Big Ten mailbag: Bowl leftovers, All-Big Ten talk

November, 25, 2008
11/25/08
5:32
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Let's see what's on your mind.

Lou from Altoona, Pa., writes: Adam, I think the main reason the Big Ten is perceived as a weak conference (other than Ohio States recent failures on the big stage) is because they're not flashy. The Big Ten doesnt have teams that put up 60 points a game. They play more of a defensive game that might not be as exciting and due to that they dont get the respect they should because they dont have the offensive numbers that other conferences have. Just wanted you thoughts on that theory.

Adam Rittenberg: There's certainly some truth to your theory, Lou. People absolutely love offense and quarterbacks, and besides Penn State's Daryll Clark and Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor, the Big Ten doesn't offer much under center. The defenses in this league certainly are better this season, especially Penn State, Michigan State, Northwestern, Iowa and Minnesota. Those things go largely unnoticed nationally. I'll admit it. Watching Big 12 football is a lot of fun. But I'm hesitant to make final judgment on Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or Texas Tech until they face a formidable SEC defense like Alabama or Florida.


Aron from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Adam, I've been worried that Shonn Greene has been missing out on national media attention for his Heisman campaign due to the lack of a quality nickname. You've got guys like Beanie Wells and Juice Williams (although not Heisman contenders) who are more memorable because of their respective monikers. I've heard of the "Greene Monster" but it seems too stale unoriginal. People around Iowa City have been taking a liking to "The Love-Seat" as a reference to Shonn's 235lb frame and his days moving furniture last year. What do you think? Maybe give it a test run in a column? Ha Thanks.

Adam Rittenberg: I like where you're going with this, Aron. Though I'm lukewarm about the love-seat nickname. It's too open for misinterpretation, and most people don't know about Greene working in the furniture store last year. Maybe Greene Party or Greene Machine, something along those lines. Any suggestions, Big Ten fans?


Dave from Philadelphia writes: Adam, Great job on the blog. I always enjoy it. Just a few comments about the All Big Ten teams. As a Penn State fan, you might be surprised to find that I agree with you on all counts. Paterno did not deserve coach of the year for all of the reasons you stated. Additionally, the loss at Iowa and some of the coaching decisions made in that game detract from everything else that was accomplished this year. Pat Fitzgerald is the clear choice in my book. [Aaron] Maybin was absolutely the defensive player of the year. If anything, you were too generous to Laurinaitas. The guy has been invisible in every single big game I have seen him play. Outside of Maybin, Mitch King was the only other candidate in my book. Laurinaitas seems like a decent guy and he has that media-friendly backstory but he isn't even the best linebacker on his own team. Finally, I have a point to make about Derrick Williams. He certainly is not a better WR than Arrelious Benn but he does deserve first team All Big Ten recognition. An "all purpose" slot like they have for All American teams would probably fit him best. As a guy who lined up at WR, RB, and QB and returned kicks (3 for scores), he certainly was an elite Big Ten football player.

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Dave. I wouldn't be so hard on the coaching staff for the Iowa loss. I hate to blame it on Anthony Scirrotto, but that penalty on third-and-15 sticks in my mind. Penn State was a play or two away from winning that game. You bring up a good point about Derrick Williams, and there should be a category for return specialist in the All-Big Ten list. Williams did it all for Penn State down the stretch, and though he's not an All-Big Ten wide receiver in my view, he deserves a spot on the list.


Dave from Harrisburg, Pa., writes: Hi Adam, Question about coaching etiquette. At the tail end of this Saturday's PSU/MSU game, Mark Dantonio refused to run the ball, and more importantly the clock. Instead, with less than two minutes remaining and his team facing an insurmountable deficit, Dantonio even called back-to-back time-outs (I didn't know this was even legal), seemingly to prevent PSU players/coaches/fans from celebrating the Rose Bowl lock and warming up. With how cold it was in the stands at that point, I lost all respect for Dantonio. Am I overreacting? Was it a fair payback for PSU continuing to throw the ball into the 4th quarter and padding the score a bit? Did anyone else notice this or care? Should Dantonio get a "talking to" at the next Big Ten coaches meeting?

Adam Rittenberg: I wrote about this very topic today, Dave. The etiquette toward the end of these bowl games is certainly changing around college football, whether it's the winning team or losing team. Dantonio said the back-to-back timeouts were simply to give his players a chance to rest, but he could have let the final nine seconds run out and they can rest for the next six weeks, too. You might be overreacting just a smidge. Dantonio was trying to say, "We'll remember this next year," which kind of adds some flavor to what has been a pretty lame rivalry between Penn State and Michigan State. I highly doubt it will be discussed at the coaches' meeting, but coaches don't forget games like this and they use them as major motivating tools for the future.


Arun from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Adam, I'm kind of irate at this point. After being absolutely snubbed by the Lou Graza committee, Brett Swenson is second team all-big ten behind Kevin Kelly? No offense to Kelly, he's a great player. But Swenson has been a complete rock in 11 of 12 games (bad day at Michigan) in every situation possible, including single-handedly winning the game for MSU over Wisconsin. What gives???

