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Mailbag: Placing Wagers on a Reborn Fall 2020 Big Ten Season

September 18, 2020

It’s Wednesday, and Wednesday means it’s time for the mailbag. Let’s get to it.

What percentage would you give to B1G football starting in 2020 (specific month if you’re feeling adventurous)? (@Sal_Vasta3)

Brandon Vogel: Rumors and reports, of varying accuracy, keep inching the start date forward. Over the course of a month we went from the initial postponement and a mention of “spring” to winter then January then November and, on Tuesday, October (Bill Moos refuted the latter.) It seems like something is going on based on what the various Big Ten committees are learning (and, yeah, the backlash probably plays a role here, too). I’ll say 60% and give me November for now.

Erin Sorensen: The Thanksgiving “rumor” (or maybe it’s not a rumor, who knows at this point what’s real and what’s not) seems to have the most legs. I’ll give it a 65% chance of starting in November (just slightly up in the odds from Brandon). It’s not because I’m 5% more confident. It’s because I didn’t want to pick the same percentage as him and 55% seemed to low. He’s probably more on the money.

Greg Smith: I’m giving it a 30% chance right now. Honestly, it’d be higher if I had faith that the people that made the original decision won’t let ego get in the way. It’s just an unfortunate reality that ego will play a factor here.

Derek Peterson: Husker Athletic Director Bill Moos told me yesterday the rumors about an Oct. 10 start are just that—rumors. The earliest timeline they’re discussing right now is a Thanksgiving start. “There has been a lot of support early on for a first of January (model)” Moos said Tuesday night on Big Red Wrap Up. And I think that’s the one the Big Ten will settle on. For a Jan. 1 start, Moos said it would be a seven- or eight-game schedule with a championship game in early March. That’s about as late as the Big Ten should push it. Purely from a player health standpoint, sure, a Thanksgiving start would be best, but I can’t imagine the 14 league presidents/chancellors and commissioner Kevin Warren being willing to take the kind of PR hit that would come with saying in August “we can’t play in the September, October, November, and December months” and then turning around a month later and saying “we can play in November and December now.” I just think pride is going to get in the way. (And, you know, exploding cases on college campuses because the pandemic is still a thing.) It’s important to remember coaches and athletic directors aren’t the ones making the decision. I think coaches were behind the wave of rumors you saw popping up earlier this week, and if that is in fact the case, the agenda there is pretty clear to see.

Fast forward to 2022. If the SEC was interested in expanding by 2 teams, and they make phone calls to Nebraska and Ohio State, would (or should) those schools pick up and listen to the sales pitch? (@GoHuskerz)

BV: Probably not. I’d say certainly not for Ohio State. One, it has a lot of history in the Big Ten, and, two, right now it is basically the SEC team in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes have been the underdog in one conference game since 2015. That doesn’t happen in the SEC. Nebraska? Considering it has already moved once you can’t make the historical-ties argument. Geographically it’s a fit with the Big Ten, but people care about that to various degrees. The Huskers might at least hear the pitch, but I’m not sure it benefits them.

Mike Babcock: Geography says Nebraska should stay in the Big Ten—which I’ve never liked though the move was made for clear reasons, including money, academic prestige and money. Anyway, Nebraska is still adjusting to the Big Ten style of play and probably more importantly to a new recruiting base. So why would Nebraska want to start all over with style of play and trying to recruit in yet another conference. And, I know, Frost has had some recruiting success in the southeast. But how fan-friendly would the SEC be? Not any better than the Big Ten certainly. In a division with Missouri and Arkansas, which would be the closest, right? But then what? Ohio State, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, LSU . . . not quite as good for travel as the Big Ten West even.

GS: No way. For Nebraska, there is no reason to sign up for that meat grinder of a schedule in football. The travel element for fans would be even worse than it is now and it’s a massive step down academically for the university. Ohio State dominates this conference in their biggest sport—football—so there is no need for the Buckeyes either.

