Big Ten letters: Your questions, Tom's answers

Time for me to reach into my mail bag that runs deep with a thicket of letters from you, passionate BTN.com readers. Thanks for your thoughts! Lots to get to, with many questions about football, even though we are neck-deep in hoops season.

Given the lack of respect nationally for what Iowa has done thus far, what will it take for the basketball team to gain respect? – T-Money

The win at Ohio State on Sunday was a great step toward gaining some national acclaim. So, if the Hawkeyes keep winning and advancing up the polls, it will become impossible for America not to notice this talented team. Upcoming games at Michigan (Jan. 22) and vs. Michigan State (Jan. 28) will be good opportunities for Iowa to score some attention.

The reported hiring of Chris Ash as defensive coordinator by Ohio State is fine, but shouldn’t Buckeye fans be as concerned with the cornerback play, as it was equally as bad? Can Ash help with that as well? – Jonathan

Yes, Ash’s area of expertise is coaching the secondary, which all dovetails well together. This is a Buckeye defense that ranked 11th in the Big Ten vs. the pass, allowing 268.0 ypg. That’s a big reason why OSU had the No. 7 defense in the conference (377.4 ypg). No doubt, work needs to be done. And losing cornerback Bradley Roby a year early to the NFL only exasperates the situation.

Do you think the Wisconsin Badgers can go all the way? – Tyler

Despite that loss at Indiana on Tuesday, when the defense was very un-Badger-like, I do think Wisconsin can go all the way. And by “all the way” I’m talking about winning the Big Ten and getting to the Final Four. This is Bo Ryan’s best offensive team. And the guard play is a few cuts-above what we usually see in Madison, what with Trae Jackson, Ben Brust and Josh Gasser running the show. Factor in athletic freshman Nigel Hayes, star Sam Dekker and big Frank Kaminsky, and there is a lot to like.

If my Hoosiers don’t make it to a bowl game next season, do you think Kevin Wilson will have his back against the wall? There is no reason why we can’t have a decent football program. Many of our other sports are doing quite well, such as soccer and men’s and women’s basketball. – Ryan Eaton

The 2014 season will be Wilson’s fourth in Bloomington. And he has shown steady progress, going from one, to four to five victories. Wilson had the Hoosiers oh-so-close to their first bowl since the 2007 season and just their second since 1993.

But that home loss to Minnesota was the killer. No doubt, there is a sense of urgency for Wilson to deliver a bowl. And I think he’ll do it. Indiana has many key vets coming back. And Wilson is taking steps to improve a moribund defense, firing his coordinator and line coach. The schedule looks a lot like last year’s. At first glance, I see six winnable games for IU: Indiana State; at Bowling Green; Maryland; North Texas; at Rutgers; Purdue.

The hiring of James Franklin at Penn State isn’t only a ‘home run’ hire but a ‘grand slam’ hire! – Gary Davis

Well, you obviously know my sentiments about the hire.

Franklin is one of the nation’s hot, young coaches. The work he did at Vanderbilt was remarkable, making the Commodores a relevant program in the ultra-competitive SEC. Franklin is a bright offensive mind, great communicator, teacher and leader who emotes positivity. He’s also a relentless recruiter. Franklin will have his challenges, as depth remains an issue. And likely will for a few more years. But I trust Franklin will find a way to keep the Nittany Lions program moving forward.

I watched the championship game and I believe that MSU would have beaten FSU. The Florida State defense didn’t look that great and our defense would have smothered their offense. – Jack Lewis

No doubt, it likely would have been a good, close game. I just wish we could have seen the Spartan defense led by Shilique Calhoun, Darqueze Dennard and those terrific linebackers match up with the Seminole offense led by Heisman winning quarterback Jameis Winston. Without a doubt, the Michigan State defense would have been more of a match for the Florida State offense than the Auburn defense. It would have been great to have seen Dennard lock up with FSU wideout Kelvin Benjamin, who future first-round draft picks.

With the departure of offensive coordinator Al Borges, I have some thoughts on Michigan’s two-point conversion attempt to beat Ohio State. Borges calls the play and the team gets into formation. Urban Meyer has done his homework. He calls a T.O. and designs a defense specifically targeted to stop the handful of plays Borges runs from that formation.

Borges, of course, trots out the exact same formation and runs one of the plays Urban has prepped for. That’s the story of Borges. I think he’s clever with all his crazy formations, but he ends up being far too predictable and not half as clever as he thinks he is. He’s unable to game plan around weaknesses. – Tyler

You offer some interesting insights. I appreciate your thoughts. But I still think Borges got a raw deal and was made the scapegoat for Michigan’s poor 2013 season. No knock on new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, but I think the Wolverine offense will be better next season just based on the maturation of the players. I can’t imagine Nussmeier has some magical schemes/formations that will be radically different than Borges. Now, maybe play-calling philosophies will differ. But unless the Michigan o-line is better, if won’t matter who is calling plays in Ann Arbor.

***

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.

Find out more about: ,

1 Comment

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (1 Comment)
m gregor on 1/17/2014 @ 6:09pm EST Said:

Borges was good as gone in October. Losses to the Aggies and Penn sealed his fate. Many were relieved when the “offensive disaster” was finally over vs Ohio. Bowl prep was really early spring practice. Rebuilding for the “real thing” has officially begun.