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Mailbag: How would you change the Big Ten’s divisions?


NCAA Football: Minnesota at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Good afternoon and welcome to the Mailbag. Have you enjoyed the Axe being back home in Minnesota? Me too.

Today we explore which Big Ten coach leaves next, Minnesotans demanding the return of the Bacon, and whether wisconsin or Michigan State was more disappointing. Oh yeah, and we yell about divisional alignment some more.

Who’s Next to Go?

Let’s say Maryland does the smart thing and removes the interim tag from Canada. That would mean it is very likely there are no new coaches in the B1G next year. If that happens, who is the first coach to leave? When does it happen? And why/how (i.e. gets fired, goes to NFL, takes another CFB job)? - bucksfan92

WSR: Ooooooooh crap. There are a few good choices here. Chris Ash, Santa Lovie, and Tom Allen could all be in trouble, Urbz didn’t look like his heart was in it prior to yesterday, and you can’t convince me that Paul Chryst isn’t destined to work at the same State Farm agency outside madison with Greg Gard within 5 years. I’ll say Allen because Indiana has what I think is the most competent athletic department of the ones that will need to fire someone. Illinois or Rutgers might wait until right before the early signing day to make a firing.

Townie: Assuming Maryland will do the “right” thing is a huge leap, without any supporting evidence. Prior to this weekend, I would have pointed to Lovie Smith as a lock to be gone. But apparently Illinois wants to compete with rutger through 2023.

Chris Ash is my other choice. He reminds me of Darrell Hazell at Purdue. A nice guy who is completely out of his depth as the head football coach. His teams epitomize underachievement. At some point, the Rutgers AD has to look at Nebraska and Purdue and realize that it IS the coach’s fault.

Thumpasaurus: Depends. The Lovie extension implied “here’s all the support you could ever want, but you better change some shit around here right now.” If Lovie plays his cards right, gets over himself and brings in a defensive mind that’s actually seen college football recently, and gets a proven recruiter or two to fill out the staff, he might just pull this off.

Ash, on the other hand, got a vote of confidence via text message from his AD and basically has to hope McNulty’s offense comes together in year 2 to form something cohesive. I feel more confident about Lovie pulling it off than Ash, especially considering that Lovie fielded a better team this year despite massive attrition over the last two years and recruiting roughly at the same level.

I’m not confident that Lovie will make this happen in 2019, but if you told me one of them got fired, I’d say it would be Ash.

Beez: I’d say PJ Fleck is most likely, given expectations and performance. Unless Minnesota and its fans are as dumb as they look and sound and act and are convinced that beating Wisconsin once every fifteen years means Coach4Lyfe, then Fleck will get to stay. In that case...I think Lovie or Urbz, both of whom are good “I’d rather retire than deal with this” cases.

Also Brohm is gone this year so. Psyche!

Narrator: Brohm would not be gone this year, as it turned out, and Beez, for neither the first nor the last time, would be doomed to wrongness.

Beez: Joke’s on you because I added psyche to my response. No comeback against that.

BRT: I mean… this won’t be a popular opinion, but didn’t it seem like Rutgers wasn’t quite as bad by the end of the season? Granted, they started at pretty much rock bottom, and I certainly don’t think Ash has the goods to “awaken the giant” as they say, but maybe they could snag another win or two and Rutgers cheaps out and keeps him through next year. Even so, I agree he’s the best chance for a firing. I could see Lovie and/or Urban retiring. And actually, I could see Franklin bolting if he’s able--without McSorley, what’s left on that team? PSU and Franklin may find themselves exposed next year, although theoretically I guess that would injure his chances of bolting.

Trophy Games

Which trophy stays put the longest: The illibuck, or anything else?


WSR: I feel like it’s Illinibuck, but there’s always a chance it could be something stupid like the Victory Bell because Minnesota and Penn State might not see each other for 37 years after next year. I mean, Indiana finally made it’s first trip to TCF Bank Stadium this fall, and it’s been open for a decade now.

Thumpasaurus: It’s the Illibuck, not even entirely because of the disparity but because from now on we’ll get so few chances to win it back and I’m sure if we ever do have years where we’re better than Ohio State, we won’t play them during those.

Beez: The Illibuck is never going back to Illinois. Trophies will be outlawed or melted down for scrap in the post-nuclear wasteland, so even when Illinois beats Ohio State post-weird radiation mutations in 2080, there won’t be a trophy to give back.

BRT: The Chair. You’ll never see it again, Minnesota. ;) Possibly because we’ll lose it again.

LPW: Illibuck.


Which trophy is last to change hands again?

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    (112 votes)
  • 11%
    (26 votes)
  • 21%
    (48 votes)
  • 8%
    (20 votes)
  • 8%
    (18 votes)
224 votes total Vote Now

How can we as fans convince wisconsin to sack up and put the Bacon on the table next season? And if we fail, how would you go about liberating it? - michael.vinters

WSR: We can’t. Barry Alvarez is a scurrilous yellow chisler, and there’s no way he’d give up the only thing in his office he can’t eat. So at some point there will be a well-coordinated break-in that will resemble quite closely Ocean’s 11, but I need to hurry up before PreschoolSpeedReceiver gets too big (and can be charged as an adult. You know that wisconsin is the B1G state that would send a 5-year old to the electric chair.)

Creighton: Wait, the slab of bacon still exists? I thought it was lost to the sands of time.

Beez: Today I learned Minnesota fans think it the height of masculinity to be brave enough to give back a prize.

