! The new divisional alignments were done based on geography. Period. End of story. It just so happens more “traditional powers” reside on the Eastern side: Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State. Michigan State also isn’t too shabby. Competitive balance was a factor when the Leaders and Legends Divisions were drawn up. But, no more.

Well, you picked the Buckeyes to have the top offensive and defensive lines, as well as the top quarterback unit. This kind of takes the suspense out of who you are picking to win the Big10, right? – Jeff Reece

I guess it does. How can anyone in the right mind not pick Ohio State to win the Big Ten? The offense returns practically intact led by the league’s top player in quarterback Braxton Miller. Yes, the front seven on defense is being revamped. But all indications are the line and linebackers will be as good—if not better—than last year.

Do you think it is possible for the Big Ten to make all-conference voting from the coaches public for football and basketball? Why can’t it be public? What’s wrong with transparency? – Oliver Lang

Hey, I am all for transparency. If coaches knew their votes would be known publicly, I have to think some of their decisions would be different. But, will it happen? I doubt it.

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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