<
>

Big Ten Friday mailbag

12/5/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The wait for bowl invitations is almost over, and not a moment too soon. I'll have updates on the blog throughout the weekend as Big Ten teams finally find out where they'll be spending the holidays.

Right now, it's mail time.

Matt from Scotch Plains, N.J., writes: Help us, Adam Rittenberg, you are are only hope! Please, oh please, could you please inject into the national media dialogue some commentary about how all the Big 10 bashing is getting completely out of hand. You represent us, the silent masses, if not majority, and we just can't take it anymore. Specifically, address: how come Penn State is NEVER mentioned among title contenders, whereas USC, Florida and other one-loss teams are? Just what is the difference that I'm missing? Didn't PSU CLOBBER the team that beat USC? Doesn't PSU only have a close loss against a conf. team on the road, like Florida? Isn't Alabama's non-con. schedule worse than Penn State's? And just who has any of these Big 12 "powers" played beside each other? No one! Now, I don't honestly think we (PSU) should jump ahead of everyone and play for the title, but I think it is absurd that we are NEVER even in the conversation. If you're going to crack on our non-conf. schedule, the same must be said of 'Bama's and all the Big 12 top teams. Plus, unlike [Jim] Tressel, who has done much damage to our conf.'s rep., JoePa - when he does make a big game - never gets blown out. He either wins or loses a close one. But in general, the SEC/Big 12 national bias is a joke ... so again, Master Adam, I beg of you - please make amends!

Adam Rittenberg: I'll do my best, Matt, but I believe it's a losing battle this year. The Big Ten is paying the price this fall for the last two seasons. Even the league's bright spots (Penn State, Shonn Greene) are largely overlooked nationally. That's what happens when you struggle in BCS games. You get penalized. Now, I don't believe the Big Ten is a great conference this season. After Penn State and Ohio State, the league doesn't stack up well with the Big 12. The Big Ten will never get national respect when Michigan is down. But the lack of respect for Penn State is really surprising and, to be honest, upsetting. Those who lump Penn State with other Big Ten teams that have disappointed them really haven't watched the Nittany Lions play this season. Penn State beat the snot out of 10 teams and showcased a progressive offensive system. I'll write more about Penn State at a later date, but part of the problem is Penn State's identity. Are the Lions really viewed as a Big Ten program? It seems like they are this year, only because it's convenient and fuels the argument that all things Big Ten stink. It's up to Penn State to show in the Rose Bowl that it is different, that it isn't just another slow, overmatched Big Ten team, that Joe Paterno makes a difference in bowl games. Otherwise, the Lions will continue to be guilty by association.


Willie from Evanston, Ill., writes: Adam, If the Capital One/Champs Sports Bowl folks have already eliminated Ohio State from consideration (because, as you point out, they are almost certain to make a BCS game), then what is taking so long? Couldn't the Capital One announce MSU (or Iowa, or Northwestern, since they're all eligible), and then the Outback pick, and then the Alamo, and then the Champs? I know with travel costs being what they are and money being tight, it'd be REALLY great to start planning now...so why aren't the bowls helping us do it?

Adam Rittenberg: I hate the holdup, and so do fans losing money each day the bowl selections aren't announced. They are still waiting because if USC somehow loses to UCLA, the BCS will have a choice between USC and Ohio State for the final at-large berth. The possibility of the Buckeyes missing a BCS bowl, however slim, forces all the other tie-in bowls to wait before announcing their selections. Believe me, the Capital One doesn't want to announce Michigan State when Ohio State still might be available. It's a bad situation, but one that is almost over.


Tom from Upstate New York writes: Hey Adam. Great job this year, it's been fun. If the moon and the stars aligned and Bama and Missouri both win that would leave USC and PSU 3/4 in the AP. This would ofcourse be a nightmare for the BCS but great TV. Any chance of a title Split?

Adam Rittenberg: There could be a split in this case, but I just don't know how many people care about the AP National Championship. I'm no BCS fan by any means, but that is the championship I'll acknowledge. There are several scenarios that could result in a different AP national champ, but most people will remember the team that wins the BCS title game, which should be exciting no matter what happens.


Mike from Kansas City, Mo., writes: Adam, How do you think some of the best Big 10 schools would far against some of the best Big 12 Schools? Match-ups as far as Penn St vs. Oklahoma, Ohio State vs. Texas and a couple teams in the middle as far as Iowa vs. Missouri! I really think that a team like Iowa could beat any team in the big 12 except powerhouses such as Oklahoma and Texas. I've watch the hawkeyes play when they were on espn and thought there cant be a better 8-4 team in the country and could far against any 3 or 2 loss team. what do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: Well, Mike, the good news -- or the bad news, depending on the team -- is that the Big Ten will have at least two bowl matchups against Big 12, and possibly three. The two leagues will meet in the Alamo and Insight bowls, and many projections have Ohio State and Texas meeting up in the Fiesta Bowl. It's a tough call. The Big 12 teams have looked awfully impressive on offense, but the defenses of Penn State, Ohio State and Iowa are better than the units I've seen in the Big 12. I doubt Penn State or Ohio State could hold down Texas or Oklahoma for 60 minutes, but they would be competitive. Where the Big 12 has the edge, though, is after the top two teams. Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Missouri are better than Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa.


Dan from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, writes: Adam, you da man. I've been trying to look it up and can't figure it out- is Shonn Greene the first or second back in the AFCA American team? On the page, it has him listed second, so does that mean they ranked him right below Knowshon [Moreno]? If so, does that mean they view him as the second most-deserving back?

Adam Rittenberg: There's no second team for the AFCA All-America selections, so both Greene and Moreno are first team guys. Moreno is listed first on the news release, but I'm not sure if that means he was "selected" before Greene. I wouldn't worry about it too much. If Greene doesn't win the Doak Walker Award, you and other Iowa fans will have a legitimate beef.


Todd from Wyandotte, Mich., writes: Adam, thanks for the work all season. Do you see Mark D'Antonio heading for greener pastures if he wins big for a couple more years, or is he set on staying? Auburn seems like a job he might be good for...I just can't see him staying once RR gets the ball rolling at Michigan. For full disclosure, I'm a Michigan fan, but I thought we should have looked at him if Carr left earlier.

Adam Rittenberg: I think for the first time in a while, Michigan State fans don't have to worry about their coach jumping ship after some success. Dantonio is a Midwest guy, though he did attend college at South Carolina and might be in the mix there when the Head Ball Coach decides to call it quits. But my sense is he wants to build something big at Michigan State. They have a fabulous new football facility and generated some local recruiting momentum
this season. Spartans fans should worry when Ohio State's Jim Tressel steps down, but until then, Dantonio likely stays put.


Mark from Illinois writes: Adam, the Big Ten is losing some of the great Linebackers that have played the position in this conference let alone the whole country in Brit Miller and [James] Laurinaitis. What is your list for the top 6 next year pre season? Mine in no particular order would have to be: Navarro Bowman, Greg Jones, Pat Angerer, Matt Mayberry, A.J. Edds, Martez Wilson...Look legit to you?

Adam Rittenberg: I like your list, Mark, but Martez Wilson has to show me a lot more to be included after being overhyped this fall. Navorro Bowman is on my list, and don't forget about Sean Lee, who returns from an ACL injury next fall for Penn State. Greg Jones is a stud, and so is Pat Angerer. That leaves two more. Hmmm. I really like Obi Ezeh from Michigan. The last spot would go to blog-favorite Mayberry, Edds or maybe a guy like Ohio State's Ross Homan.