1. Call your shot. We are halfway through the Big Ten season (or, at least, most of us are). What will be your team's final record? Where, if anywhere, will your team be spending late December/early January? Who will win the Big Ten?
I think that IU will finish 7-5 (3-5 in the conference). IU will beat Ball State and I think the Hoosiers will win at Northwestern. An IU win is possible in any of the other three Big Ten games (Penn State, @ Wisconsin, Purdue) and a loss is possible at Northwestern and remotely possible against Ball State. I wish I could say that I saw more wins, and I hope the Hoosiers start proving me wrong tomorrow. Ohio State will run the table and win the conference.
That makes the bowl scenario interesting. I did a quick run through the remaining Big Ten schedule, and the most likely scenario gives the Big Ten nine bowl eligible teams. Only Minnesota's cause seems hopeless. Further, ten seems more likely than eight. Under my scenario, IU would be bowl eligible, but behind OSU, Michigan, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan State, and ahead of Northwestern. Of that group, only Northwestern is less of an attendance draw than the Hoosiers. Considering that the Big Ten has only seven tie-ins, this scenario probably would place the Hoosiers wherever some other conference can't provide an eligible team.
Buckeye fans won't want to hear this, but the best bowl outcome for the conference would be for Michigan (presuming Michigan enters the Big Game with no more than one conference loss) to beat an undefeated Ohio State team. OSU is the only Big Ten team that could qualify for a BCS at large spot, and that would move all the other Big Ten teams up a rung and would guarantee eight bowl berths for the conference.
2. How is your team's coaching situation? Clearly, this varies from school to school, with some coaches approaching retirement (Carr/Paterno), some who are just starting out (Brewster/Fitzgerald), the unique case of Bill Lynch, and others who seem to be in their primes. If your coach is on the tail end of his career, where do you see things going from here? If he's still early in his tenure, any buyer's remorse? If he's in he's somewhere in the middle, are you happy or wishing things would go a different direction? How does your view correspond to the "majority" view among your school's fans?
Bill Lynch's circumstances are unique in recent history. IU has eschewed the interim label, but clearly, that's what he is. It seems likely that IU will be bowl eligible for the first time in 13 years, but it's possible that bowl eligible will be of the 6-6(2-6) variety against a schedule that did not include the conference's likely champion and runner-up. Is that the sort of performance that jusitifes a long-term deal for a coach who once was fired by Ball State? My sincere hope is that Lynch will take the decision out of IU's hands by winning eight or nine games, but that won't be easy. There seems to be quite a split among IU fans on this issue. Some have raised the specter of Mike Davis, although I think that's unfair: Lynch is a competent, classy guy who loves IU and has spent 15 years as a college head coach. He many not be the right guy, but he's not over his head. Others have contended from the beginning that Lynch should be hired. I think I'm closer to the latter group than the former. If Lynch gets to 7-5 (3-5), I would give him the job for the long term, given the uncertainties of finding a coach who can win at IU and who wants the job. IU has some nice talent on hand and a well-regarded staff, so unless the bottom falls out, I would be inclined to give Lynch a shot.
BONUS BASKETBALL QUESTION: If you plan to cover basketball, give us a brief outlook for your team. Who is your best player? What do you expect from the team?
It hasn't been a good week for the IU basketball program, but following the lead of Sampson's press conference last week, I'm here to discuss the team, not the sanctions. I and most IU fans expect a return to national prominence this season. I'm not going to throw down arbitrary benchmarks like "Big Ten championship" or "Final Four." MSU is tough, and anything can happen in the tournament. I do expect, on March 1, that the Hoosiers will be among the ten or twelve teams considered legitimate contenders for the NCAA championship. Anything less will be a disappointment. Clearly, DJ White is IU's best returning player, and Eric Gordon is IU's most heralded recruit since Jared Jeffries. One guy to watch out for is Juco transfer Jamarcus Ellis. Ellis was a top 20-type kid as a high school recruit, and with AJ Ratliff academically ineligible for the first semester, he could be a key to non-conference success.