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Mailbag Answers! Ignoring the B1G East Edition

Nobody really cares about the East, anyway. Do they even have any good football teams?

Nov 11, 2017; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini tight end Caleb Reams (13) scores a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Indiana Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports
Illini Football? Again?
Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

SURPRISE! ANSWERS! As we prepare for the fun and excitement of the weekend, let’s dive into some of the questions that have been plaguing great minds since the dawn of time. Or the OTE “writers” since the other day when I asked them to answer these. And the one thing we all need to remember is that there is no wrong way to have chocolate chip cookies (or cookie dough).

Who’s the 2nd-best team in the West - WSR

WSR: **shakes magic 8-ball** “Illinois”? Really? I think this thing is broken.

Speth: Erm… Northwestern?

LPW: Northwestern

Creighton: I still say it’s Wisconsin.

Candystripes: I think it’s Northwestern by a nose over Iowa.

BRT: Probably Iowa State

Stew: What Creighton said.

Why When a team loses enough games, its fans write fewer messages, but OTE writers post more? - 2ndcomingofChryst

Speth: It's actually a rule. That's why I haven't written an actual article since August. Blame Wisconsin’s undefeated season and not me not making OTE a priority Badger fans.

WSR: I was trying to ferret out why you weren’t writing at all.

LPW: Yeah, we freely take advantage of the megaphone here to vent when things go bad. Still, I applaud every fan of losing teams that punches in on sunday morning.

Creighton: I honestly think it’s because most of us do our best work while drunk, and losing games causes us to drink more. No you have a problem.

Graham: ^^^^That.

Candystripes: I write the same amount.

BRT: Do you have statistics to back up this ludicrous claim??? To be honest, I haven’t noticed this phenomenon and am not convinced it exists. But if it did, I’d assign causality to the fans of the “good” teams having to deal with below-average performances from their teams, thus causing, say, our OSU writers to sit in stunned silence and try to deal emotionally with the trauma of losing to Iowa. Those of us with terrible teams are numbed to the horror at this point, and thus can carry on more or less as normal, posting crappy takes on games we didn’t watch.

Stew: Sounds like a good experiment. Let’s have wisconsin start losing to really get the test going.

MNW: It’s called the Illinois Paradox.

There’s also the Bell Corollary, in which as Northwestern’s losses approach 7, the number of Northwestern posts approaches zero. (Love you, C.E.)

Is Nebraska's run defense so bad That Saquon Barkley can put up 100 yards on it? - Batman42

DR: Yes.

Graham: No. The combo of bad run blocking and Penn State continuing to slowly hand off to Barkley from the shotgun, so he’s got no momentum...has led to incredibly poor results.

Creighton: It’s week 12, so if Saquon keeps pace with how his year has gone he should have a negative yardage game. I know logically this is impossible, but I feel like somehow both outcomes will happen because this is a riddle with no answer.

Speth: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Jonathan Taylor only ran for 247, which as a Wisconsin running back against Nebraska is like running for 47. Barkley gets 80 tops.

LPW: Yep

BRT: Nebraska’s run defense is so bad *I* could put up 100 yards on it, and I am only a little better than Saquon Barkley. #BRT4Heisman

MNW: To be fair, the would-be tacklers would just bounce off you, a 6’8”, 400-lb RB. That’d be impressive. Like WSR playing tackle football with his daughters, or Goldy in a flag football game.

WSR: I’ll have you know that tackle football with the girls doesn’t go anywhere near as poorly as this game will go for Nebraska vs. Barkley. I can just pick them up and put them down and move on. Nebraska has 60 minutes of pain coming, and in addition to having to watch Nebraska football they’re also going up against Saquon Barkley.

Thumpasaurus: BRT is what Larry Csonka would have been like without the tremendous mustache game. Also, it sure seems like he’s primed to go off. But since college football is dumb, he’ll have 42 yards on 28 carries.

Does the QoH still exist? Or is all the hate in the West now directed at one team? Please explain your answer. - theguyfromy-wega

WSR: Oh, it exists. Nobody likes losing to anyone else in the Quadrangle, even though one fan base is taking it much better than anyone would have expected (You’re doing great, Nebraska. Keep it up!). The thing is that nobody likes wisconsin. We all hate you shitheels. You’re the worst people on earth. I probably could have broken up the fight outside Kinnick Stadium between a pair of drunk Minnesota and Iowa fans by starting a “FUCK THE BADGERS” chant. It really is the only thing we all agree on.

