Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, May 8, 2015

You have questions, and I have answers. That?s right: It?s time for me to reach into my mailbag. Let?s do it.

Do you think Iowa can be at least a .500 team in 2015? I am very worried. I'm hoping that quarterback C.J. Beathard can keep the offense going. I was not that crazy about Jake Rudock leaving, even if he did annoy me at times with his play! – Todd

Yes, I think Iowa can be at least 6-6. Look at the schedule:

  • Illinois State
  • At Iowa State
  • Pitt
  • North Texas
  • At Wisconsin
  • Illinois
  • At Northwestern
  • Maryland
  • At Indiana
  • Minnesota
  • Purdue
  • At Nebraska

I can find at least six likely victories in there. Can you? Sure! But I don?t see more than eight wins. Maybe the Hawkeyes will surprise all of this.

What record do you think Michigan will have in its first year under Jim Harbaugh? And who is your all-time favorite Wolverine? – Sharif Goodson

I think the Wolverines will win seven or eight games, led by what should be a good defense. The key will be how well the offense comes together. The quarterback spot remains problematic.

My all-time fav Michigan player? I always liked Mark Messner, an All-American DT from the late-1980s. I also liked OT Bubba Paris from the late-1970s.

Looks to be a long year for Nebraska. – Bill Hofacre

I?m not so sure about that. I think Mike Riley?s debut has a chance to be pretty successful. The defense could be good if some pass rushers emerge and the linebackers develop. But a bigger key will be the offense. Who will be the playmakers with running back Ameer Abdullah and wideout Kenny Bell gone? And the line needs to come together. Still, Riley didn?t inherit an empty cupboard. Plus, Riley and Co., is a good staff.

I am interested to know how much pressure you think Darrell Hazell is under at Purdue? This program has struggled since Joe Tiller left after the 2008 season. Ticket sales have been down. – Ryan Eaton

No doubt, Purdue?s fortunes have waned since Tiller retired after the 2008 season. And interest is lagging, as you noted with declining ticket sales. The Danny Hope hire was a disaster and set the program back. Hazell is working hard. This is just this third season. He is making progress, but it has been glacial with a 4-20 overall record and 1-15 Big Ten mark. He needs to continue that progress-and be competitive in more games, but he is under no pressure. A bowl game in 2015? Probably not. But Hazell probably needs to get over the top in 2016 in Year Four.

Why do you think that on-field success isn't translating into draft picks for Mark Dantonio at Michigan State? I can't fathom how a team that's had the success that MSU has had only produced four NFL draft choices this year, yet a team like Louisville that went 5-3 in the ACC had 10 draft picks. How the heck is that possible? – Frank

Good question. It is a credit to Dantonio and his staff?s ability to get the most out of their talent. It?s the epitome of coaching. MSU is seventh in the Big Ten in producing draft picks (21) since the 2008 NFL Draft, the first under Dantonio, yet has two Big Ten titles. Schools like Iowa, Michigan and Penn State have had more picks in that time but no titles. I wrote more about this here. Have no fear, as the 2016 draft is shaping up as a big one for the Spartans. Mike Griffith of thinks the upcoming MSU class will be the school?s most talented since 1966 with three potential first-round picks in Connor Cook, Shilique Calhuon and Jack Conklin. Lawrence Thomas also could develop into a first-rounder.

What do you think of wideout Noah Brown stepping up as a deep threat for Ohio State with Devin Smith gone? That offense already has potential with Ezekiel Elliott, Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson and others. And I've been hearing the staff has been really high on Curtis Samuel and trying to use him more in that hybrid Percy Harvin role as Urban Meyer did with Harvin at Florida. – Adam Hatem

First of all, there aren?t many Percy Harvins. Samuel may be a reasonable facsimile. Still, temper your fervor. I like Marshall a lot. He may be the guy who becomes a key playmaker on the edge. And keep an eye on Johnnie Dixon, James Clark, Terry McLaurin and Parris Campbell outside, too. Meyer?s program is absolutely loaded.

I would put offensive lineman Marshal Yanda as the best draft pick from Iowa since 2005. He was a third-rounder who has been a three-time Pro Bowler. – Dustin

Yep, he would have been a good choice, too. Talk about overachieving. Yanda is the epitome of a Hawkeye blocker and a cornerstone for the Ravens? o-line.

How about Vernon Gholston as the biggest draft bust for Ohio State? – Kevin

Oh, yes. Great choice. I went with infamous running back Maurice ?Youngstown Boys? Clarett, a third-round pick by the Broncos in 2005 after not playing for two years. But Gholston was one of the NFL?s most colossal busts of the last decade. He was the sixth pick of the 2006 draft by the Jets. And he played three uneventful seasons and made 24 tackles in 42 games with no sacks. An epic bust.

That 1992-1993 Indiana team is easily the top team on your list of teams not to make Final Four. Several great teams, but that IU team was amazing. – Matt McClure

Yep. That team went 31-4 overall and 17-1 in the Big Ten and ranked No. 1. Calbert Cheaney and Greg Graham were the stalwarts and future NBAers on this killer squad that lost to Kansas in the Elite Eight.


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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