Big Ten Mailbag: A look at this week's best questions
Time to sift through my mailbag as we head toward Week Two. Someone questioned my love of Iowa. Really? C’mon. And another reader was appalled that I ranked Michigan behind Wisconsin and Iowa in my power poll. What on god’s green earth was I thinking?
Here is a look at my weekly mailbag.
Is it possible for an Ohio State coach to win Big Ten Coach of the Year? – James Russell
Crazy to think that it hasn’t happened since Earle Bruce won it in 1979. I think Ohio State has a bias against it when it comes to voting for this award. Most feel the Buckeyes should be good every year. And the coach often isn’t given enough credit for the job he does, as most assume whoever coaches the program will succeed because of the abundance of talent. Not true. Too often, this award goes to the coach whose team exceeded expectations—and that isn’t always the correct choice for coach of the year. Will an Ohio State coach ever win it again? It’s gonna be difficult. I mean, Urban Meyer should have won it in 2012 and 2014. If not then, when will he win it?
Your power ranking this week is interesting. I think we’ll all find out pretty soon that Minnesota is waaay overrated by most and that Illinois is underrated. – Brad Reed
Well, we shall see. It’s difficult to come to any grand conclusions after one week of action. The Gophers had a much tougher foe (Oregon State) than the Illini (FCS Murray State). This week, Minnesota plays FCS Indiana State and Illinois has North Carolina. We will find out a lot about the Illini. Stay tuned. I still like the Gophers a lot better than the Fighting Illini.
Did you miss the Iowa game? You have a tough job and can’t choose every one to watch and cover in the weekly wrap up story. Don’t feel bad. – Mike Bland
Yes, it is tough to spread the love when there are 14 games in a week. But, I got a chance to watch a bit of the Iowa game. And I was impressed by the ground game led by Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels. I am on record as saying I think Iowa may be better than it was last season—but it may not win as many games as it did in its 12-2 campaign that included a Rose Bowl trip. Still, this could be a 10-win season that likely will include another trip to the Big Ten title game.
Why would you rank Michigan fourth in your power rankings? Michigan won by 60 points over Hawaii, and you have teams like Wisconsin jumping them. Maybe I see that, but the Badgers beat an overrated LSU team which doesn’t have a QB worth mentioning. Iowa? C’mon! It struggled with Miami (Ohio). – Chandler
LSU overrated? Maybe. But, the Bayou Bengals were No. 5 in the AP entering that game. Had LSU pulled it out, I doubt you would call it “overrated.” Give the Badgers some credit. Most felt Wisconsin was gonna get whipped in that game. And, it found a way to win. Michigan beat a bad Hawaii team. Wake me up on Oct. 1 when Wisconsin plays at Michigan. Iowa had a workmanlike win vs. Miami. The Hawkeyes only will get better. They get my benefit of the doubt after a West Division title and 12-win season in 2015. Can’t wait for Michigan’s Nov. 12 trip to Iowa. Get back to me then.
Are nine wins possible for Nebraska? An Oregon victory would provide momentum. – Christopher Nelsen
Yes, I think Nebraska can win nine games. The Huskers went back to the future in the opener by running time and again in downing Fresno State. I like that commitment to the run, which resulted in 292 yards rushing on Saturday. The Huskers can’t win big unless they can have a strong rushing attack. Wyoming is next. Then, Oregon visits. Again, a strong ground game would allow NU to control the ball and the clock, keeping that always potent Duck offense on the sideline for extended stretches. Good idea. As for the nine wins (I am assuming a 2-0 start), I think the Huskers can prevail at Northwestern, vs. Illinois, at Indiana, vs. Purdue, vs. Minnesota and vs. Maryland. That’s eight wins. To get one more, Nebraska would need to win vs. Oregon, at Wisconsin, at Ohio State or at Iowa. You see? It’s doable.
How is the Wisconsin QB situation in your mind? – Barb Doyle
I think Bart Houston did a nice job in his first career start. He hit 19-of-31 passes for 205 yards. But he had two picks, which hurt. One was in the end zone. Still, Houston was playing a very good LSU defense. And, again, this was his first start. He hit a couple big passes on the game-winning drive, which was huge. Houston has skills to work with and figures to improve as he gains confidence this season. Just getting a win vs. a squad like the Tigers is huge for his confidence and the confidence of his teammates.
I am curious as to your predictions for Rutgers this season. Is there any hope for a bowl game in 2015? – Jim Durante
Getting to a bowl may be a challenge for the Scarlet Knights as they adapt to a new scheme on both sides of the ball. One reason why I like RU is the trench play. I think the offensive and defensive lines are good. And anytime you are good up front, you have a chance to have a good team. Still, reaching a bowl may be a challenge. But don’t be discouraged by the opening 48-13 loss at Washington, which is a very good team.