Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, November 10, 2014

You have questions, and I have answers in my weekly mailbag. Ohio State?s playoff chances are on the minds of many of you. And the excitement around Minnesota is tangible. Let?s get after.

What are Minnesota's chances of winning the Big Ten West, assuming the team continues to play at the level it has been playing at for the remainder of the season? – Wyatt

You have to like Minnesota?s chances, especially if quarterback Mitch Leidner continues to play like he did in the 51-14 win vs. Iowa last week. But the Gophers face a tough remaining schedule, beginning with a visit from Ohio State this week. The season concludes with road games at Nebraska and at Wisconsin. It will be a big challenge for the Gophers, who still are the least talented among the contenders in the West. But no team is coached better.


It seems to me you reporters need to remind the selection committee that they are supposed to pick the four best teams for the playoffs. Why is strength of schedule the main factor? Nobody wants to talk about team growth during the season. Eye test should be a factor. – Jeff

Strength of schedule isn?t the main factor, but it is a key factor. Why shouldn?t it be? Under your rules, a team could look ?great? beating average/bad teams. And since the team looked ?good? it should get a playoff spot? Under your thinking, Marshall should be in the playoff projections right now. After all, it has looked good in going unbeaten. OSU has no one to blame but itself for losing at home to an awful Virginia Tech team in September. That can?t be ignored when assessing the Buckeyes? playoff viability. Yes, OSU passes the eyeball test right now. But the entire body of work must be assessed, too.

How do Ohio State's playoff chances add up with Oregon's? Michigan State is a better team in Week 11 than it was in Week 2 when it lost in Eugene. And Oregon also has a not-so-impressive loss vs. Arizona. – Reid Teatsorth

Oregon?s playoff hopes are better than Ohio State?s. In fact, the Ducks are projected right now to be in the playoff. Oregon has wins over No. 7 MSU; No. 18; UCLA; No. 17 Utah. And the Arizona team that beat the Ducks is currently ranked. Plus, Oregon has a win over Stanford. Ohio State has beaten Michigan State and who else? The Buckeyes? second-best win is vs. ? Maryland. Case closed.

Does Ohio State mathematically have any chance to get in the playoffs? – Josh

Sure, a lot of things still are possible. It goes without saying that Ohio State must win out to finish 12-1. Then, it has to hope for attrition among the teams ahead of it.

Will the Big Ten champ play in the Rose Bowl if it isn?t in the playoffs? – Layne Mann

No. The Rose Bowl will serve as host of a national semifinal playoff game. So, if a Big Ten team is not in the playoffs, it won?t have a team in the Rose Bowl. If the Big Ten doesn?t have a team in the playoff, the Big Ten champ could only play in the Cotton, Fiesta or Peach Bowl this season.

Speed kills, and Ohio State is loaded with it. Enjoy the humble pie. – Rick

Yes, speed does kill. And can I have my humble pie a la mode? Thanks!

I heard that the Big Ten is taking more control over bowl game assignments. What are the specifics? – Pat Skelly

I did a recent Q&A with Big Ten Senior Associate Commissioner/Television Administration Mark Rudner, who discussed the new bowl selection process. This should answer your questions. But, in a nutshell, you are correct. The Big Ten will have ultimate authority on where its teams go with respect to the bowls the league has tie-ins with, essentially assigning teams.

Do you expect Ohio State to dominate the Big Ten for a few years? – Frank Bennett

Well, it certainly looks like Urban Meyer has the Buckeyes poised for big things in coming years. The guy has yet to lose a regular-season game since taking over in 2012. The lone loss to a Big Ten foe was in last year?s Big Ten championship game to Michigan State. The other losses have been to Clemson in the Orange Bowl last year and to Virginia Tech at home this season. The talent continues to flow into Columbus, too. Meyer?s 2012 class ranked No. 4 nationally by; No. 2 in 2013; No. 3 last year. This year?s haul currently sits at No. 8. Yes, Michigan State is rolling, Nebraska and Wisconsin are on solid ground and Penn State has momentum ? but no school may be hotter than the Buckeyes, who could be sitting on the precipice of big things.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, 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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