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The Mailbag Swiftly Answers Your Big Ten Questions

What is this, TMZ?

Minnesota v North Carolina
He’s looking at his image on the big screen like Travis Kelce looks at Taylor Swift. Aww.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Well, after an excellent Mailbag last week featuring great questions and incredible responses that got like eight comments, this week’s lackluster offering is what you all deserve. The question solicitation article devolved into a hearty discussion of all things Taylor Swift and top strategies to shame people into weight loss, so I did my best to assemble a post full of sorta football-adjacent questions. The writers, of course, did their worst to answer them.

Enjoy, everyone!

“Question: what is your team’s identity? And how’s that working out for you?

It seems like most teams in B10 are having an identity crisis. Only a few teams have a solid identity and know who they are. My Terps - air it out with Taulia and WRs. Mich - running with Corum and throw over the top, iowa - defense and special teams to the extreme. PSU - annoying and whiny

Everyone else doesn’t seem to know what they want to do or are trying to do opposite of who they’ve been. Wisconsin - smash mouth Dairy Raid. Nebby - winning whatever it is Rhule is doing. MSU/Indiana/Illinois et Al - we have no idea who we are.”


MNW: I...uh...I think we could use a new one.

The old, much-maligned Northwestern Identity—outside the horrific sexual assault and pig-headed manball coaching—was RUTM nonsense at its finest. It had become a Cult of Fitz.

Now? Uh...if we could go back to just being the smart kids who are an annoying out for the rest of the conference, that’d be swell.

BRT: All of our identities are cruel-but-accurate punchlines: Faded Glory, Charlie Brown with the Football, Perennially Hopeful and Perennially Disappointed. As far as how they’re working out for us... well, I guess you could say we know who we are. But I think most of us wish we could plausibly identify a different way.

Let’s go with... “Rebuilding” as our identity. We’ve tried it before, but what the hell.

Buffkomodo: Apparently Indiana is a bend but don’t break defense with a run 1st offense. As you can see, it’s not going well.

misdreavus79: So I just annoy the shit of out everyone with my whining for my answer, yes?

Kind of...: Our questioner already noted Wisconsin. Yeah, it’s a work in progress. The coaching staff has done some puzzling things, and I’ve complained about plenty. At the same time, there are 3 21-point wins, and a road loss to the #13 team in the country where UW was poised to take the lead until a #Pac-12refs moment. Also, if UW beats Rutgers Saturday, odds are pretty good they’ll have a two-game lead in the loss column over everybody in the division besides the Iowa/Purdue winner. And if that happens to be Purdue, UW already has H2H over them. God bless the B1G West. Maybe UW’s new identity is “winner by default.”

RU in VA: Weird comment, and weird pick of B1G teams to include. Gotta include OSU’s identity this year: Hope Other Top 10 Teams Aren’t As Good As Last Year Just Like Us This Year.

HWAHSQB: I think Illinois has been the most consistent program of the last 30 years. We suck for a long time, then occasionally rise up and surprise for one year, and then return to disappointment. Lather, rinse, repeat. Say what you want about the tenets of being a shit football program, but at least it’s an identity.

BoilerUp89: Purdue’s identity is to be the bell cow of the Peacock. The face of the Big Ten conference on its newest streaming service. I get it. Purdue is obviously the premier program of the conference and the one most likely to draw in huge numbers of subscribers for Peacock. Add in Boilermaker fans dislike of Peacocks and long time hatred of NBC football coverage and you’ve got an ideal match.

RUReady4Brazil: This is pretty accurate.

“Fleck keeps referring to the Gophers as a “developmental program.” I am unsure of what that means. I think other coaches use that term also, although not as egregiously as Fleck. What do you think “developmental program” means?”

—Free Beer Tomorrow

MNW: It means “I’m making excuses, but I don’t want you to accuse me of making excuses.” This is well in keeping with Fleck’s “Year Zero” nonsense upon arrival and his demands that you respect how the Boat is Rowed and the FleckBux are Earned without questioning why they’re not ever actually winning the West, thanks.

