Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, August 3, 2015

Digging around my email on a hot summer night, enjoying some of the correspondence from devoted visitors to

I have gotten a lot of negative responses for a recent story I penned about Connor Cook being the best player in the Big Ten.

Cook isn?t even the best player on his own team. Other than your obvious disdain for Ohio State, how can you be thinking this? – Nathan

Point taken. The Big Ten has several good candidates for ?best player.? Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott, any Buckeye quarterback, OSU defensive end Joey Bosa. Maybe Wisconsin running back Corey Clement. But, why is it such an exotic idea to say Cook could be the Big Ten?s best in 2015? Is any choice not a Buckeye really blasphemous? C?mon. Cook could have a monster season behind a great line and ample skill talent. He?s a talented and confident senior who is coming off a boffo junior season. Cook has started the last 26 games for the Spartans (23-3 record; 16-1 vs. Big Ten; 15-1 Big Ten games; 2-0 bowl games). In 30 career games, he has completed 58 percent of his passes (444-of-762) for 6,063 yards, 47 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Mock all you want, I still think Cook is the man.

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Where do the Gophers have an advantage against TCU in the season opener? Or maybe a better question: What unit has to win in order for the Gophers to beat the Horned Frogs? – Greg Bohnsack

I think the Gophers need to win up front, in the trenches. They will have one of the better offensive fronts in the Big Ten. The d-line? It has potential and more to prove that is offensive counterpart. Still, if the Minnesota offensive front can win its battle, that would keep Mitch Leidner clean and allow the Gophers to control the clock with their physical running attack-thus shortening the game and keeping the ball away from TCU and its deadly offense led by Trevone Boykin.

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We have come full circle haven't we? The reason Notre Dame is an independent is because the Big Ten (formerly the Western Conference) didn't want any Catholic school in its conference. So congrats, you are just as bigoted as your founders. – Steve

What? Huh? Where did this come from? Now may be a good time to remind everyone that the Fighting Irish won?t play a Big Ten foe this season for the first time since 1914.

Now, back to my regularly scheduled mail bag ?

How much will the suspensions of the Ohio State?s four players impact the Buckeyes at Virginia Tech in their season-opener? – Gabe Karbler

I don?t think the Buckeyes will have much of an issue without their top two H-backs in Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson. Curtis Samuel should be able to fill the bill. And this could be a great chance for newly converted H-back/receiver Braxton Miller. The loss of Joey Bosa? That?s a different story. His skill set can?t be replaced. The guy is the best in the nation at his position, a true difference maker and likely No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Sophomore Jalyn Holmes and redshirt freshmen Darius Slade and Sam Hubbard will try to fill in for Bosa. Good luck.

Who do you think will win the Ohio State QB job? – Jay

I?m going with Cardale Jones, who is coming off a stunning three-game run to cap last season that saw him amass 742 yards passing and six total TDs in leading the Buckeyes to the national championship. I think the potential of Jones is tremendous. The junior just may be scratching the surface after languishing on the depth chart for most of his career. Jones is a hot, confident hand who can make plays-and avoid the big mistake. Beside, J.T. Barrett is just a sophomore. He has plenty of time left.

When you go to KFC, do you prefer Original, Extra Crispy or Grilled? – Gary Kasper

I usually go to Lee?s Chicken-and I get the livers. When I do go to KFC, I always get Extra Crispy. C?mon. Who doesn?t?


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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