clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Mailbag: Schedules, Fashion, and Our Own Personal Ferentz (Line)

See the ways in which we underachieve.

Maryland v Ohio State Photo by Ben Jackson/Getty Images

Sorry this is late - I got home from a crazy day at work, and then it started hailing, and then the tornado sirens blew. All is well here now, and I’m headed to a women’s wrestling exhibition because one of my students was very keen for me to come. I’m also pretty interested to see how women’s wrestling is different than men’s - she assures me that it’s way cooler and more exciting. This is an exhibition with both the men’s and women’s teams, so I’ll be in a great position to judge the veracity of that after this evening!

Enjoy our half-baked thoughts, and let us know what you think about these questions in the comments!

“With the new schedules out for 24-28, any thoughts, concerns, hopes, aside from the obvious anger of adding west coast teams, sadness the B1G West is dying?”


MNW: Northwestern will have to wait a little longer to go to the Rose Bowl. This is obviously very disappointing, because we also won’t be going there otherwise.

BRT: Thank god realignment means we only had to go one year without playing Ohio State. * eye roll *

BoilerUp89: Looking forward to playing Ohio State more often. Happy the Cannon and Bucket are protected. Hope that the West coast teams realize their mistake and leave soon.

Kind of...: I’m still processing it frankly. The B1G West is simply too beautiful to live, and I’ll be watching Iowa/Wisconsin with a single, solitary tear in my eye. Of course, being the B1G West, Iowa/Wisconsin probably won’t end up being for the division title and, instead, Northwestern will tear off a winning-streak and emerge from a four team-tiebreaker or something. Okay, honestly, I’m just confused by the swirl of emotions that I’m feeling.

Buffkomodo: Could have really used games against Arizona State and Stanford instead of Oregon and USC, dicks.

AlmaOtter: I haven’t really come to terms with the death of the B1G West/dipshit division, nor have I accepted the addition of the coastal teams. But what really annoys me is that the conference map isn’t fully contiguous anymore. I propose that the next round of expansion include Wyoming and Idaho!

HWAHSQB: I’m still kind of pissed about the B1G adding Penn State so I’ll die before I come to terms with adding west coast teams.

RUReady4Brazil: The Rutgers fan base will be happy to have a shot at Oregon, Washington, USC, and UCLA rather than OSU, PSU, and Michigan. Just the idea of mixing it up is an improvement. If I were a fan of a classic Big Ten team, I’d just be sad. My hope is that the next period of stability comes sooner than later and hopefully that entails a division comprised of all older Big Ten programs that will get to play each other more often.

misdreavus79: Since my team is Unrivaled™, I’m just glad we get to play more varied schedules. Most importantly, however, this led to the dissolution of divisions, which means Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State might actually fight for the Big Ten title itself, not just a spot in the title game.

“Has your team had an absolute collapse during a stable and previously successful coaching tenure and did they recover and rebound? Or should Minnesota plan on ‘Tim Brewster II: Now with more Coach Prime dust’?”


MNW: At the time, Northwestern’s collapse (or “collapse”) to 5-7, 5-7 in 2013 and 2014 was a pretty tough drop. But the ‘Cats rebounded to 10-2 in 2015 and were a pretty competent program, apparently just aided by borderline hazing rituals turning into full-blown sexual assault. I think that was a decent turnaround.

Also, they moved from being a spread offense to running the ball more (but out of a spread).

Was that your question? Is that the answer you wanted?

BRT: I think most of Nebraska’s coaches have either been generally successful and retired or were fired for 9-win seasons, or were abjectly terrible. So weirdly, no. Not that I can think of.

BoilerUp89: I don’t understand the question and I refuse to answer.

Kind of...: As noted above, I’m confused. Is P.J. Fleck Tim Brewster II? And what does that make Coach Prime dust in the scenario? Do I want to know? If this is right, I’m of two minds:

1) Peej did this to himself. Forget 2019 for a second. The 2021 team went 9-4/6-3, but had losses of 4, 8, and 5 points to Bowling Green (4-8 that year), Illinois (5-7), and Iowa (division champs) that year. And the first two games were at home. That team SHOULD’VE been 10-2/7-2 at worst, even with Mo being lost for the year in the opener. Was it equal to 2019? No, but Fleck really should be the Maryland head coach—or Minnesota’s nickname should be turtle-related—because he is guaranteed to retreat into a shell with his decision-making during game day.

2) Peej is a victim. Minnesota just isn’t going to be a player in NIL the way Georgia is. But stop laughing because what you’re seeing is coming for more than just Minnesota. Will Iowa be? Wisconsin? Michigan State? You damn well know USC and Oregon will be. In five years, we might look back at Peej as the canary in the coal mine. I’ll vomit. But it might be the case.