Taken charitably, it’s the idea that Minnesota is not an NIL-drawing program and that they need players to develop into tenth-year super-seniors. When they’re losing, it’s because they don’t have enough veteran players.

(It’s an excuse.)

BRT: “Please don’t notice that my teams aren’t getting much better, and may in fact be getting worse.”

Buffkomodo: Basically, Minnesota is to the B1G as the Windy City Bulls are to the Chicago Bulls. AKA you’re a D league program to PJ. Which of all the stupid things said by a coach this week, this one is up there.

misdreavus79: I mean, if any program is a developmental program, it’s Iowa. They take absolutely no one and somehow turn them into first round NFL talent. That’s development.

Kind of...: You don’t know what “developmental program” means? Like, you LITERALLY don’t know what that means? Man, that’s PROBLEMATIC.

RU in VA: It’s just another MLM scheme from Peej as MNW put above. Rowing the Boat was Avon, Year Zero is Scentsy, and now “developmental program” is a Lularoe show on Facebook live.

AlmaOtter: I’m assuming it’s a show of stability for the recruits and (more importantly) a plea for money from the boosters. He would happily not run a developmental program if he had the choice.

BoilerUp89: I’m pretty sure PJ Fleck is just upset that he lost to Northwestern. All college football teams have to develop players to win. This isn’t basketball where you can bring in five 5-stars and win 35+ games by being head and shoulders more talented than every single one of your opponents.

RUReady4Brazil: This is exactly what Greg Schiano also says at Rutgers, but is of course wrongfully used as a crutch after embarrassing losses like Minnesota had to Northwestern.

“Can I still legitimately call myself a fan if I actively avoid watching my team play?”


MNW: You’re a fan of yourself and your mental health, which I think is admirable.

BRT: I find this a relatable question. Certainly, my football fandom is not what it once was. Unfortunately, the football team has not earned that large of a share of my life and attention. But on the plus side, I no longer feel things as acutely. I remember curling into a fetal position when Texas wrongly got a second added to the clock and used it to defeat Nebraska in the CCG. Crushing stuff. But now, I’m able to evaluate much more freely and honestly how much time I want to spend on a game. Last week, I watched part of the second quarter. That was enough, you know? A few score checks here and there, and your blood pressure is the better for finding something else to do with your day.

I think you’re still a fan if you’re interested in seeing them win and get better. You’re not a fan if you go into full apathy, or active hatred.

Buffkomodo: This is an entertainment business. If you are not entertained, and thus don’t want to watch but still check in every now and then to see if they’ve gotten more entertaining....sure. You’re a fan still. If it’s clear your athletic department isn’t going to make the necessary changes and you’re simply waiting for brighter days to rejoin....sure. I think you’re still a fan. The point is, I don’t blame you. If this goes on for multiple years though, you might just be out.

misdreavus79: Fair weather fans are still fans. That sounds worse than it’s intended, but, ultimately, all investment counts, even if you need to take a break from time to time. And, you know what, I took a 2-year break myself when the “sport” of it all was too much to handle —coupled with all the other things that were going on in my life at the time. Came back when my head was on straight, and that helped me handle the ups and downs a lot better. So, if you need a break, please take it!

Kind of...: Seems like the epitome of true fandom to me. The key is “actively avoid.” Fairweather fans don’t have to actively avoid. They just do something else. If you have to make yourself not watch, you’re definitely a true fan.

RU in VA: I think that’s probably the best kind of fan. Someone who isn’t pushing up the coffers of some potentially terrible thing in college athletics; or in professional sports, some billionaire owner - by buying all the “fandom” things that go along with it (tickets, gear, donating, etc.).

AlmaOtter: Sometimes you need to walk away for a bit. I checked out on Illinois sports for a part of the mid 2010s, partially due to grad school and partially due to the ineptitude of the Illini. Turns out I avoided a good chunk of the Beckman/Cubit era!

BoilerUp89: Maybe. I actively avoid country music, but I definitely don’t consider myself a fan of it. But perhaps other people are able to successfully be fans of things they avoid.

RUReady4Brazil: Definitely yes, are you counting down the days to early signing day already also?

