Big Ten Mailbag: Fans sound off on bowl games

The New Year is here. And, what better way to kick it off than by answering some of your question in a mail bag. Warning: This is college football bowl-heavy content as fans critique their team’s performances as well as a few of my latest posts.

So, here you go!

You keep saying “undermanned” Georgia team when discussing the Gator Bowl. Don’t you think Nebraska was undermanned, too? – Dante

Was Nebraska undermanned as much as Georgia? Were the Cornhuskers missing many key players? Offensive lineman Spencer Long was out. Taylor Martinez has been out for a while, allowing Tommy Armstrong myriad starts. The Bulldog quarterback was making his first career start. BIG difference. And the team’s top two receivers were out. Plus, the team’s top running back had a gimpy ankle. Look, I’m not trying to diminish Nebraska’s win in the Gator Bowl or what it overcame injury-wise. But, Georgia was far from itself and in worse shape than Nebraska.

You do remember that Tommie Frazier was only a 49.6 percent career passer, don’t you? As a freshman, Frazier hit only 44 percent of his passes. Why make such a big deal out of the fact that Armstrong was only 53 percent for the season? – Dan

Neither is or was a good passer. That’s the point. And, to even put Armstrong’s name in the same sentence with Frazier’s is laughable.

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Bowl Location Date (All ET)/TV Coverage
Texas Bowl
Syracuse 21, Minnesota 17
Houston, TX
Reliant Stadium
Fri., Dec. 27 6 p.m./ESPN DIENHART | AP RECAP | GALLERY | VIDEO
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
Kansas St. 31, Michigan 14
Tempe, AZ
Sun Devil Stadium
Sat., Dec. 28 10:15 p.m./ESPN DIENHART | AP RECAP | GALLERY | VIDEO
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl
Nebraska 24, Georgia 19
Jacksonville, FL
EverBank Field
Wed., Jan. 1 noon/ESPN2 DIENHART | AP RECAP | GALLERY | VIDEO
Capital One Bowl
S. Carolina 34, Wisconsin 24
Orlando, FL
Florida Citrus Bowl
Wed., Jan. 1 1 p.m./ABC YARINA | AP RECAP | GALLERY | VIDEO
Outback Bowl
LSU 21, Iowa 14
Tampa, FL
Raymond James Stadium
Wed., Jan. 1 1 p.m./ESPN DIENHART | AP RECAP | GALLERY | VIDEO
Rose Bowl Game
Michigan State 24, Stanford 20
Pasadena, CA
Rose Bowl
Wed., Jan. 1 5 p.m./ESPN DIENHART | AP RECAP | GALLERY | VIDEO
Discover Orange Bowl
Ohio State vs. Clemson
Miami Gardens, FL
Sun Life Stadium
Fri., Jan. 3 8:30 p.m./ESPN Preview | Scores

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You give Iowa’s defense a “D” in the Outback Bowl? LSU averages 38 points, 420 yards and 25 first downs.  What did Iowa hold them to? Iowa blanketed their receivers all night. Give Iowa a little credit! – Bob Niederhauser

Did you realize LSU wasn’t playing with star quarterback Zach Mettenberger? Had Iowa held the Tigers to those numbers with Mettenberger under center, it would have been impressive. But LSU started a true freshman quarterback who was making his first start. Everyone on the globe knew what LSU was going to do: run. And, Iowa couldn’t stop it.

Thank you for a wonderfully written article on Bill O’Brien’s departure from our Penn State program. While I am so disappointed he is leaving, I am anything but disappointed in him. He resurrected our program after so much sadness. We are forever grateful and the true PSU fan can only wish him well. – Pam Fleck

Thanks for the kind words. And well said about what O’Brien did. In just two short years, he righted the Nittany Lions’ ship and has the program pointed in the right direction. Yes, some rough sledding still may be ahead, but O’Brien shepherded the program through its darkest days.

Good thoughts about Bill O’Brien. I would have liked to have seen him stay two more years. What are we teaching our young people about commitment? I feel bad for the players. He told them to come to PSU. I will be there! We Are! – Pat Arnold

I can understand why some Penn State fans may be rankled about O’Brien bolting after two years. I thought he’d stay four, to walk one class all the way through. But, he did a lot in two scant seasons. And the school should be pleased with that. We all have to do what is best for us professionally.

Although I do agree with some of what you have written (about Bill O’Brien leaving), I don’t think that it is your place to tell people whether they have the right to criticize Bill O’Brien or not. According to some of the recruits and current players (the people who are really impacted in all of this), he allegedly told them that he would stay for a specified period of time. If O’Brien really told the players and recruits that he would be there during their time at PSU, what does leaving now say about the man? – Ecnypsufan

Good points. But, next time a school fires a coach who told parents and recruits he would “be there,” rip the school for not honoring the coach’s contract. The door swings both ways.

I’m a huge Wisconsin fan, and I was wondering why the Badgers consistently have success recruiting running backs but never seem to land decent QB prospects? Wouldn’t recruits be interested in a program like Wisconsin? – Daniel

I understand why you may have angst about the Badgers quarterback situation after this season. But don’t forget: Some good quarterbacks have matriculated through Madison in the last 10-15 years, many of whom went on to the NFL. Darrell Bevell, Jim Sorgi, Brooks Bollinger, Scott Tolzien and Russell Wilson, among others. So, my point: Good quarterbacks do find their way to Wisconsin. Just, be patient.