Adam Rittenberg: I was totally with you on the Lou Groza Award finalist thing, but I did agree with Kevin Kelly getting the nod for first-team All-Big Ten. Kelly went 3-for-3 in field goals in miserable conditions at Iowa and turned in a very strong senior season. Swenson didn't have much chance to make a big splash after the Wisconsin game, and Kelly really had no bad days -- you mentioned Swenson's 0-for-3 day at Michigan. Kelly never missed more than one field goal in a game, so he deserves first-team All-Big Ten.


Randy from Los Angeles writes: I hear Chuck Long is looking for work. You think there might be a place for him on Kirk Ferentz's staff ... maybe as QBs coach, working with an improving Ricky Stanzi? (assuming Chuck's willing to be an assistant again, which is possible after a rough SDSU experience)

Adam Rittenberg: He's definitely looking for work after being fired at San Diego State. Ken O'Keefe currently coaches Iowa's quarterbacks in addition to serving as offensive coordinator, but I could see Ferentz bringing Long in to work with the QBs. Then again, Lon
g probably could get a coordinator position elsewhere. Speaking of O'Keefe, the most hated man in Iowa City has quieted a lot of his critics the last few weeks. He deserves a ton of credit for molding Ricky Stanzi into a solid Big Ten quarterback.


Dave from Bradford, Mass., writes: Adam, I understand the implications to the Big Ten on getting a 2nd team into the BCS. But my concern is that with all the teams getting "bumped" up a slot in the bowl pecking order, wouldn't that just set the conference up for unfavorable match-ups throughout the bowl season? I think this December and January needs to be a time for redemption and reputation enhancement and that might be very tough to accomplish if the entire conference is over-slotted and over-matched in the bowls.

Adam Rittenberg: No one associated with the Big Ten would ever root against not having two BCS teams, but it might be the better scenario in the long run. If the Big Ten gets wins in the Rose, the Capital One and the Outback, it could boost the league's reputation, which is by far the biggest problem right now. The Big Ten cannot have another situation where its champion goes 11-1, crushes 10 opponents, loses a 1-point game on the road in terrible weather and ends up No. 8 in the BCS standings. That's totally unacceptable in the future. So whatever bowl scenario gets the Big Ten in a position to improve its image is the best one.


Vincent from Lewis Center, Ohio, writes: Ohio State won its fourth-straight piece of the Big Ten Championship. Does this allow Jim Tressel to keep his staff intact? Shouldn't the program strive for national championships rather than conference and make changes, if needed?

Adam Rittenberg: Great question, Vincent. A lot of people wanted offensive coordinator Jim Bollman fired a few weeks ago, but the offense seems to have found its flow behind Terrelle Pryor and Chris "Beanie" Wells. The offensive line also is performing better. Though Ohio State still is too reliant on big plays, you have to acknowledge the offense has improved. That said, a coordinator change there is possible, especially if Ohio State falls in a bowl game. The defensive staff likely will remain intact.


Greg from Sacramento, Calif., writes: I am just shocked you have both MSU and NW ahead of us in the power rankings. Sure they both beat us at the beginning of the season but the Hawks have been getting better on both sides of the ball each week. One exception was the Bye week going to Illinois. For some reason, everyone in the Big Ten had issues coming off a bye week. But to me the Power Rankings is a determination who would beat who at this time of the season. I have no doubts right now neither NW or MSU would come close to beating Iowa at this point. We should have beat both at the beginning of the season. NW - If Shonn didn't get sidelined for our 1st and Goal at the end of the game he pounds it in for the win. MSU - One missed block from scoring a winning TD or FG to tie.

Adam Rittenberg: I've certainly wrestled with the definition of the power rankings, never more than before posting this week's rundown. But given that the regular season is complete, I thought the rankings should reflect a team's body of work. And for Iowa, you can't ignore the four losses, no matter when they happened or how close they were. Iowa played a very good second half against Penn State and an incredible 60 minutes against Minnesota. But the Hawkeyes also looked terrible against a weak Illinois team and didn't exactly torch Purdue two weeks ago. Could Iowa beat Michigan State and Northwestern right now? Absolutely. Could Michigan State or Northwestern beat the Hawks? Absolutely. None of those teams would be a lock if they went up against each other right now.


Brian from Kingston, Pa., writes: Adam, How underrated a coach is Tom Bradley? The guy gets almost no attention outside of the Big Ten and I think he is one of the 2 or 3 best defense coordinators in all of college football. PSU gets the job done by not making mistakes and by putting the best athletes on the field. Tom Bradley takes no credit for himself but rather gives all the credit to his players. I was a bit skeptical about PSU's defense coming into this season, but it just goes to show what a truey great coach can do with guys who want to play as a team and compete on every down.

Adam Rittenberg: Bradley has done an excellent job this season, as have all of Penn State's assistant coaches. Penn State should name Bradley its coach-in-waiting, but I'm not sure if Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier or Tim Curley want to do it right now. What's the holdup? Paterno has a hard time envisioning Penn State football without him as head coach. Spanier and Curley might want to go in a different direction with Paterno's successor. I think it's time to acknowledge that Bradley is the right man for the job.

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