“This weekend Michigan is playing the Gophers and the next day Kansas City is playing the Vikings, what advice do you have for Minnesota fans to get through the weekend?”


MNW: Drink heavily, but you knew that.

BRT: Are the Vikings not very good? But yeah, enjoy the Michigan game, Goofs.

My advice - it’s the first weekend in October, one of the absolute best times of the year. Go outside and find a way to enjoy it.

Buffkomodo: MNW nails it. Bottoms up.

misdreavus79: Why not double down on the Taylor Swift shenanigans?

Kind of...: The Twins just broke the longest losing streak in the history of North American sports!!! As famous T-wolf Kevin Garnett bellowed: Anything is possible!!!!! Shit, he said that after winning a title with the Celtics. Right. Bad example. Anyway, Bud Grant coached the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to 4 Grey Cup titles. (So his record in championship games is 4-4. Not so shabby, huh?) Friday night, Winnipeg visits the BC Lions with sole possession of first in the West on the line. Maybe check that out and stick to baseball for the rest of the weekend?

RU in VA: I’m reasonably sure it’s going to be somewhat nice in Minnesota this weekend. GTFO, enjoy a custom soda or beer at an open-air brewery, and live without a care in the world. WE don’t play for the Gophkings, live yo’ life.

HWAHSQB: The leaves are turning and it is going to be around 60 and mostly sunny and not too windy in southern MN. I’m going hiking myself. That is both being active and avoiding football with the added benefit of being actually good for your mental and physical health.

AlmaOtter: Go outside. Or parlay the Michigan and KC moneylines together to win $5 for every $10. It won’t make losing feel any better, but it might take the edge off.

BoilerUp89: Watch the Twins play.

RUReady4Brazil: When you find out let me know so I can support my neighbors.

“Did tOSU schedule their bye week this early to duck playing September Maryland?”


MNW: It never occurred to me that the reason Northwestern piss-pounded Maryland back in the COVID year was because that first game didn’t take place until October. Wow. Makes you think.

BRT: What a bunch of cowards.

misdreavus79: If they chose to play 8 games straight to avoid September Maryland™, more power to them! I would have chosen to just play Maryland later in the season (when it’s more likely that the Terps have burned through all their healthy players), but hey, what do I know?

Kind of...: September Maryland is cute and all, but it’s really “non-B1G Maryland.” The infamous “let’s cancel classes and hype the PSU game...oh shit we just got curb-stomped 59-0” game happened in September, for example. They have NW, Illinois, and Nebraska as crossovers this year, so they’d have to try to finish under .500 in league play. But they’re best league record in the B1G is still the 4-4 they rang up in their first year (2014), so, until it happens, when I hear “September” next to Maryland, I just think “embarrassing non-conference schedule.”

RU in VA: Maryland is going to surprise the B1G East this year. Circle this sentence.

BoilerUp89: I’m not entirely sure this game is the blowout people think it will be. OSU getting the bye week right before doesn’t help, but Maryland has enough offensive weapons they might be able to keep it close.

“I hate the way everyone is hyping up a relationship with a woman who is most famous for breakups. So, when this inevitably ends (presumably after the Chiefs lose in the first round of the playoffs), which Big Ten coach has the best odds of landing Taylor Swift on their roster?”


BRT: I don’t know if “roster” is a euphemism, so I’m going to choose to interpret this literally and place Taylor as a kicker. It’s a high-pressure job, but the woman can dance in front of packed stadiums in those weird leotards she seems to like, so it’s not going to phase her.

Maryland probably needs Taylor’s PK Era the most, since their guy looks to be about 50%, so uh, good luck landing that, Mike.

Buffkomodo: I don’t think it’s a euphemism because even my mind can’t come up with anything dirty out of that. I think Taylor could fit in great on the Indiana defensive line. Hopefully she can shake off some of these linemen and get some sacks!

misdreavus79: I’m going to break my own policy here, and say “I don’t care enough to have an opinion.”

Kind of...: Many things involving people I’ll never meet and who make a lot of money occur in this world. Some occur because of a desire to make money. Others, maybe not. I have no real ability to sort most of it all out. So, I’m going to focus on other things.

