Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, December 22, 2011

You have questions, I have answers in my weekly mail bag. Among other questions this week, fans wonder if Drew Brees is better than Tom Brady, what?s the best Big Ten bowl no one is talking about and if bowl matchups are really the best way to compare conferences.

What?s the best Big Ten bowl that no one is talking much about? – Mike L., LaPorte, IN

I think the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Houston between Northwestern and Texas A&M could be an offensive explosion for fans to watch pitting two good quarterbacks in NU?s Dan Persa and A&M?s Ryan Tannehill. The Wildcats average 29.5 points and allow 27.3. The Aggies average 39.6 points and allow 28.7. You see where I?m going with this? Great offenses ? spotty defenses ? the points could be flying in Reliant Stadium!

Is there too much emphasis in the comparison of conferences based on how they perform in bowls? Not to make excuses, but it is just one weekend/one game vs. the entire body of a season for certain conferences. What is the best way to compare conferences? –Vince

I guess I think the head-to-head matchup are all we really have to use to compare leagues? What else can we use? There?s nothing head-to-head meetings to determine which leagues are best. And in the case of the SEC and Big Ten, the conferences will meet three times in the postseason: Capital One Bowl (Nebraska-South Carolina); Outback Bowl (Michigan State-Georgia); Gator Bowl (Ohio State-Florida).

What do you think of Tim Beckman, the new Illinois coach? –Don

I like the hire. New Illinois A.D. Mike Thomas twice hired MAC coaches when he was A.D. at Cincinnati, tabbing Brian Kelly and Butch Jones. Now at Illinois, Thomas, went back to the MAC, this time taking Beckman from Toledo. He?s a no-nonsense coach who reminds me a lot of another former Toledo coach: Gary Pinkel, who has gone on to great success at Missouri. The MAC has a long history of producing some great coaches like Nick Saban (Toledo); Bo Schembechler (Miami of Ohio); Jim Grobe (Ohio); Urban Meyer (Bowling Green), among others.

Why can't Matt Painter add any of the top high school talent in the state of Indiana? Boiler fans can only dream of a lineup that included Cody Zeller, Branden Dawson, Gary Harris, Marquis Teague and DeShaun Thomas! -Matt

What coach wouldn?t love to have that collection on talent. And, as you say, all of those players are from Indiana-and none are with Purdue. Thomas is from Ft. Wayne and at Ohio State; Zeller is from Washington and at Indiana; Dawson is from Gary and at Michigan State; Teague is from Indianapolis and at Kentucky; Harris is from the Indianapolis area and signed with Michigan State in the fall.

The ones that stung Painter the most were losing Harris (whose mother played basketball at Purdue) and Dawson (who hails from "the Region" area of Northwest Indiana that Purdue usually owns). I know Painter tries hard. And he has lots to sell now, including a renovated Mackey Arena. Painter also has had success on the court. But, as we all know, recruiting can be a funny business. I am sure Painter will breakthrough at some point. In fact, some think his recruits for the next two classes will rank among the best in the Big Ten. And many of those kids are natives of Indiana.

In regards to Ohio State?s recent NCAA penalties, I wonder: Who is getting punished? -Carol

It is unfortunate that coaches and players who had nothing to do with the recent NCAA woes at Ohio State will be "punished" by not being allowed to play in a bowl or compete for the Big Ten title in 2012. But that?s just a function of how the NCAA probation process works. Often times, innocent people pay for the sins committed by others who no longer are on campus.

Last night before the Purdue-IUPU-FW basketball game, the guys on BTN posed a question: Tom Brady or Drew Brees? Both picked Brady. Really angered me. I was just checking Brady's Michigan stats vs. Brees? Purdue stats-they aren?t even close. On to the pros, Brady has won three Super Bowls to one for Brees. Needless to say, New England has had much better teams than New Orleans. Still, I don?t agree with their choice. -Tim Nelson

Each is a great NFL quarterback, but as you say: Brady has done more as a pro than Brees when it comes to winning titles. But stat-wise–when it?s all said and done-Brees probably will have better numbers than Brady if they each play the same number of years. Brees stands poised to shatter the NFL single-season passing mark this season. And his impact on New Orleans goes WAY beyond wins, losses and stats. Brees has personified the city?s comeback from Hurricane Katrina, showing a never say die attitude and spirit in his own comeback from a devastating shoulder injury. Brees and the Big Easy have grown together.

On the college level, the comparison isn?t even close, as you say. Brees left Purdue after the 2000 season as the Big Ten career leader in passing yards (11,792) and touchdown passes (90), among other records. But most importantly, he raised the Purdue program to a level it hadn?t been at since the 1960s in taking the school to its first Rose Bowl since the 1967 season. It?s safe to say Brees meant more to Purdue while in college than Brady meant to Michigan, a school already steeped in grid history.

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.