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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello again, friends. Winter Storm Q is starting to bear down on Big Ten country, and while it's going to be worse for those of us west of Lake Michigan, it's not going to be fun for much of anybody. So if you're about to be snowed in or iced upon, by all means, stay inside and read this week's Big Ten football Q&A.
Keeping it nice and sane for the first question. I'm glad you asked.
Despite what was clearly a lackluster year on offense, Michigan State doesn't need to overhaul everything and start from scratch with a brand new offense across the board, so merely promoting from within is probably the best move here, and Dantonio's got some options.
Dave Warner is a seasoned QBs coach with extensive experience working with Dantonio, and it's not uncommon for offensive coordinators to coach quarterbacks. They're rather kindred spirits. Running backs coach Brad Salem has head coaching experience at the D-II level, so coordination wouldn't be outside of his comfort zone, but that would almost certainly mean shedding his recruiting coordinator label. WR coach Terrence Samuel is more of a longshot, and would have been even if his unit hadn't struggled so mightily in 2012, but he's another candidate.
One last bit of editorializing: Dan Roushar wasn't the monster most Michigan State fans make him out to be. Greg Davis he ain't. Michigan State struggled hard with execution, particularly in the passing game, and for as much validity as the "well, the coaches are responsible for poor play" argument has, at the end of the day there's only so much a coach can do to put his team in position to succeed.
That's not to say Roushar was a great coordinator. We criticized his play-calling during the season (why he called passing plays far more often with Andrew Maxwell and those WRs than he did with Kirk Cousins and his senior-laden corps is a mystery), and it's probably for the best that he's going to a coaching role without play-calling duties. But we didn't exactly see him knocking the ball out of receivers' hands, you know?
I'm glad you asked. Kerry Collins isn't walking through that door. Daryll Clark's not walking through that door. Heck, Matt McGloin's not walking through that door. But there's some definite potential here.
We're enamored with Christian Hackenberg, as one ought to be. But regardless of how much polish he puts on himself at the high school level, he's still only coming onto the Penn State campus with a few short months to compete for the starting QB role. Meanwhile, Steven Bench is, at the very least, in his second year studying under Bill O'Brien, and that increased familiarity with not only the playbook but the receivers should go a long way, especially in the early part of the season.
And hey, Tyler Ferguson is also coming in as a true freshman, and Hackenberg still needs to beat him out before we can talk about Hack vs. Bench for the starting role.
So to answer your question, in Week 1 I've got Bench. By the middle of the Big Ten season I think it's anybody's ballgame, and a lot will depend on Bench's performance. If he struggles, it's time for Bench to head to the...sideline. You thought I was going to say "bench," didn't you? C'mon, buddy, backup QBs don't sit. They have clipboards to hold and plays to signal in. GET WITH IT.
I'm glad you asked. Obviously, it's very early in the process of leading up to the season and there's a lot we don't know about each team—more uncertainty on Michigan's side, as a whole, but on Ohio State's defense in particular.
That being said, you're asking about numbers, and if there's one thing we enjoy, it's capricious misuse of numbers. So you've come to the right spot.
First of all, the question what probability there is of Ohio State winning the Leaders Division. We're not sticking that any higher than 80 percent, just because bad injuries can strike where the Buckeyes don't need them, the ball can bounce the wrong way too many times and again, we still don't know enough about that defense. But two of OSU's four road games are at Purdue and Illinois, and every decent division contender has to come to the Shoe. So while Ohio State's interdivisional games could be easier, we're shooting for 80 percent here.
Michigan is not such a sure thing. Oh, there's a very good chance the Wolverines take the Legends Division and the fact that the final game is in Ann Arbor helps tremendously. But man, oh man, there are not a lot of guaranteed wins on that Big Ten schedule. The Minnesota and Indiana games should be winnable, especially since both are at the Big House, but those two teams are definitely on their way up and will be giving opponents hell. A trip to Iowa looks easy enough, but hey, Big Ten road games in November are never sure things. Penn State might take a step back in 2013, but it's still a trip to Happy Valley against a great coach in Bill O'Brien. And everything else on the schedule looks a dogfight waiting to happen.
Thus, we're giving Michigan a 30 percent chance at taking the Legends Division—and it'd be much worse with the rivalry game being in Columbus. Multiply the two probabilities together, and we're giving your Michigan-Ohio State rematch in Indianapolis only a 24 percent chance of happening. Hey, one in four ain't too bad. But 40 percent? Yes, we're taking the under on that one.
Okay, one more. Yes, you in the back, with the demented look in your eyes.
Ugh. You want the Harlem Shake? Here.
There's your Harlem Shake.