Buffkomodo: *shrugs and points at Tom Allen

*camera pans and you see Rod Carey yelling at a trash can and Scott Dolson dressing up in the bison costume as Walt Bell twirls his mustache in a hot air balloon leaving the stadium

We are living it, and it appears it is the death spiral my friend. Enjoy the ride down.

AlmaOtter: I don’t understand the prompt. What’s a stable and successful coaching tenure?

HWAHSQB: The good years are the aberrations at Illinois.

RUReady4Brazil: The Rutgers fan base only had one period of stability and the best example was the game against Louisville in 2007 when they blew 21-3, 28-10, and then a 38-24 lead in the 4th quarter. It ended up being forgotten in the big picture. But like with Illinois, we don’t have a large data set. The other and more extended period was a 1-5 start in 2008 that ended 8-5 with the most explosive offense in the nation when they finally took the shackles off the pass game. That is what every Minnesota fan is hoping for and most of the rest of the Big Ten West because if you are going to lose, at least make it exciting.

misdreavus79: I’m good.

“How can it be that teams in the West are all so bad? Is it a geographic coincidence? Is it something else beyond comprehension? Is it they are all so bad that just being in the West division makes them worse than they would otherwise be; a self-fulfilling prophecy of futility? Maybe even an evil overlord (Jim Delaney) who destined the West to despair after the Leaders/Legends debacle?”


MNW: Particularly in a pre-NIL, pre-everything world of college football, Iowa and wisconsin (and, to a lesser extent, Minnesota in the Mason era) had figured out what worked, given their climate and recruiting limitations: recruit the heavies—sorry to fat-shame—and run the ball.

I don’t think that’s an accident—it is just tougher to recruit and sustain on the prairie, as even Nebraska has seen. The result, though, is an archaic brand of football OR coaches struggling to keep up. And even those who managed to get ahead, like PJ Fleck—a glorified walking NIL-before-NIL—are now being pegged back by the fact that they’re at schools and in states and dealing with programs resistant to broad, institutional change.

BRT: I think we simply value entertainment more than good football - so it’s a cultural value that the coastal elites simply don’t share.

BoilerUp89: We have different priorities. The East trio wants to win lot of games and make the CFP so they can lose to the SEC. The West division wants to entertain millions of people while making buckets of money for their universities.

Kind of...: Do we know that Wisconsin is bad? I’m NOT saying they’re not, and I’m not saying that we know they’re good, either. They could conceivably go 10-2/8-1 and still not have anything approaching a marquee win. We don’t know Wisconsin. Wisconsin just is. Man.

[Also obligatory but true. It’s not an East/West thing. It’s an OSU, Michigan, and PSU are in the East thing. All those three have all been good the same year in three seasons: 2016, 2022, and 2023. The rest of the East doesn’t get to free ride on that.]

Buffkomodo: I typed out a long answer, and then decided it would be easier to just say this: Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State are the 3 best programs in the Big Ten and have been even before the inception of the East/West format. Nobody has firmly grabbed power in the West year in and out. Thus, the East has made itself much better with a bit of winning by coexisting by the bottom 4 schools. Oh and mind you that Michigan State has been good more than it’s been bad in the past decade of this setup, and now Maryland seeks to take that spot.

Larry31: What Buff said, except with my own self-absorbed perspective: It sucks being a pretty good team and that only gets you to fourth in your division. Although, I will miss the calamity and tragic-comedy of the West. What the West lacks in elevating the reputation of the Big Ten, it makes up for in entertainment value.

AlmaOtter: I’m not going to argue that the B1G West isn’t ass. It is. But I don’t think single division domination is entirely unique to our conference. The SEC East lost in their title game for 11 of 12 years between 2009 and 2021. ACC Atlantic won 9 straight in the 2010s. Ours just happens to have the comedic stylings of Ferentz and Nebraska and Illinois and all the rest.

HWAHSQB: Our weather isn’t conducive to pretty and high-level football. I’m going to blame it on the prairie winds.

RUReady4Brazil: The Big Ten West (much like the entire Big Ten basketball conference) was fooled into thinking they were better than they are because basically everyone other than Purdue played the same archaic style. And before you know it, the sport has passed you by. So I think it’s a product of 1. poor self-scouting and 2. I hate to give him a compliment, but Kirk Ferentz. No one has ever been able to be a magician like Kirk to win year in and year out with simply no offense. It’s incredible. So the other teams see that and think, “we can do that.” Except there’s only one man with that voodoo. The times Purdue actually could pass the ball, they won, like last year.

misdreavus79: Just here to echo what everyone else has said: By happenstance, all the teams that firmly believe in “run the ball, play defense, field position, special teams,” got lumped together in one division. And, as the sport evolved and they stayed the same, it led to, well, 10-2 Iowa scoring 22 points a game and potentially 10-2 Wisconsin in transition.