Of the 13 football seniors, how many do you think will opt for the additional year of eligibility? Same question for volleyball (four seniors). If all four return and with the incoming class, does the NCAA move the NU VB team to the international pro league to ensure parity? (@3rdLargestCity)

Jacob Padilla went in-depth on this question for his weekly Padding the Stats column. You can read that here.

Is Ziggy gonna start for the Jaguars? (@Sal_Vasta3)

Jacob Padilla: Ryquell Armstead served as Leonard Fournette’s back-up last year, and with Fournette cut, it seems like Armstead will likely get the first crack at the starting job. Whether or not he holds down that position is another story. He didn’t necessarily stand out in any way in his limited opportunities last season, so if he doesn’t produce perhaps Ozigbo will get a shot to grab that job and run with it. However, Jacksonville also signed veteran pass-catching back Chris Thompson, which further muddies the picture.

Despite our collective disappointment in the season’s delay, how beneficial could it be for this offense to have more time to prepare and study and then hopefully get on the same page with each other? (@MojoHusker)

BV: There is probably a challenge here with keeping a team motivated to work out and practice without any clear start date. There’s such a rhythm to major-college athletics that an athlete always knows what he’s working toward, and removing that certainty has to be overcome a bit. But, all things considered, I think it’s better to be a program in Nebraska’s spot (i.e. still developing) dealing with all of this than a program like Penn State, which really looked like it was cresting in terms of talent and progress for 2020. Under normal circumstances, the Nittany Lions had the look of a top-five team and even if teams get to play at some point this fall it won’t be the same for Penn State. Nebraska is still on something of a free roll in that regard. The Huskers need to get better, no doubt, but nobody entered 2020 thinking “this could be the year.” If the coaches can keep the players thinking that, “We can come out of this farther ahead than we would’ve been in September,” I do think there’s a chance this helps the Huskers.

JP: That being said, there’s also something to the experience side of things when we’re looking at development. Nebraska just had a huge class of redshirt players who spent most of last season studying and building up their bodies. I’m sure a good portion of that class could use another year to get ready, but I bet there are at least a handful of those guys ready to see the field and start gaining that experience. That also goes for upperclassmen who have waited their turn and were poised to push for a spot on the two-deep. We’re heading into year three for this staff; I’m pretty sure Frost would trade the extra prep time for a chance to get out there and show how much progress they’ve made without a second thought.

How much validity do you think these reports are about the Big Ten’s decision to cancel/postpone is politically motivated, that Kevin Warren is trying to sway an election? (@TwinTwisterDad)

BV: 0.00%.

JP: What Brandon said. The “Kevin Warren is trying to swing an election” thing came from an irresponsible headline for an otherwise perfectly fine story from Pete Thamel and Yahoo about how Warren made it a priority to encourage Big Ten student-athletes to become registered voters. From that story: “The Big Ten announced a league-wide voter registration initiative on Monday, which will include non-partisan education and a deeper understanding of registration, voting and voter suppression.” The commissioner and collection of Big Ten presidents aren’t going to make a difficult decision that cripples their conference and the universities that belong to it financially in the hopes that it will swing the presidential election one way or the other.

ES: That Yahoo headline is a good reminder for media (us included) that we need to stop and consider whether or not our headlines appropriately reflect the story. There’s nothing wrong with attention-grabbing headlines unless they’re inaccurate, which the Yahoo one was. It’s also a reminder to the reader to react to more than a headline. If you see that headline, click on the link and see what the story says before you react too strongly one way or another. And if someone won’t link to the story but will tell you the headline, Google that headline and find out what the story was about. It’s an extra step but it’ll help weed through the noise.

GS: -14%.

DP: There’s a better chance the SEC rings Nebraska’s phone, and the percentage chance of that is like 1-2%.