Speth: It's still a thing. Everyone hates Wisconsin and we hate the peasants. Bow before your king.

LPW: Fuck wisconsin.

Creighton: Hey fuck all you guys. And fuck Wisconsin again.

Candystripes: h8 feeds the Quadrangle

Stew: Fuck you, fuck you, nope, fuck you, too. Also, fuck wisconsin.

BRT: I’m not even sure which one team that would be, so I guess that answers that.

What’s the best way to handle firing a coach? The SEC way like the Vols and Gators, or the slow (but gentlemanly) death march, like the Huskers? - verbosedutch

Speth: Both have their merits. Tennessee and Florida is high comedy, while Nebraska is a Shakespearean tragedy. Both have their place in theater.

Graham: Fire today. If you’re firing a coach, the season is shot, so let’s lower expectations and start a job search.

LPW: Let the coach finish the season. I’ve said this repeatedly: Notre Dame gave (Cincinnati) Moeller High School coach Gerry Faust five years. Every coach should get five full years to be judged.

Creighton: Wait you can fire coaches? Iowa hasn’t fired a coach since 1978, so I’m not sure I understand the question. I guess the most entertaining way from my standpoint is to fire a coach over the summer when a major scandal breaks.

Stew: I need a definition of “best” in this context. It all kind of depends on what message the AD is trying to send, too. And the reputation of the coach getting canned. A shark fucker and a sexual assault scandal tend to lend themselves towards early jettisoning. Being a nice guy who spent the majority of his time in one place? He gets to get fired how he wants.

BRT: For once, I entirely agree with Stew. I get why mid-season firings happen, and the strategy behind them. I also allow that there are instances where they’re justified. That said, I don’t like them, and don’t like the trend toward them. I am happy that Riley is being allowed to finish the season because 1) I like him, and feel sad for him that this is ending this way, so I’d like it to be as graceful as is possible at this point; and 2) firing a coach after three seasons isn’t a great look anyway, and after 2.5 seasons is even worse.

WSR: Did you guys and gal know that there’s an early signing period now in college football? That could be problematic if you’re trying to wrap up.

Thumpasaurus: Pros and cons of a midseason firing...On the plus side, you communicate that the coach will no longer be here next year and address any concerns fans and players have about that. Also, you satisfy the bloodlust of the fanbase, especially if you Kiffin the coach at the airport. If your next coach is coaching somewhere else, though, you’re not getting him to take over midseason and start recruiting, so you don’t get a head start at all since any reasonable athletic director conducts the coaching search during the season anyway when it’s clear that all is lost. Cons to midseason firings are the chance that your players are unhappy about it and the unrest causes the team to get even worse, and of course the fact that it makes the athletic director look like a dick if it’s not for cause. Some people think it’s pretty cool that Pat Haden fired the coach and made him find his way home from the airport, but now do you want to work for that guy?

What program is least likely to return to National prominence: Nebraska Football, Indiana Basketball, MSU Hockey, Rutgers Women’s Basketball? - verbosedutch (again)

Speth: MSU hockey. There's three bluest of the blueblood hockey programs in a conference with 7 teams and MSU isn't one of them. Every other program mentioned can at least count on being in the top half of the conference in an average year.

LPW: I agree with Speth.

Creighton: You guys have way too much faith in Nebraska.

Stew: It’s almost certainly UNL, however I’d hear out an argument for rutger women’s basketball just because of how stratified that sport is. National powers just do not exist in places with natural recruiting grounds as barren as Nebraska. And the things that allowed UNL to rise to prominence, Prop 48, steroids, lax law enforcement towards players, and unlimited scholarships, aren’t exactly allowable in the current environment.

BRT: Probably Nebraska football, although I think somewhere above irrelevance is possible--I’m taking “national relevance” to mean something like “regular contender for playoffs” and not “ranked most of the time.” I also should note I know nothing about the other three sports.

What’s your favorite variation of Chocolate Chip Cookies (ie: peanut butter chips, mint chips, etc) - WSR

Speth: I'm gonna punt on this one and say all of them. Chocolate chip cookies are amazing and anyone who says a bad word about them deserves to get thrown in a frozen lake.