“Before 2024 arrives and Oregon most likely wins one or both of these awards, which B1G teams have the best and worst 2023 football uniforms?”


MNW: why don’t you just go to the comments and add whichever jpg you want us to include

BRT: This may be selective memory, but it seems like the insane uniform trend has cooled a bit? Even Maryland had some inoffensive sleeve stripes recently that weren’t so bad. The worst uniform I remember seeing this year wasn’t a Big Ten team, but was in a B1G game - the atrocities Notre Dame was wearing when they played OSU were eye-searingly foul.

Kind of...: Don’t want to think too hard. But I’m confident the Iowa “winged” uniforms are on the shortlist of worst ever.

Buffkomodo: I liked the Indiana black uniforms. I also loved the Michigan State throwback helmets.

For best and worst, I gotta go with the very-little used Terps Shellmet. It is wonderfully original and simultaneously hideous even by Maryland/Oregon standards.

Hide the children, here it is:

AlmaOtter: Seconded, BRT. The green Notre Dame uniforms were far worse than any garden-variety Oregon jersey. As for B1G teams, I think the Illini Grey Ghost jerseys and the Northwestern Medieval Times font uniforms are in the conversation for worst ever.

Akron v Michigan State
These wouldn’t even make it in Fansville.
Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

RUReady4Brazil: If Michigan State plays with the neon letters on top of an already green jersey, that is always the worst. Honorable Mention to Rutgers and Wisconsin for confusing their own players since it was hard to see the difference between bodies flying around in the exact same color scheme last Saturday.

misdreavus79: My team’s uniforms are the best. Yay!

“Since this is a basketball blog:

With only four weeks until basketball, which B1G fan base is most looking forward to basketball season (Indiana, Purdue, Michigan St, Illinois, Northwestern)?”


BRT: It was my impression that basketball is the only sport Indiana fans now recognize as legitimate, so I suppose it’s the Hoosiers.

MNW: I think it’s gotta be Indiana—Purdue and Michigan State are on the cusp, though. A month ago I would’ve said Northwestern, but David Braun has us low-key believing—just look at the sudden re-interest in commenting on Northwestern football at Off Tackle Empire dot com.

BoilerUp89: First off, thank you for acknowledging that this is a basketball blog. Think the answer is currently Indiana (where all but the most stubborn of fans have shifted gears already) but that could change as soon as this weekend should MSU or Purdue get blown out (both possibilities).

Kind of...: If the answer is Purdue fans, then they are biggest masochists than I thought. If I was a Purdue basketball fan, I’d be approaching this year with existential dread. I mean, maybe winning the conference and making the Elite Eight would count as a palate cleanser. But really, it’s Final Four or else the obituary for the Edey years has Fairleigh Dickinson in the first sentence.

Gotta be Sparty. Izzo ramping up for perhaps his last, best chance at a second natty. All the embers from the bonfire of “Tuck Comin’” t-shirts have probably cooled by now. Time to shift focus and pretend that you’ve solved problems that you’re just choosing to ignore. The saving power of basketball!

Buffkomodo: I’m certain that Spartan fans were waiting for basketball season first, but Indiana fans want it more now. Indiana fans want to badly to have sports in front of them and to root for competent teams, so when the football team sucks (more often than not), all that angst turns to basketball because what else are we supposed to do? Root for this shit? If Indiana loses to Rutgers next week, you might as well consider the season over for 80% of the Indiana football perspective fanbase.

Larry31: I think this answer must consider two equivalent factrs: 1) How bad is your football team totally sucking right now? The clear answer is Indiana. They look like they have just quit and are tired of Clappy Loveman. jnorthwestern and Sparty have shown some fight. I expect the fighting Berts to show up big time Maryland this week. 2) How much potential success does each fanbase expect from their respective basketball team? Purdue and Michigan State probably have the highest expectations. But, Indiana is pretty close with their elevated expectations. I don’t get the same optimistic vibes form jnorthwestern and Illinois. Gotta go with Indiana rating high in both wanting football to be over and forgotten combined with high hopes for basketball.