Nebraska should go independent and establish a deal with Netflix to televise every game. They should at least look into that…could work. I mean, we both already have the “N” (@navymousel)

BV: Independent for one year or permanently? I don’t think permanent independent status is a good existence for anyone but Notre Dame. That said, if one-year independence was on the table (and we know it’s not) this Netflix idea is really intriguing. Say Nebraska is out there, having found 10 games to play and six are at home. The TV networks would be competitive bidders for those six home games, but we know Netflix has stacks and stacks of cash and this would make a helluva entry into live sports. It would be a splash for Netflix, but just more inventory for ESPN or Fox. Throw in a behind-the-scenes docuseries as part of the deal, featuring the team that said “to heck with the Big Ten and traditional broadcasts” and you’ve got a nice little package of programming there.

MB: If you commit to a conference, you abide by conference decisions. It’s what being part of a team/conference means. So one season as an independent? The Big Ten would have to sign off on that or Nebraska would be an independent until it could find another conference. Nebraska was effectively an independent in 1918 because the Missouri Valley suspended play. And then Nebraska was tossed from the Missouri Valley in 1919-20 for scheduling a home game off-campus, granted reinstatement in 1921. Conference members do as the conference says, regardless of how popular that might be.

DP: I actually love this idea. Maybe what the last 10 years of Big 12 and Big Ten membership has taught us is Nebraska is going to do what’s best for Nebraska 10 times out of 10. In the Big Ten, where the collective is emphasized, that has ruffled feathers. Set aside academics for a second (which I know you can’t really do with conference realignment discussions but just bear with me) and focus solely on athletics. If Netflix is jumping on board with a broadcast deal—which they should, getting into live-action sports is an arena Hulu is crushing them in and they’re losing all of their popular streamers (The Office, Parks and Rec, Friends)—Nebraska could be Notre Dame pretty easily, I think. And Notre Dame is only an 11-1 season away from a CFP berth any given season. Think Nebraska wouldn’t be interested in that? Both are still powerful football brands despite little in the way of recent national success that I don’t think Nebraska would have any trouble making up its own schedule. Bring back yearly games with Oklahoma, put a game in Texas on the calendar so you can reopen recruiting down there. Add some drivable Midwest games. I like this idea.

If there ends up being a fall football season in the Big Ten, will that mean that Ohio State and Nebraska fans will greet each other with: “OH” – “NE”? Or will there just be a new kindred spirit and respect between the two schools? (@Cty2CtyLyle)

BV: I like this. “OH” and “NE” has a nice rhythm. And, what I really like is that ohne in German means “without.” (Hey, being at home for the past five months has been good for keeping up on Duolingo.) So, this new chant of solidarity also, when combined, can be a reminder of when the two were united by their dislike of being “without” football. Is that a stretch? Sure is, but the mind goes where it goes.

Which open NBA coaching job would Ty Lue be the best fit for? (@Starkastic8)

JP: Lue seems to be near or at the top of the Philadelphia 76ers’ wish list, but that franchise is a bit of a mess at the moment despite the amount of talent on that roster. Whoever steps into that job is going to feel a lot of pressure from day one and has a difficult problem to solve. Jacque Vaughn did a pretty good job with the Nets as the interim, but if Brooklyn decides to look elsewhere I’d imagine Lue would have quite a bit of interest. He’s well respected among players in the league and could have a better shot at connecting with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant than a lot of other coaching candidates. The Nets look to be poised to challenge for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs if you add Irving and Durant to complementary pieces like Caris LeVert, Joe Harris and Jarrett Allen, and Lue could be the guy to tie it all together.

DP: The Nets feel like a good fit for the reason Jacob pointed out. Few coaches available right now have Lue’s track record for managing big NBA personalities, and few players in the NBA right now have bigger personalities than Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Lue’s success with and his willingness to occasionally abdicate to LeBron James will help tremendously in selling Irving and Durant on his ability. He might be the best fit there, honestly. Also, because Philly was mentioned, I’d like to publicly share my Sixers hot take: Joel Embiid should be traded before Ben Simmons gets traded. In the right setting, I still think Simmons can be great. He’s so good defensively. Drop Simmons into the Russell Westbrook role with the Houston Rockets and tell me he doesn’t become a top-10, top-15 player.

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