Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, November 23, 2011

As we get closer to the Big Ten Football Championship, I'm seeing more and more mail on the end-of-season awards, bowl games and tiebreakers. I even got my first basketball question! I love to get your notes and encourage you to keep them coming. The more mail the better. Now let's get to this week's answers …

Who in your opinion is the most valuable player in the Big Ten this year, and why? -Steve

This, my friend, is a difficult question. I think the chase will come down to the following: Wisconsin RB Montee Ball; Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson; Nebraska LB Lavonte David; Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins. In the end, Ball and Wilson should get the most consideration. And I think Wilson-a signal caller unlike any Wisconsin has had in years–should win the honor. I just feel his presence as a passer and playmaker has made this Badger offense one of the best in the nation-if not in Wisconsin history. Ball still would be very effective if Wilson wasn?t around. But I think Wilson?s presence makes Ball even better.

What are the odds that Iowa will go to a good bowl this year? –Brandon

I guess it will depend on what you define as a "good" bowl. If by "good" you mean a BCS bowl, then I think the Hawkeyes will be out of luck. But I still think the Hawkeyes will have a good destination-especially if the Big Ten lands two teams in BCS bowls. And I think there?s a good chance that will happen. In my most recent bowl projections, I have Iowa playing Florida in the Taxslayer Gator Bowl vs. Florida. Not bad, as the Gator Bowl is one of the most storied bowls in college football annals. If the Big Ten doesn?t get two BCS teams, Iowa could be pushed down to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas vs. a Big 12 team. All in all, not bad for a rebuilding year at Iowa.

If teams tie for first place in a division, are they co-champions of the division or is there a tiebreaker formula? If there is a tiebreaker, what is the formula? – John

This question has come up often in this first year of divisional play. Again, let?s review. If there is a tie between two schools in a division, each is called a ?co-champ.? But obviously only one can advance to the Big Ten title game. Here are the league?s tiebreaker procedures.

The following procedure will determine the representative from each division in the event of a tie:
a. If two teams are tied, the winner of the game between the two tied teams shall be the representative
b. If three or more teams are tied, steps 1 through 7 will be followed until a determination is made. If only two teams remain tied after any step, the winner of the game between the two tied teams shall be the representative.
1. The records of the three tied teams will be compared against each other
2. The records of the three tied teams will be compared within their division
3. The records of the three teams will be compared against the next highest placed teams in their division in order of finish (4, 5, and 6)
4. The records of the three teams will be compared against all common conference opponents;
5. The highest ranked team in the first Bowl Championship Series Poll following the completion of Big Ten regular season conference play shall be the representative in the Big Ten Championship Game, unless the two highest ranked tied teams are ranked within one spot of each other in the BCS poll. In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the Big Ten Championship
6. The team with the best overall winning percentage [excluding exempted games] shall be the representative
7. The representative will be chosen by random draw.

Sorry about the basketball question, but this football season is very painful for some Ohio State alum/fans. Do you think Thad Matta gets the credit he deserves for turning OSU into a Big Ten power? Does he get recognition nationally, since some pundits regard Ohio State as a football school and miss what Matta is doing for basketball? -Steph

I think Matt has gotten and is getting his just due on a national level. He took the Buckeyes to the Final Four in 2006-07 and the NIT title in 2007-08. He also has led Ohio State to three regular-season Big Ten crowns and one league tourney title. And he has done all of this in just seven seasons. But, like you said: Ohio State is known as a football school-and always will be. And I think that?s something Matta always is going to have to deal with. But he?s doing a good job at it at a school that has some of the best and most underrated hoops tradition in the Big Ten. I recall watching Dennis Hopson, Herb Williams, Clark Kellogg and Granville "Grandpa" Waiters, among others, when I was growing up. And how great was Jay Burson? Remember him? Some great players have matriculated through Columbus.

Will Ohio State be asked to a bowl game this season? – Ken Krum

There has been talk that the NCAA could hand Ohio State a bowl ban in addition to other penalties. The NCAA is still mulling Ohio State?s sanctions for instances of players taking improper benefits and Jim Tressel not revealing his knowledge of it, and playing ineligible players. Still, no word yet from the NCAA. But if it?s up to Ohio State, it?s going bowling. Athletic Director Gene Smith recently said as much, stating that the school wouldn?t penalize itself to lessen any impending NCAA sanctions. Ohio State already has the required six wins for postseason eligibility. In my most recent bowl projections, I have the Buckeyes playing Texas A&M in the Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl.

Where are your stats for Big Ten games only? – Mark Sutton

You probably found our full stats here on You have to go to the Big Ten Conference?s official site stats for just Big Ten games. Here is a link.

Got more questions? Send them to me in the box below. And yes, in addition to the football postseason I'll be covering Big Ten men's basketball all season long on Never too ealry to send me your hoops questions, too.

Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for Find all of his work at, follow Dienhart on twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, send a question to his weekly mailbag here, and click here to subscribe to his RSS feed.