The mail keeps coming in, like big, sweaty linemen hitting a blocking sled. And, it’s a beautiful thing—the mail coming in part. With that said, let me dig in and answer some of your pressing queries as we sit less than 48 glorious hours away from kickoff.
If we get some major help downfield at receiver and our defense continues to keep us in games, do you think Iowa could get to seven wins? – Mike M.
Hmmm. That’s some wishful thinking. But, I guess it could happen. The Hawkeyes have some solid veterans at wideout, led by Kevonte Martin-Manley, James Cotton and Don Shumpert. And I like Tevaun Smith, who is a big target. The guy who really excites is JC transfer Damond Powell, who could be a game-breaker. With a balanced offense, Iowa could be a bit of a sleeper with a shot to get to seven wins. No doubt, a strong ground game would help the passing attack—and the Hawkeyes have the makings of a stout rushing game.
I’m concerned about the depth on the Ohio State offensive line. Is that the biggest concern for the Buckeyes, in terms of depth, or is it another position? – Jonathan
Well, not many teams have five top-flight backups on the offensive line. Typically, a good team will have two or three reserves of quality who can play multiple positions. So, don’t sweat it. And, besides, reports out of Columbus say OSU has answered any offensive line depth issues in camp. One area to wring your hands about is linebacker. There is talent, but the best is still young. So, if Ohio State has to go deep into the depth chart at that spot, issues could arise.
Your BTN tour recap was good, but did you get your Runza while you were in Lincoln? – Matt
Alas, I did not! And I am still bummed about that. Next time, for sure! With an order of “frings,” too.
[ RELATED: Best of the 2013 BTN Football Tour ]
If you were a Big Ten A.D, how long would you build facilities for? How long before another renovation of your facilities, since it seems like there’s an “arms race” going around the NCAA these days? – Stephanie
You never stop building, to be honest. Once one project is done, a school has to turn its attention to the next project—or risk falling hopelessly behind. There is no end to the “arms race,” either. The stakes and money keep growing with each passing year, amping up the pressure on each campus to raise money, building glistening facilities—and win.
I’m assuming you’re predicting a blowout win for Penn State in Week 1? Because that’s the only way I can see Buffalo at Ohio State, Southern Illinois at Illinois, UNLV at Minnesota, and Wyoming at Nebraska as being more important Week 1 games than Penn State vs. Syracuse. – Tom
My premise for the piece was the “seven most fascinating openers.” I think I made good cases for the games I highlighted. I almost included Penn State-Syracuse. No doubt, the game will be a nice test for the new Nittany Lions’ quarterbacks. And how will the overhauled front seven on defense look?
[ RELATED: My Most Important Week 1 Big Ten Games ]
Why don’t they move the B1G championship to Chicago? – Ek
I think the powers-that-be like that early-December game to be played indoors. And Indianapolis is a bit more of a central location for all the Big Ten schools. Plus, Indy does a great job as host. But, the event may someday move. Chicago? Minneapolis? Detroit? They all make sense. And how about New York?
I know Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is a great player. But stats-wise, Taylor Martinez was No. 1 last year in the Big 10 in passing efficiency. Taylor appears to be ready for his senior year in both running and passing. Also, the offensive line seems stronger and the running backs and receivers all seem better than last year. Why is Martinez not ranked higher? – Stephen Johnson
Martinez probably should be getting more accolades. But Miller is the focus for most after a sensational 12-0 season in which he finished fifth in Heisman voting. Martinez needs to trim his interceptions (Big Ten-high 12 in 2012) and lead Nebraska to the Big Ten title. If he does those things, the awards will take care of themselves.
[ RELATED: B1G Player Rankings: No. 3, Taylor Martinez ]
With an easy early schedule for Nebraska, what is the outlook for a rugged November? – Gary Weiss
No doubt, the Nebraska schedule opens favorably with five home games. But the visit from UCLA on Sept. 14 will be a tough test. However, it’s not crazy to envision Nebraska being 6-1 or 7-0 as November dawns. Then, buckle up for Northwestern; at Michigan; Michigan State; at Penn State; Iowa. But by November, the Huskers may be rolling on offense and the retooled defense may be in synch. I think Nebraska will be favored in each November game, except at Michigan on Nov. 9. So, this could be an 11-1 or 10-2 season.
Where would you rank Nebraska among B1G teams in terms of overall talent and athletic ability? – Craig Jansen
The Cornhuskers are behind Ohio State and Michigan. Michigan State and Nebraska have similar rosters. The Huskers have better talent and athletic ability than everyone else, but Wisconsin is close.
|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.|
And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.