LPW: Mint chocolate chip cookies sound tasty! I’ll have to try it. Since I’m allergic to peanuts, I would rather be thrown into Lake Michigan during Chiberia than have to eat my favorite dessert desecrated with something lethal.

Candystripes: Chocolate dough with mint and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Does require a goodly bit of milk to finish, though, but it is worth it.

Creighton: Flip it around. I prefer the bizarro version: White chocolate chunks in a chocolate cookie. Also do brownies count? Corner piece please.

Stew: Substitute chocolate chips for chunks of quality chocolate bars.

BRT: Why would you make a variation of something that’s already perfect? (Also, MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES? What is wrong with you guys?) My go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe is actually an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe, which I suppose might be considered a variation to change-averse Midwesterners.

MNW: I’m with BRT here -- there’s an elegant simplicity to oatmeal chocolate chip. Plus there’s oatmeal, meaning I can have twice as many cookies and it’s basically like I’ve had breakfast.

Thumpasaurus: Double up on that chocolate. Chocolate chocolate chip cookies for the win. If some chocolate is good, ALL THE CHOCOLATE is better.

Which formerly impotent offense will randomly drop 50 on someone this week? And can it please be Northwestern’s? - vaudvillain

WSR: Michigan.

Speth: ^I forget WSR has to practice for his Comedy Central special. I'd be totally ok with it being Northwestern.

LPW: VV, I’m definitely hoping we can drop 40 points on the Vile Gopher Menace this week

Candystripes: I don’t know exactly whose it will be, but 10 OTE Bucks it happens in the Rutgers-Indiana game.

Creighton: Come on Michigan, I believe in you!

Stew: Michigan

BRT: Nebraska’s. Hahaha, just kidding, but that would be hilarious.

MNW: It only can, vaud, because it’s the second half of the season and this is the point at which Mick McCall’s Google Alert that just says “CALL COMPETENT OFFENSE; SAVE JOB” goes off.

But no, I guess I’d put 5 OTE bucks on it being one of rutger and Indiana.

Thumpasaurus: The deaths from laughter would be in the thousands if it were Illinois.

Is Nebraska really Minnesota, just forty years behind on the "once great, now perpetually not so much" curve? - StewartRL

WSR: Yup! It’s just that they won’t be crippled by desegregation and institutional incompetence/malfeasance. The times have changed, and Nebraska’s just a victim of that. No more 110-man teams stocked with the best talent from across the midwest and Texas, no more hiding shenanigans and crimes (Well...kinda. At least one B1G West team has the media not doing its job in its market), and no more taking advantage of being on TV because everyone is. Nebraska has the potential to be better than Minnesota was because they’ve done a better job institutionally to hang on, but the ceiling is “B1G West contender” and not “National Power” anymore. And before any of you Huskers start hemming and hawing, just remember that your best player was 4 years old the last time you were nationally relevant.

Speth: Man the Big Ten West is just chock full of mediocre programs with low ceilings and I just love it.

LPW: I’m not sure that Nebraska and their fans have adjusted to the realities of being limited to 85 scholarships that was established in the early 90s. Nebraska’s just another team in the West these days.

Creighton: I refuse to wait forty years to experience the joy we’ll all get from the Nebraska version of Tim Brewster.

Stew: Kinda but not really. UNL will always have more fan support, just because they’re not in a pro-sports area. Also, no Metrodome disaster. But yeah, ultimately they’re an 8ish win program now.

BRT: Probably, although unlike Minnesota or several other teams in the West, fans still attend our games, so that’s nice and different. Also, way to cling to that narrative, LPW.

MNW: Yeah, but our fans never showed up, so it’s like we never left the 70s! Or something! Take that, one of you! (There was so much sniping I forgot who was what.)

How do you identify rock bottom? - Exiled_in_VT

WSR: I feel like I should be among the most qualified to answer this, along with Thump. My favorite rock bottom story that I’ve heard involved an alleged team-wide training table brawl divided by race the week after an absolute bludgeoning in the early 80s.

Speth: I'll let you know as soon as Minnesota actually wins the Axe back.

LPW: Mick McCall speed options are fucking horrendous. But yeah, rock bottom? Talk to Thump.

Candystripes: My experience is that it tends to come after losing a conference game by 63 points. Of course, YMMV.