RU in VA: I’m a relatively large pop-head, but the problem here is that I’m reasonably sure that T Swift is a normal person. A carefully created robot in the lab normal person, but normal nonetheless. Travis Kelce is... kind of a douche. His podcast ONLY works because of Jason (and Jason’s wife recently). He’s had a weird track record in college, dating, sleepovers, the whole nine yards - and somehow landed as an above average TE on the team with most offensive talent in the world.

I’m really describing ol’ Harbaugh here, aren’t I.

MC ClapYoHandz: I’ll just add that she’s not most famous for breakups, but for bouncing back from them to compose Platinum records without fail.

RUReady4Brazil: Our au pair is a swifty, so I better ask her.

“Now that it’s October, I am emotionally ready to bust out soups and chilis. What is your crock pot soup or chili (which might be a soup) of choice heading into the cold football times?”


MNW: I’ve been meaning to make a whole DWT;WT out of this. My go-tos:

  • White bean, kale, and andouille sausage
  • Potato
  • A reaaaaaal meaty chili (light on the beans)

Random, uninvited Texan: “Hey you Big Ten losers, real chili doesn’t have beans in it. Don’t you know anything? Texas is back baby! Hook ‘em Horns!!!”

BRT: I love most soups, tbh. I make an excellent chili (it’s based on the Boilermaker Chili recipe on AllRecipes, which is a great base.) Of course, it should be served with cinnamon rolls (actually, I prefer monkey bread, as I like to dip.) If you’re too chicken to try the real thing, you can now get a Chili and Cinnamon Roll candle from Runza, and spend your fall inhaling Nebraska-ness.

Buffkomodo: I made a killer chicken and dumplings this week. Dumplings sat up great. Just the right amount of salt. Perfect thickness.

  • Crockpot
  • 1 big can and 2 small cans of cream of chicken
  • 1 carton of chicken broth/stock
  • 1 big can of shredded chicken
  • Contents to crockpot, stir, 2 hours on high heat
  • 2 servings of the Bisquick biscuit mix with 2% milk; mix it all up
  • scoop and dump as desired
  • 2 hours high heat -> You’ll need to come back every half hour and stir and break up the mass of biscuits that form. if it’s not forming, wait an hour.
  • 1 more hour of low heat.
  • Add a little salt and serve

misdreavus79: I don’t eat soup if I can help it. I tend to like more solid meals.

RU in VA: I’m about to leave the writers’ slack with a mention of white bean chili from MNW. Not my jam at all.

We do a ham and potato soup from my better half’s Michigan upbringing sometimes - half boiled potatoes, ham steak cubes, and a shitload of cheese on top of a roux.

HWAHSQB: I’m a soup/stew lover and I make a great variety of them, but pork and green chile is my death row meal and will always be my favorite. Rounding out my top five would be turkey, green chile, and white bean chili, vegetable chili, split pea and ham, and either creamy potato or cheesy brat and green chile.

On a side note, I started a diet of greek yogurt with berries for breakfast every morning and homemade soup/stew for lunch every day and I lost 60# in six months and have kept it off so that’s cool.

AlmaOtter: My go-tos: a black bean/roasted poblano pepper soup and a pretty great green pozole. Both are vegetarian, both are phenomenal.

“My wife and I have an annual tradition of watching a horror movie series every October, what should this years be?”


BRT: If it’s scarier than Hocus Pocus, I’m out.

Buffkomodo: Indiana football plays the 14th, 21st, and 28th for a miniseries if you’re into that sort of thing.

Kind of...: I’m a defender of Halloween III: Season of the Witch, so I’m probably the wrong guy to ask.

misdreavus79: At some point, I can’t really tell when, the “horror” genre transitioned from suspense, with some killing, to “gore for gore’s sake.” I tapped out of the genre after that. So long story short, I have no idea.

RU in VA: I wanted to grab the low hanging fruit of “watch the Giants” - but! Event Horizon is the scariest movie I’ve ever seen.

HWAHSQB: It’s not exactly horror, but I’ve been watching What We Do in the Shadows lately and it is quite amusing to me.