On Thursdays on The Big Ten Blog, we will feature questions from the B/R inbox, Twitter and email. Do you have a question 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.
@adam_jacobi More likely to flop from preseason expectations (4+ losses): Michigan or Michigan State?— Bryan Doherty (@BDohertyTSHQ1) Aug. 16, 2012
This is a trickier question than it looks on its face, so I'm glad you asked. Whether Michigan or Michigan State is the better team of the two in 2012 is, up until Oct. 20, debatable. Certainly, they look like the top two teams in the Legends Division, though the competition isn't exactly far behind.
Michigan has, on balance, a tougher schedule ahead of it than Michigan State does. Let's take a look at the five toughest games, in order, on the upcoming schedule.
Michigan: vs. Alabama in Dallas, at Ohio State, at Nebraska, vs. Michigan State and at Notre Dame
Michigan State: at Wisconsin, at Michigan, at Nebraska, vs. Ohio State and vs. Notre Dame
Both tough, but you'd have to think Michigan has it a little worse.
But what this really could come down to for one of the teams to lose four or more games is losing the UM-MSU game, and there the game is at higher-ranked Michigan. So, the pendulum swings back to Michigan State, right?
Eh, maybe. What this'll really come down to is less schedule and more luck, injuries at non-depth positions and overall QB proficiency. On those fronts, we have many more unknowns.
Still, it's hard to get over that Michigan schedule, so we'll say the Wolverines are more likely, but it's really little more than a coin-flip.
Also, just to be nice to @adam_jacobi, which new coordinator is going to have the most pressure on them?— Ben Dawson (@BenjaminJDawson) Aug. 16, 2012
There are plenty of intriguing options here, so I'm glad you asked. Nebraska has a 34-year-old wunderkind named John Papuchis at DC, Bill O'Brien is his own OC at Penn State, Urban Meyer effectively revamped his entire offensive staff and has co-OCs, and Iowa has new coordinators on offense and defense for the first time in 13 years.
But we'll go with Wisconsin offensive coordinator Matt Canada (which is somehow not a pseudonym). The reason is this: Expectations in Madison are sky-high this year, as well they should be. Wisconsin has made it to two straight Rose Bowls, and it has the talent to make it to a third.
Canada comes into that program from a fun, free-wheeling system at Northern Illinois—one that he has already assured fans he won't replicate at Wisconsin (under penalty of death stares from Bret Bielema, we're guessing).
Things aren't perfect for Canada in this new offense, though. He's got a pair of quarterbacks dueling for the starting role, neither of whom was taking snaps in Madison last year. Montee Ball is still coming back from a concussion, though he has two outstanding backups. The vaunted offensive line is replacing three starters and just lost a potential starter at one of those three spots. And this is Canada's first year coaching all these guys.
So, if the Badger offense sputters in 2012—unfathomable, yes, but if—there isn't going to be a ton of patience in the matter from the partisans at Camp Randall. Whether that's fair is rather besides the point; this is football, and when a Rose Bowl is at stake, fair can go sit on the sideline and pout.
@adam_jacobi Fine, a serious question. Which Big Ten player would be best at MMA?— Nicholas Jervey (@semicorrect) Aug. 16, 2012
MMA, eh? I'm glad you asked. This is a tough question, because apparently in the Big Ten you can't kick your opponents (to say nothing of the ruinous effect the helmets have on face-punching).
So let's go for overall mixes of size, agility and strength. You don't need some 350-pound guy or a 4.3 40 kind of guy; you need someone who's just a big, fit, angry dude.
For that, I'll take John Simon. Per Bruce Feldman at ESPN.com ($), Simon is "the best total-package workout guy I've ever been around, in college, in the pros, as a coach, anybody," according to Ohio State's strength coach...two years ago. ESPN.com says he was capable of benching 450 pounds and squatting 700 out of high school, but he's not trying to max out anymore in order to stay healthy, and he just focuses on explosion instead.
Oh, and he's an animal on the football field, too, with seven sacks and 16 tackles for loss to go with 53 total tackles last year alone. He gets around 300-pound men in a matter of seconds for a living. He can probably break a man in half before he breaks a sweat. He's our pick for the best MMA guy in the Big Ten.
@adam_jacobi can Purdue possibly live up to these things called expectations, however minor they may be?— Phil Tyckoski (@PhilTyckoski) Aug. 16, 2012
A Purdue question! I'm glad you asked.
We've got Purdue down for seven wins and a repeat bowl bid this year, and Ross-Ade Stadium has been a tricky enough place to play in recent history that Michigan and Wisconsin should be wary about their trips there this year.
And you know what? Seven wins does sound like higher expectations for a Purdue program that hasn't put together two straight seasons with four losses or fewer since 1997-98. But Purdue went 7-6 last year (6-6 in the regular season), and this easily is a better Purdue team than last year's edition. Moreover, Penn State's decisively worse, Illinois is going through a regime change and Notre Dame's not as strong as it was last year.
So yeah, we don't see a regression coming this year. Go on, hope for good things! Otherwise, what fun is there in being a college football fan?