I was at the Gophers bowl game. I agree with your thoughts. The Gophers really played poorly. I also thought they were out coached. I was really disappointed in the game plan as well as the execution. It appears we do not have what we need at the QB position and really need to look elsewhere. Thank you for your honest opinion all year. – Archie

Minnesota’s need at quarterback was apparent well before Jerry Kill arrived for the 2011 season. This never has been a school that has had stellar quarterback play. Give the Gophers coaches credit for maximizing the talent that is on hand and squeezing as much talent as possible from the roster. Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner still have time to develop. And redshirt freshman Chris Streveler is a promising prospect. Kill and Co., have developed good quarterbacks at other schools (Hello, Jordan Lynch!). Count on them doing it again.

Maybe someone should watch Brandon Taylor at PSU. To me, he is the MIP in the BIG. -John

No doubt, the 6-7 Taylor remade his body his freshman season, losing 30 pounds, and impacted last season. He averaged 5.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 2012-13. Now, he’s averaging 11.3 points and 5.1 rebounds for a Nittany Lions program that is on the upswing.

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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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10 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (10 Comments)
Grant on 1/2/2014 @ 5:17pm EST Said:

MSU defense dominates Stanford, gives up 20 points. Iowa defense struggles against LSU, gives up 21 points. Nebraska defense not great vs Georgia gives up 19 points. Not sure how you measure defense, but there seems to be some discrepancy with those numbers.

Pat on 1/2/2014 @ 8:06pm EST Said:

I don’t understand why it is “laughable” to to mention Armstrong and Frazier in the same sentence. While I am not sure what relevance Frazier’s frosh stats had as I didn’t see a big deal being made about Armstrong’s stats, to deem the reference “laughable” seems petty and inaccurate. Both were better runners than passers; both took over as starting QB at NU mid-season their freshman year; both lost one regular season game. In terms of what they did their freshman year, it is a valid comparison. You act as if he said that based on his performance this year, Armstrong will lead Nebraska to the National Championship the next three years as Frazier did.

While not “laughable” your claim that Nebraska enjoyed a significant advantage at QB because Armstrong had a handful of starts ignored the fact that UGA’s first-time starter was a RS JR who had spent the last four years as Aaron Murray’s understudy and was playing in front of a predominantly UGA crowd.

bigtengrad on 1/2/2014 @ 9:06pm EST Said:

Hi Tom, once again you are wrong. Georgia’s QB was not making his first career start. Oh, and he is a fourth year junior, having seen playing time in three different seasons. Not such a BIG difference, huh? Picking on a freshman QB’s skills (or lack thereof) and calling a question from a reader laughable shows real professionalism on your part. Yep, Georgia was probably more banged up. Should they have come more prepared to play? Yep. They were out-coached and outplayed by a team from the B1G and you of all people should at least pretend to enjoy the victory. If not for the team, for the conference.

guy on 1/2/2014 @ 9:32pm EST Said:

Husker defense not great? Practically all but 3 guys on their defense are fresham or sophmores. I tjought they did great and gna be top notch in yrs to come

JP on 1/3/2014 @ 10:12am EST Said:

Still can’t give credit to Nebraska. Abdullah was just as banged up as Gurley. Hutson made his first start against rival Georgia Tech, not Nebraska. Also, Armstrong had started more games, but Hutson had been at Georgia for 4 years. Nebraska’s entire Offensive line was banged up and without it’s best player. Georgia hand 2 wide receivers out, but I would trade a couple wideouts for a healthy offensive line any day. Neither team was 100%, but it’s baffling to me that the “Big Ten Network” takes every opportunity to take away from Nebraska’s win.

corngobble on 1/3/2014 @ 11:03am EST Said:

Tom Dienhart is a disappointment. He chooses how to angle a story. The glass is half empty instead of half full when it comes to Nebraska.
Early in the season Dienhart wrote that Tommy Armstrong was a better passer than Taylor Martinez- not yet Tom.

TBrew on 1/3/2014 @ 12:54pm EST Said:

I agree with these statements. When I read your article I thought I was on the wrong page and possibly it was someone writing for the SEC making further excuses as to why an SEC lost to a non-SEC opponent. Thanks for the BIG 10 support from the Big 10 website… We all need to congratulate all BIG 10 teams for their performances in the bowl games, especially on the BTN website.

Bill on 1/3/2014 @ 1:25pm EST Said:

@JP The B1G Network would really rather be the “UofM & Ohio State Network” based on their coverage. So, my suggestion is, get used to BTN trash talking other B1G programs. t is still contemplating whether schools such as MSU or NE or UW or PSU are “worthy” of coverage in proportion to their successes.

JP on 1/3/2014 @ 1:59pm EST Said:

Bill- It’s been pretty eye opening as a Nebraska fan coming into this conference. The reason there is always this “Big 2 and Little 10) talk is because BTN and ESPN perpetuate it to pander to the bigger fanbases. Just check BTN Network most days. 8 out of 10 programs include Michigan or Ohio State. I thought my school was done dealing with that after leaving Texas and the Big 12, but apparently a good Marketing Department outweighs on-field performance.

JP on 1/6/2014 @ 1:03pm EST Said:

Bill- It’s been pretty eye opening as a Nebraska fan coming into this conference. The reason there is always this “Big 2 and Little 10) talk is because BTN and ESPN perpetuate it to pander to the bigger fanbases. Just check BTN Network most days. 8 out of 10 programs include Michigan or Ohio State. I thought my school was done dealing with that after leaving Texas and the Big 12, but apparently a good Marketing Department outweighs on-field performance.