Every week (or so) on The Big Ten Blog, we will feature questions from the B/R inbox, Twitter and email. Do you have questions for next week's Q&A? Send them to Big Ten lead blogger Adam Jacobi via the B/R inbox, on Twitter @Adam_Jacobi or at email@example.com.
Hello again, friends. Obviously, today is not a normal day. It is a horrible day, thanks to the tragic school shooting in Connecticut, and we realize that not everybody is in the mood for football and frivolity. We also realize that after however many hours of coverage and the avalanche of sickening news updates, some people may be ready for a distraction. We're happy to be that distraction if you'd like one.
So...let's talk Big Ten football, shall we?
@adam_jacobi Michigan v Ohio State, 2013. Who ya got?— Coach Sak(@B_Sakowski) December 14, 2012
Ah yes, the eternal struggle. Yin vs. Yang. Oil vs. Water. Good vs. Evil. Or, if you don't like either of those teams, Evil vs. Evil.
As for who's going to win that game, I'm glad you asked. We'd like to pick a winner, but...it's too close to call!
(cue the election coverage theme music from your preferred cable news channel)
(now it is in your head and it will not go away)
(and here comes the dude with the giant touch screen drawing circles on counties)
Or, at the very least, it's too early to call. So here's what we want to see before we start trying to figure out who wins this game in 2013.
Does Ohio State's defensive line have four starters ready to go? Replacing an entire front four is never easy, but at the very least OSU's line was deep, deep, deep in 2012. There's a difference between having depth and having four guys ready to shoulder the load, though.
How ready is Michigan's offensive line? If Taylor Lewan's not back, Michigan's going to have to rely on some unproven guys at tackle—and we weren't that thrilled with the interior three blockers this year either. Brady Hoke has recruited very well along the line, but are these blue-chip prospects turning into blue-chip players?
Is anyone else heading to the NFL draft? We know Johnathan Hankins is gone, but Carlos Hyde and Bradley Roby are worth keeping an eye on over at Ohio State. We don't think either of the starting safeties will bolt, but you never know; both C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant do have NFL-level athleticism, if not the game to match it yet.
Meanwhile, Michigan doesn't look like it has any early NFL prospects outside of Taylor Lewan, but let's not pretend like no player has ever made a bad decision by declaring early. So we'll have to wait on that one.
And finally, is everyone staying healthy? Injuries are always the X-factor when it comes to college ball, and they're usually more pervasive than teams would like or expect. Sometimes, they hit the reserves harder; sometimes they can affect a team's entire game plan.
So yes, this is a totally non-committal answer. But c'mon; it's the middle of December.
@adam_jacobi you noted in early wks that Wiscy was 'in crisis' after firing their OC. How'd they rise from that to Champ?— jp (@jtothemfp) December 14, 2012
I'm glad you asked. First, a clarification: Wisconsin fired the offensive line coach, not the offensive coordinator. We're willing to chalk that up to a typo in order to get to the larger question at hand.
Now, Wisconsin did make a turnaround and that's worth commending. The running game went from ineffectual to unbelievable, and right about now is when we're lamenting the fact that we don't have a stats bureau to check for us when was the last time a Big Ten team ran for over 500 yards in a single game twice in one season. That's gotta be rare.
Still, there are two things worth remembering.
First of all, Wisconsin did still lose five games. The Badgers went .500 in the Big Ten. It took two banhammers from the Big Ten in Wisconsin's own division to get that team to Indianapolis in the first place. If it's not for sanctions happening to other teams, Wisconsin's hoping to get into the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
Secondly, there seemed to be a single thread uniting Wisconsin's offensive woes, and it was "Danny O'Brien taking snaps." The Badger offense was below average whenever O'Brien was in the game, which led to a lackluster 2-1 start and the complete collapse of the offense when replacement starter Joel Stave went out with a collarbone injury against Michigan State; the Spartans eventually won that game.
That's not to say that firing the offensive line coach didn't help. Coach Bret Bielema knew what he was doing and it appeared to have worked. But it sure looked like there were other, bigger factors that led to Wisconsin's trip to Pasadena.
Let's keep going.
@adam_jacobi Question for the next Q/A that doesn't' involve Jello or Sex Appeal: Why isn't Narduzzi getting mentioned for all these JERBS?— Mark(@MarktheNomad) December 13, 2012
I'm glad you asked. I have no idea how Pat Narduzzi isn't someone's head coach by now. No clue. Even on a 6-6 team that couldn't sustain drives to save its life, Narduzzi's defense still ranked fourth in the nation in yards allowed in 2012—and that's after he was being mentioned for head coaching jobs in the MAC and coordinator jobs at major BCS schools last year.
We get that offensive coaches are sexier and that athletic directors want to bring in guys who'll score 50 points a game and show the whole world who's boss. No shortage of guys like those getting jobs.
But Narduzzi's got chops. Even his athletic director and coach are openly resigning themselves to the fact that he'll be gone for a head coaching gig soon. Why it's taking this long is just beyond us.
One more? One more!
@adam_jacobi Mr. Jacobi, do you have any alternative division to offer the Big Ten in addition to the three Options coming from the B1G?— Aaron Ries (@awries) December 14, 2012
The Big Ten's proposals are silly because they all involve 14 teams. They have to, of course, seeing as how that's how many teams are in line to be in the Big Ten come 2014 or so, but that almost assuredly is not the Big Ten's endgame. It's (at least) 16 teams.
With that, Vico from Ohio State fan site Our Honor Defend presented a very compelling case for if the Big Ten expands southeast for its 15th and 16th teams, and we'd like to share that with you, the readers.
The fact that the division lines look suspiciously like a giant posterior is, we assure you, purely coincidental*.
*no it is not