Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, July 1, 2015

Time for me to dig into my Big Ten Mailbag and answer some of your pressing queries as we prep the grill for a Fourth of July cookout.

Do you think that Jerry Kill is on the hot seat? I believe if he does not win a bowl game, Minnesota will find another coach. The true test of a premier coach is if he can win the big one. Kill gets the team to the bowl and it discombobulates. – Jerry

Are you serious? I shouldn?t even take the time to answer this letter, but I will. Yes, Kill is still looking for a signature win-though back-to-back triumphs over Nebraska have been sweet. Still, the guy has done a remarkable job making the Gophers relevant after the disastrous Tim Brewster era. Kill has this program on the upswing in a steady build since 2011. Possibilities seem strong. In fact, Minnesota may win the West this season.

I think Michigan State DE Shilique Calhoun is a beast. But I feel that he will have more success this year because many teams won't be able to double-team him. With Lawrence Thomas on the other end primed to have a breakout year, foes will have to pay attention to him. And that should create room for Calhoun. This is the best defensive line I have seen is a very long time. – Drrucker

Yes, Calhoun could have a huge season after eschewing the NFL. Thomas is a mammoth end who will take Marcus Rush?s spot opposite Calhoun. And, as you say, he will draw attention. Inside, MSU will have Joel Heath and emerging star Malik McDowell. In reserve, the Spartans will have the likes of Demetrius Cooper, Damon Knox and Montez Sweat. Yes, this will be a formidable group.

The thought seems to be that the quarterback position is Braxton Miller's to lose at Ohio State. If that is the case, do you think Cardale Jones understood that when he committed to coming back for his junior season? – Denny Preble

I?m not sure if I agree with your notion that the job is Miller?s to lose. Don?t count out J.T. Barrett, as long as he is healthy from his ankle injury. The guy was voted Big Ten QB of the Year last season. Remember? Jones is an intriguing candidate who excelled under a hot spotlight last year, and he's the only one who has been healthy recently. Whoever wins the post will benefit from handing off to Ezekiel Elliott and working behind one of the best lines in the Big Ten. This race in Columbus is far from over.

Michigan State is returning quarterback Connor Cook and has the makings of a good line but lost some good receivers and running back Jeremy Langford. How effective will Michigan State be on offense? – Eric

I think this will be a very good offense. Most of my optimism centers around the line, which will be among the best in the Big Ten-if not the nation. Jack Conklin, Kodi Kieler, Donavon Clark, Jack Allen, Brian Allen ? this will be a very good front. Yes, Tony Lippett is gone from the wideout corps, but targets like Macgarrett Kings, Jr., DeAnthony Arnett and A.J. Troup-among others–are back. And there are options at running back. I wanna see true freshman LJ Scott. Bottom line: This could be another special season in East Lansing.

What do you think the likelihood is of Iowa pulling off a surprise 10-win season? – Mark

That may be a bit ambitious. No doubt, the schedule will help the Hawkeyes. Indiana and Maryland are the cross-division foes. And Minnesota comes to Iowa City. But Kirk Ferentz hasn?t posted a double-digit win season since an 11-2 mark in 2009. And his 17th edition of the Hawkeyes has some big questions, especially on offense. The line needs two new tackles ? C.J. Beathard never has been a starting QB ? are there any big-play makers at wideout or running back? On defense, the linebacking corps has a lot to prove, and two good tackles are gone. Iowa looks like a bowl team-but not a division champ.

Do you think Michigan has the depth and experience to vault ahead of Ohio State and Michigan State? – Tyrone

Jim Harbaugh will have some talent to work with in his debut season. The offensive line will be better. And the defense has some talent back across the board for a unit that was pretty good last season. And there is some potential at the skill positions on offense in wideouts Jehu Chesson, Freddy Canteen and Amara Darboh and running backs Derrick Green, Ty Isaac and De?Veon Smith. But the quarterback situation must settle. Is Iowa transfer Jake Rudock the answer? Having typed all of that, I don?t think the Wolverines are in the same neighborhood as OSU or MSU in 2015.


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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