Before we get started, a quick reminder. The only reports about Big Ten expansion that I'll address on this blog will be legitimate ones. I'm not going to acknowledge every unfounded rumor or speculative missive out there. So if you're wondering why I don't weigh on everything you hear, consider the original source. Or keep waiting.
Jeff from Lawrence, Kan., writes: I keep reading about the rise of Denard Robinson during the spring in AA. I can't help but be skeptical. First, it's spring ball and it seems like RichRod likes to send as many messages during spring as practices. Second, the final scrimmage was 1's vs. 2's, which means Shoelace was set up to succeed (lack of depth for 2's in the secondary) and LMT (Little Man Tate) was set up to struggle (lack of available depth for 2's at receiver). I gotta think Forcier got the message and will be fine going into fall.
Adam Rittenberg: Jeff, this is a totally understandable position, and it's good to point out who each quarterback faced in the spring game. It's safe to say Robinson made progress this spring, certainly from what we saw last fall. Yet for folks to say Tate Forcier is lagging way behind him now is incorrect. The truest part of your note is the last sentence: "I think Forcier got the message." Rich Rodriguez certainly did everything he could to challenge Forcier this spring, and we'll see what type of response Forcier provides in preseason camp. Coaches challenge players who they know can be better, and perhaps Forcier is still Michigan's best option at quarterback. Should be a fun August.
Ross from Hastings, Neb., writes: Ok Adam, I love bashing Colorado because they think they are out rival...How long till Nebraska goes to the Big 10, who will be our chief rival, and how do we fare in the Big 10 long term???Looking forward to you being my new blogman! Haha!
Adam Rittenberg: Ha, I won't tell David Ubben you wrote that. Nebraska could have several rivals in the Big Ten, but Iowa makes a ton of sense, especially if both programs are in the top 20 year after year. You've got two extremely passionate fan bases in bordering states competing for recruits and regional bragging rights. A recent poll shows that Iowa fans are split on finishing the regular season against Penn State or Minnesota, and a sizable chunk (18 percent, as of Monday night) would pick Nebraska if the Cornhuskers join the Big Ten. So Iowa is at the top of the list, while Wisconsin could be another rival for Nebraska. After all, Barry Alvarez was a Cornhusker.
Jacob from Texas writes: In all the expansion talk, no one has discussed an addition of a team for spite's sake. Adding Vanderbilt would stick it to the SEC, add a fine academic institution, and again stick it to the SEC! I know Vanderbilt is an original member of the SEC, but they have to be sick of holding the only academic standards in the SEC!
Adam Rittenberg: Several folks have brought up Vandy, but I just don't see what the Commodores add from a football perspective. The two main elements driving the Big Ten's expansion push are television market potential and football success. Vanderbilt is in a decent market (Nashville), but doesn't move the needle like its in-state colleague Tennessee. And the Commodores' success in football has been extremely limited. You're right that the academics make Vandy a great fit in the Big Ten -- and a better fit than in the SEC -- but other than that, I don't get too excited about the Dores. And contrary to popular belief, sticking it to the SEC isn't Jim Delany's primary goal in life.
Ben from London, England, writes: Adam, I'm a big fan of your blog, but I don't understand the love for MSU. They finished 6-7 and in their last three games they conceded an average of 40 points! The only Div1 team they beat with a winning record was Northwestern! They may have Greg Jones coming back, but the secondary is still weak! So how can MSU be T-4 in your rankings?
Adam Rittenberg: Ben, I totally understand I'm going out on a limb with the Michigan State love, given the Spartans' history for disappointing people. But I look at their team and see a lot of firepower on offense, multiple contributors at wide receiver, running back and tight end, not to mention a quarterback (Kirk Cousins) who played pretty darn well last year and should only get better. Yes, the secondary is a major concern, but Michigan State's defensive recruiting in 2010 was among the best in the Big Ten. You never want to rely on freshmen, but Michigan State is bringing in a few guys who can help immediately on defense. Michigan State wasn't far away in 2009. If Iowa doesn't complete that pass at the end of the game, the Spartans probably go 8-4 or better. I understand the risk in putting Michigan State at No. 4 with Penn State, but I'm willing to take the heat if it goes wrong.
David from New Haven, Ind., writes: after IU has another losing season do you think they will do the smart thing and hire a big name coach like mike leach or are hoosier fans doomed with lynch
Adam Rittenberg: Hard to say, David. If IU goes 5-7 with some quality Big Ten wins, Bill Lynch could survive for another year. Anything worse than that -- or even a watered-down 5-7 mark -- likely spells the end for him in Bloomington. Athletic director Fred Glass seems like he wouldn't hesitate to make a big splash with his next hire, but selling the job to a candidate like Mike Leach could be really tough. There's really no tradition at IU in the past 20 years, and a coach could be joining an expanding Big Ten that might be even more formidable. I wouldn't doubt Glass to go out and bring in a name coach, but let's see what happens this fall with Lynch.