For the first time in a long while, there was no football from the previous weekend to discuss. But we still had a lively Big Ten Monday chat. Here's the full transcript, plus some choice highlights:
HP (STL, Missouri): Any chance Texas look at B1G for their coaching vacancy? Dantonio, Fitzgerald, O'Brien all look like ripe targets for money making Texas program.
Brian Bennett: The Texas search could be a wild one. I really don't know how that ends up. Don't think Pat Fitzgerald gets a call. Dantonio and O'Brien? Maybe, though I would think O'Brien is far more likely to leave for the NFL. Would think Texas is after bigger names like Fisher and Malzahn, but things could get very interesting if their top targets turn down the 'Horns. We shall see.
Tim (Columbus): Ohio State getting the #1 ILB in McMillan is HUGE! And that reminds me, Urban Meyer has been recruiting very well on the defensive side of the ball the past couple years. When is that going to start paying off and we can get back to being called "The Silver Bullets" again?
Brian Bennett: I don't think it will be long. You're right in that some serious talent has been brought in on that side of the ball. Young guys like Bosa, Spence and Washington have already developed into very good players. There is young talent at LB and in the secondary waiting in the wings. Now it's all about developing that talent.
Matt (MI): If I am not mistaken it seems as if EVERY B1G team brings back a ton of experience and talent at the QB position (Illinois may be the exception). It has been a long time since this could be said, but it looks like next season could be a very good year for B1G QBs and could help improve the conference perception. Which quarterbacks do you expect to take a huge leap in production and do you agree it could be a good year for the B1G because of the QBs?
Brian Bennett: Illinois is an exception, and Ohio State could be if Miller goes pro. Nebraska has some experience in Armstrong but not exactly a ton, while Northwestern loses Kain Colter but brings back Siemian. But for the most part, there will be a lot of experience coming back at the position. That should help, and the position needs to get stronger throughout the league. It was not a great year for QB play in 2013, though many teams did play young guys there.
Samuel (Iowa City, Iowa): Brian, not too long ago it seemed that Wisconsin, MSU and Iowa were at the same level. Wisconsin has been to the Rose Bowl. Now MSU is going. Iowa bottomed out and is progressing again. But will the Hawkeyes progress enough to earn a trip to Pasadena in the near future?
Brian Bennett: That's a good question. I like the progress I saw from Iowa this year, rebounding from a tough season. Kirk Ferentz proved he's still as good as there is at developing talent. I think the Hawkeyes still need to improve at the skill positions to be a Rose Bowl type team. The wide receiver position in particular is a glaring need. Hard to win big in college football these days without a couple of difference makers who can make plays in the open field.
Grant (San Francisco): With the playoff system coming, and lending itself really REALLY well to a 4-mega-conference system with conference champions earning a playoff berth, which four conferences would survive this shift, and which conferences would be split up?
Brian Bennett: I look at it differently. I think the current conference setup lends itself perfectly to an 8-team playoff. You take the 5 power conference champions, the best champion from the other leagues and Notre Dame and then two wild cards. Enhances the conference races and only forces committee to pick two teams and seeding. I think we'll end up there if logic wins out.
Jake (State Farm): Here's a thought: O'Brien is overrated. He didn't turn PSU around (they went 9-3 in 2011). They already had talented players on both sides of the ball and great senior leadership. I would hope that a team with Allen Robinson, Hackenberg, DaQuan Jones, Deion Barnes, and all the tight ends would go 7-5. Any NFL team would be taking a risk with O'Brien. More unproven than people think.
Brian Bennett: Any unproven NFL head coach is a risk. O'Brien has experience running the offense with the Pats, but not all former Pats assistants have worked out. That said, do I think he's overrated? No. No coach has had to deal with all the things that were thrown at him, and he's handled them beautifully.
James (Detroit): Michigan can beat Kansas State if _____.
Brian Bennett: The offensive line can make major strides this month. Kansas State is not a great team by any stretch but did play well in the final month or so. Michigan is just as talented but has no chance if it can't protect Gardner or field some semblance of a running game.
Troy (Wisconsin): Wisconsin's only first or second team all big 10 player was Chris Borland, while Ohio State had 3 such players. Wisconsin's defense put up better numbers as a unit statistically, shouldn't this be reason for you to pick Borland over Shazier for DPOY? While Shazier had better numbers, he had a better supporting cast (according to you) and a worse defense (according to stats).
Brian Bennett: I suppose you could make that argument. If we had a third team, a few Badgers like Brendan Kelly, Beau Allen, Dez Southward and Sojourn Shelton would have been on it. Wisconsin probably had fewer frontline stars but much more experience and depth than Ohio State's D. I think Borland is probably the best defensive player in the Big Ten for all that he does, but I thought Shazier had the better year, if that makes sense.