Creighton: “Rock bottom”? Please call Thumpasaurus by his name.

Stew: It’s one of those things that can only be identified post hoc. Because really, it can always get worse.

BRT: I’m not sure, but Nebraska isn’t there yet, terrifying though that is. The US on the other hand… might be approaching it.

Thumpasaurus: Look for the warning signs, such as being a jabroni.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_JLBEovr44

Serious answer: it usually only appears in retrospect. In my lifetime, it’s 11/28/15. The dangerous thing about rock bottom is thinking “it can only get better from here.” That’s incorrect. It can also stay bad.

How long until Nebraska hires Bert Bielema? - BR27

DR: Not sure, but I can tell you this will happen shortly before I renounce my Nebraska fandom and become a vegan.

Speth: Oh my god please let this happen. Just announce it on New Year's Day 2018 so that when Wisconsin is getting murderdeathkilled in the CFP the entire Wisconsin fan base has one more reason for our brains to melt.

LPW: Not soon enough.

Creighton: Yes please.

BRT: Probably sometime after Kim Kardashian is elected president. So… 2025, I guess.

Stew: Come home*, Bert!

*As the DL coach.

How big would the explosion of MNW's head be if the Gophers win the conference in basketball this year? - bewilder2

WSR: Relax, it’s not happening. Sparty has an easier schedule and the best player in the conference. I’ll be perfectly content with finishing 2nd just so I don’t need to squeegee all those brain chunks up.

Speth: Hmmmmm can't speak for MNW, but mine will probably be a seismic event on par with a volcanic eruption. Minnesota doesn't win things.

LPW: I’m not sure that will happen. I can’t speak for my Wildcat colleague here.

Candystripes: Is this a thing that can actually happen?

Stew: No

BRT: His head is pretty big, so I guess the explosion would be sizeable. ;)

MNW: I’m a little confused as to where you got it in your head that my brain would explode, so perhaps showing your work in the comments would help you some. I (along with 3 of my colleagues) predicted Minnesota to go 23-8 (11-7), good for a 4th-place finish in the Big Ten. So...I’m sorry, I guess? I suppose the explosion would be moderate with surprise because it’d be beating out clear favorites Michigan State for the title.

But seriously, between being self-proclaimed #2 Purdue hater (MSULaxer 1-11 #neverforget) and now this, I am losing track of what all I am a hater of. In fact, if the commentariat could put together a helpful list for all of us displaying which writer is a hater of what and or whom, I’d be forever appreciative. Get that Google doc going. I’ll wait.

Which midwestern program makes the best head coach hire this offseason: Illinois, Nebraska, or Iowa State? - WSR

Speth: Nebraska should, they're still a huge step up program wise from those two. Although after hiring Riley they'll probably do something super awesome like hire Butch Jones. OH MY GOD HIRE BUTCH JONES NEBRASKA.

LPW: ISU will hire another MAC coach, and sometimes that’s a crapshoot. Illinois can’t have nice things, so (I predict) they’ll stick with Lovie for another year, much to the detriment of the livers of Illinois fans. Obviously Nebraska has the best hire by default. I’m still puzzled why they hired Mike Riley in the first place. Nice guy, but he had a good thing going at Oregon State where the expectations are lower than Nebraska.

Creighton: Lovie’s buyout is too big and Iowa State will be introducing Frank Solich back into the Big 12 by Martin Luther King day. Congrats to Coach Bielema and Husker nation.

Stew: Is this just limited to the teams listed, or any midwestern program? Because Toledo has had a pretty good history of producing quality coaches.

BRT: Um, well I sure hope it’s Nebraska. Sorry Thump.

MNW: Michigan hires Les Miles. You can fill in the rest.

Thumpasaurus: Let it be known that I’m giving the LPW, Creighton and BRT the benefit of the doubt and assuming they’re trolling me instead of actually not understanding the situation at Illinois. Hey MNW, do you think it’s because I haven’t written enough about it in Slack?

The deal is this. Prior to the Lovie hire, Illinois was a train headed in the wrong direction at a relatively constant speed. Hiring Lovie applied the brakes. The train has therefore still been heading in a negative direction, but its acceleration is in a positive direction. If instead of Lovie Smith’s coaching staff we’d hired Nick Saban with Lincoln Reilly as offensive coordinator and Brent Venables as DC, we would still not be making a bowl game this year.