Disappointing Seasons

Who had the most disappointing season - Michigan State or Wisconsin? Explain your answer. - greenie71

WSR: Wait, really? This needs to be asked? Which team was preseason #4 in the AP poll? Which team received a 1st-place vote from the Chambana AP writer? Which team had it’s trash-ass OL on the cover of Sports Illustrated? Which team was picked to win a national title by Lee Corso? Which team had a QB who is pretty much without question the worst starter in the B1G West, yet he was somehow on the Davey O’Brien preseason watchlist? Which team was the unanimous media choice to win the B1G West? Is the answer to any of these Sparty? No? Ok.

Townie: While the Badgers didn’t live up to all the hype, Sparty had a rough year. Injuries played a huge role in that. But when you finish up a season with a loss to Nebraska and a near miss vs rutger, it has to be a disappointment.

Thumpasaurus: Come on Townie, most of us said that this had a chance to be Wisconsin’s best football team ever, and they finished their season by coughing up the Axe for the first time in 15 years.

Beez: The team that was expected to win its division is the bigger disappointment than the one who was expected to finish 4th in the division. @Townie MSU and Wisconsin would finish 1a and 1b in a “decimated by injuries” contest.

BRT: MSU definitely had a bad season--losing to Nebraska, nearly losing to Rutgers, but since you used “disappointing,” I’ll join my co-”writers” in saying it’s Wisconsin. The gap between expectations and reality there is pretty massive.

Rank the B1G schools in terms of “glad it’s basketball season” - badgers & Bruins

Candystripes: #1 - Indiana

#2-14 - Everybody else

WSR: DID YOU SEE WHAT I JUST WROTE? And, in spite of having the basketball version of Paul Chryst, wisconsin fans seem to think they’re due for a bounceback this season.

Thumpasaurus: You might be surprised to learn that Illinois is #14, given our impending 2-8 start. We’re plumbing uncharted depths of how bad Illinois basketball can be. It’s really astonishing. I guess the nearest comparison I can make in football of Ohio, in that they’ve been ass for so long that people only know them as that, and not one of the winningest programs in CFB with a .600 winning percentage. We’ve gone from the bubble to round 1 NIT exits to losing seasons. Give me more Illinois football immediately.

Beez: Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin, the rest.

Who’s Number 2?

This might be a good time for an old classic. Who’s the second-best team in the B1G West? - Hollywood Hawk Hogan

Beez: Wisconsin. For this answer I used overall record when it suited me and head-to-head results when it didn’t.

And once again because there will be no bias in my mailbag, who’s the second-best team in the B1G East? - WSR

Beez: Michigan. They smoked every other team in the division except Ohio State!


Who’s second-best in the West?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    (88 votes)
  • 12%
    (31 votes)
  • 33%
    (80 votes)
  • 17%
    (42 votes)
241 votes total Vote Now

Rose Bowl!

What matchup would you PREFER for the Rose Bowl and why? - RavenousUte

WSR: Minnesota and Washington State. Because I’m due for a Rose Bowl trip, I like Mike Leach, and I want to watch the Gophers just absolutely punish Tracy Claeys. Wait, you wanted realistic? Ok. Michigan vs. Utah. Because if you thought Jim Harbaugh was flustered by tOSU, just wait until they run into a bowl game edition of Utah. Friends, that is not a team you want to play in a bowl.

BRT: It’s just another bowl game, so I don’t care--especially since my team is in no bowl game. :(

LPW: Northwestern vs Wazzu.

Beez: Wisconsin and anyone but Stanford. I don’t know why I’m “tired” of Stanford as a team, but I am. Starting to feel a little like Syracuse basketball, tbh. And I want Wisconsin there because duh.

MNW: I may be a little close to the situation.

But it’s Northwestern against Washington State. Come on. Everyone would watch this. Rabid Northwestern fans (they exist, shut up) would meet like, 85% of the population of the state of Washington that doesn’t live in the Seattle area, all descending upon Los Angeles in some sort of weird meeting of college football also-rans.

Mike Leach would run six triple reverse passes at various points, Pat Fitzgerald would call a fake field goal that Gary Barnett had written on a napkin that’s been stored in a vault under Ryan Field since 1996, and the two would discuss theories of Christian morality on the high seas in their pregame handshake. I must watch this. WHY DID YOU DENY US THIS, WAZZU.

Realigning the Big Ten

Geographically-divided divisions have been banned by the ncaa. How will you split up the big ten? - AlltheIowanamesaretaken (AGAIN!)

WSR: By playing success of current coach. So Illinois, Michigan, MSU, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Purdue in the “Our coaches could actually play football” division while Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers, and wisconsin in the “Do what we say, not what we did” division.

Candystripes: We’ll do this SEC style, and have one super top-heavy competitive division, and a division that I think Indiana might actually be able to compete in. As follows:

Champions In Training Division

Utter Chaos Division

There. Let’s see people complain about their strength of schedule now.

Thumpasaurus: I’ve long advocated for Red Division and Non-Red Division.

Red: Nebraska, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Indiana, Maryland, Rutgers, Minnesota
Non-Red: Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State

MNW: The way you wrote this, ATINAT, I thought you were being serious. This was, like, some Orson Welles radio broadcast shit.

I don’t have time to answer your question, I’m going to go invade Mosinee.

Beez: Alphabetically. Prove me wrong.
Michigan State

Ohio State
Penn State

babaoreally: I’d put the teams that have leaders in one division and the teams that have legends in the other.


Which realignment is best?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Coaches who can play vs. Coaches who can’t
    (22 votes)
  • 8%
    Champs vs. Chumps
    (32 votes)
  • 36%
    Red vs. Non-Red
    (137 votes)
  • 14%
    A-M vs. N-Z
    (53 votes)
  • 15%
    Legends vs. Leaders
    (56 votes)
  • 19%
    Fuck this, let’s invade Mosinee
    (73 votes)
373 votes total Vote Now

There you have it—all the answers you could ever want. Feel free to agree with how correct we are in the comments.