RUReady4Brazil: Awesome question, I’d guess probably Michigan State so they don’t have to hear about Mel Tucker for a bit, though Illinois is in the mix because they had higher expectations than the others.

misdreavus79: Despite all the “13th, because Minnesota exists” predictions, I’m quite excited to see this Penn State team on the court this season. Hiring Joe Crispin confirmed that Mike Rhoads isn’t just going to try and “play defense and hope for the best,” in a conference full of “play defense and hope for the best” teams, so it’ll be interesting to see how the team adjusts. That, and the whole “we’re literally fielding a brand new team out there” of it all is quite intriguing.

“Enjoying the entire Ferentz line concept just like everyone else.

Wondering what my own personal Ferentz line could be. How could I objectively analyze my success relative to anyone else in any given year. Maybe a number of vacations, girlfriends, intimate relations, books read, increase in pay, market returns, etc.

What would your personal Ferentz line be? Are you on pace to meet it?”


BRT: I do set a line for myself every year with books. I’m down a bit from my peak in 2020 and 2021 (over 50 each of those years), and my goal this year was only 40. I’ve finished 34, so I think it’s likely I’ll get there, and maybe even go over it - I tend to get through a few that last week of December. I also went to six countries this summer, which I imagine could make for a good success line. However, I could also probably set some impressive lines with the number of bad dates I’ve been on, but I won’t depress you or me with that number.

MNW: I read about .5 non-history books a year. I’m in awe of people like BRT.

I feel like a true Ferentz Line is something that’s not something you aspire to; it’s something that’s so pathetic and such a low bar, yet you still can barely meet it! yeah, reading 1 non-history book a year might do it for me. And so far, in 2023, I better hope that my dad is the one doing the judging.

Kind of...: On Saturdays I aspire to get 3,250 steps in. In honor of Brian.

Buffkomodo: I set out to do two things biannually: Run a 7:00 mile and bench press 225 3x10 for two straight weeks. I like working out. I like being able to physically compete in basketball/softball/golf to the best of my abilities, and I really enjoy lifting weights. So...thems my Ferentz lines.

Larry31: Oh, that’s easy for dudes! Penis size and how much money you make, bro. Welcome to alpha-male world, where self-esteem is based solely on impressing others. Yeah, that feels like the artifice of a Ferentz line.

AlmaOtter: Adding to MNW’s point: the real Ferentz Line also includes points scored by special teams and defense, of which Ferentz the Younger is not in charge! (9 of Iowa’s 131 pts so far this year). So a true Ferentz Line is something that is a pathetically unattainable low bar, but also something in which you fail to achieve while also receiving benefit from the work of others. Nepotism at its finest!

HWAHSQB: I like AlmaOtter’s thinking here so my Ferentz line is that Big Red Twice and I will read 42 books this year combined.

RUReady4Brazil: This is another contender for question of the year. Duolingo points is probably the short answer, though Portuguese is getting boring and I need motivation. We lived in Brazil last season, but now my almost two year old already speaks better than me. So I started German last week. German is less useful than when I tried Russian, Chinese, and Arabic, but it seems easy so far as a native English speaker. It feels like cheating as I might win the diamond league this week.

misdreavus79: I want to get back to my ideal weight. I’m falling below the Ferentz Line on that one.

“What music do you listen to when trying to cope with the existential despair that is college football?”


BRT: My playlist of current favorites is called “Sort of Happy, Most of the Time,” so I think that whole list probably fits for the college football blues. My musical taste is essentially “Elder Millennial in a Coffee Shop in 2014,” so it pretty much all works.

MNW: A YouTube playlist of college football fight songs on loop. Back in my dissertating days, that shit got me through pulling all-nighters in the grad student offices—nothing like “Rootin’ Tootin’ Cowboy Joe” coming on at 4:54 in the morning.

Kind of...: Big Star, “Sister Lovers” for most existential despair, not just college football. Elliott Smith, Nick Drake. There’s a whole sub-genre, really, all of it written be folks (guys, mostly) who I suspect did not actually watch much college football.

Buffkomodo: “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross...till my trophies at last I lay down...I will cling to the old rugged cross...and exchange it some day for a crown.” - Alan Jackson version please

Larry31: Gotta go with a playlist heavy with the Ramones: “I Wanna be Sedated” and “Teenage Labotomy.”

HWAHSQB: Painkiller by Judas Priest is everything that was great about 80s metal and when I was listening to that when it first came out was also the last time Illinois was good two seasons in a row.

RUReady4Brazil: When I am really, really sad and need to walk around the block alone, I listen to “Children” by Robert Miles, for instance after the loss to Illinois in 2020 when half their team had covid or getting smacked by Kansas in 2018. A standard loss to say Michigan State, Maryland or a beatable West crossover, “Please, please, please, let me get what I want” by the Smiths is a go to.

misdreavus79: Despair? What’s that?