This week's host is the Big Ten Chronicle.
1. Every year we hear that the quality of play in the Big Ten is "down" and that the conference as a whole is "weak". This season most pundits would consider the Pac 10 or SEC as superior conferences. Give your best argument for the over strength of the Big Ten and evaluated how your team would be doing if they were placed in either the Pac 10 or the SEC.
I tend to think that the SEC is tougher, top to bottom than the Pac-10. As others have noted, the Pac-10 has some good teams but has four doormats. IU's best-case record in the Big Ten is 4-4 against a schedule that didn't include OSU or Michigan. Against the Pac-10 round robin schedule, I feel confident that IU would be no worse than 4-5. The SEC is tougher, and IU's record would vary greatly depending on the schedule.
2. Pick your team's Most Valuable Player to date and tell us why he should be in consideration for Big Ten Player of the Year.
I'll vote for James Hardy. But for his recent turnover problems, I would suggest Kellen Lewis. Hardy is third in the conference in receiving yards and leads the conference with 13 receiving touchdowns. He should be considered for BTPOY because not only is he very productive individually, his presence changes the way teams defend IU and creates opportunity for other players.
3. Sure it's the time of year that has most fans looking ahead to Bowl games, but we covered that last week. Plus, basketball season has officially begun! If you plan on covering basketball, give a brief analysis on your team and how far they will go in this year's postseason (Final 4, Sweet 16, NIT, friend's couch, etc.).
I am covering basketball. IU currently is ranked in the low end of the top ten (9th in both major polls) and prognosticators are uniformly picking IU and MSU to finish 1-2 in the conference. Some have IU on top, others MSU, but the consensus says that those are the top two. While enthusiasm has been dampened a bit by the new telephone call allegations, I think that IU fans will really like this team. IU returns some key players from last season, most notably DJ White, and adds a bunch of newcomers, including top recruit Eric Gordon and juco transfer Jamarcus Ellis, both of whom will likely start. This is the deepest and most talented IU team in years, and I think IU fans will be somewhat disappointed in anything but a trip to the Final Four.
Bonus Question:It's time again for annual "rip on the BCS" party! In your opinion, what is the best way for college football to determine its National Championship?Current BCS system, current system plus one, 16-team playoff, 4-team playoff, something totally cool I've never even thought of before?
I would create an eight team playoff. Regardless of conference affiliation, I would create a playoff of the top 8 teams in the BCS standings. I would require all regular season play, including conference championship games, to conclude by the Saturday after Thanksgiving. On the first Saturday in December, the Saturday now reserved for the conference championship games, I would play the four first-round playoff games on the campus of the higher seeded team. Seeds could be adjusted by one spot to avoid conference matchups in the first round. Here is how last season's first round would have looked:
Noon: (6) Louisville at (3) Michigan4 p.m. (regional or competing coverage): (7) Wisconsin at (2) Florida; (8) Boise St. at (1) Ohio State8 p.m.: (5) USC at (4) LSU.
The next weekend, the two semifinal games would be played, also on the home field of the higher ranked team. If the first round went to form, that would have been LSU at Ohio State and Michigan at Florida. The championship game would be played as it is now, at the end of bowl season, and bowl bids would then be allocated as they are now.
Here's why I like this proposal.
- An eight team field is large enough to encompass every team with a plausible claim to be best in the nation, but it's small enough that every team in the field has had an outstanding season. It wouldn't cheapen the regular season in any significant way.
- Playing the games on campus deals with a couple of problems with many playoff proposals. First, it rewards the very best teams by giving them an advantage in the earlier rounds, further preserving the sanctity of the regular season. Second, it ensures full stadiums and good crowds for the playoff games. The proposals for multi-round playoffs at neutral sites strikes me as unrealistic--even considering the size of the fan bases involved, will people really travel to all corners of the country three weeks in a row? Either the games won't sell out or they largely will be attended by "neutrals." Finally, it creates interesting matchups of the sort that are becoming increasingly uncommon in the current scheduling climate. Michigan at the Swamp! LSU at the Horseshoe! USC under the lights in Baton Rouge! This would be compelling stuff, much more compelling than USC-LSU in front of 50,000 mostly indifferent fans at Ford Field.
- Many proposals suggest scrapping the bowl system entirely. That is never, ever going to happen. Currently, something like 50 schools play in bowl games. It's too late to adopt a system in which only 4, 8, 12, 16, even 24 teams play in the postseason.