It will be almost three weeks before another Big Ten team plays football (Quick Lane Bowl fever: catch it!) but the mailbag rolls on. Submit your questions via Twitter or by email at ESPNBigTenMailbag.com
Get it on.
@BennettESPN think PSU and Ohio State will both be in plenty of "way too early top 5s"? Youngest 2 teams in CFB this year..
— Matt Miller (@NittanyLion4Evr) December 6, 2016
Brian Bennett: You can count on Ohio State being in the top 5 pretty much as long as Urban Meyer is there, and the Buckeyes will be absolutely loaded next year even if a few draft-eligible underclassmen declare as expected.
As for Penn State, it may depend on how the Nittany Lions perform in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual against USC as to whether they'll be in the top 5 (Alabama and Ohio State will make up 40 percent of that group no matter what). But with Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley back, Penn State will be in the preseason top 10 for sure. For whatever that's worth.
The two most intriguing teams to me in the 2017 Big Ten East will be Michigan, which loses an enormous amount of valuable seniors, and Michigan State, which can't possibly be this bad again. If both those programs play up to their potential, the East will be insanely treacherous.
@BennettESPN Turning point of B1G champ game? If UW scores any points off fumble b4 half, PSU doesn't have enough possessions to come back?
— RJ (@RJinthe262) December 6, 2016
Brian Bennett: I think that's right. Remember that Wisconsin took over after that fourth-down stop at the Penn State 43, already leading 28-7. The Nittany Lions got a quick three-and-out and were able to score right before the half. You could feel the energy change in Lucas Oil Stadium and see the momentum build for what has been a great second-half team. Even if the Badgers merely run the clock down on that final first-half possession, it might have changed everything.
Another play that deserves more attention is Garrett Sickels getting just enough pressure on Bart Houston to force an errant throw to Troy Fumagalli, who was wide open for a touchdown that would have given the Badgers a 35-28 lead and at the very least changed the complexion of Wisconsin's final possession of the night.
@BennettESPN Any chance the B1G begins taking the best two teams (instead of divisions) for the title game like the Big 12 is going to do?
— LetsGoCLE (@LetsGoCLE) December 6, 2016
Brian Bennett: I've heard no rumblings of the sort, nor is there much reason to do so after two straight fantastic Big Ten title games -- and, really, four of the six have been terrific. Plus, with imbalanced schedules, it would be nearly impossible to determine the top two teams. Maybe, as mentioned above, if the East becomes too much of a beast there's some thought of realignment. But 14 teams makes things unwieldy without divisions.
@BennettESPN With Brohm hire, is Purdue going bowling in the next 3 seasons?
— CardinalStrong (@CardinaIStrong) December 6, 2016
Brian Bennett: That's an entirely reasonable expectation, sure. I don't think the offense is that far away from being really good, especially with Jeff Brohm now in charge. The defense is where the Boilermakers must improve the most.
The biggest obstacle, however, might be the schedule. The Boilers scheduled far too aggressively next year, when they will take on Louisville and Lamar Jackson in the opener in Indianapolis, followed by MAC division champion Ohio and then at Missouri. They play Missouri and Boston College in 2018, with crossovers against Ohio State and Michigan State. The 2019 season might be the time to strike, with only Nevada scheduled in the nonconference so far.
W. Scott G. emails: What is the possible payout for the B1G from the New Year 6 Bowls and playoff? Huge?
Brian Bennett: Huge.
According to estimates on the College Football Playoff website, each conference will receive $6 million for placing a team in the semifinal and $4 million for each team in non-playoff New Year's Six bowls (there's no additional payout for the national title game). I'm no math major, but that adds up to $18 million of extra income for the Big Ten, in addition to the $300,000 each league team gets for being NCAA APR bowl-eligible and the $55 million guaranteed base payout.
Yeah, it's good to be the Big Ten right now.
Daniel K. emails: While Ohio State has to shore up [its passing game], ... how about Torrance Gibson? If I remember right he was suspended for the Fall semester which is over before 12/31. With four weeks he could be an added layer and that Devin Smith speed/deep ball winner at 6'4" that the team is missing.
Brian Bennett: Gibson's suspension covered the fall semester, but he wasn't enrolled this fall and would have to apply for reinstatement in January. So that won't work. Even if it somehow could be finagled in time for the national title game, Gibson hasn't practiced since the summer and, by all accounts, was inconsistent at best when he was practicing. So Ohio State will definitely need to look elsewhere for answers, and really the only option is to improve the guys they have over the next month.