Big Ten mailblog

Mail call.

Jeff from El Cajon, Calif., writes: Adam-I like the tradition and conference spirit that has been established with the Big-10/ACC Basketball Challenge. It is one of the few times, as a Badger fan, I would root for Michigan. Would the Big-10 consider doing the same with one ofthe other BCS conferences in football?

Adam Rittenberg: It's unlikely, Jeff, but not completely off the table. The problem is Big Ten schools have different philosophies regarding scheduling. While I see a general uptick in the quality of nonconference opponents during the next five years, some schools remain hesitant to schedule BCS conference opponents, which is what this would be. I'm interested to see whether the Big 12 and Pac-10 form some type of scheduling agreement, based on the expansion climate. And that's the other big factor in all of this. Although athletic directors say they're going to keep scheduling the same way regardless of what happens with expansion, it would be hard to see such a big scheduling agreement take place until the Big Ten's expansion study concludes.

Matt from Detroit writes: Adam,It looks like Phil Steele bailed you out a little bit with your Spartan love in the power rankings. 11 players is 4th best in the Big Ten and 3 1st teamers isn't so bad either. I look at the MSU players on there and I see 3 defensive players on the 1st and 2nd teams and a 4th player on the 4th team. I can see that this defense has some individual talent (especially if you count Johnny Adams who I think can be good and the big name recruits) but they've never been able to play well as a unit. I have no worries about the offense, so I think a decent defense could make this a good team. Do you think they have a chance to finally put it together this year? If not, will it be time to let Narduzzi go and find a new DC?

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, you make a great point about Michigan State's individual talent on defense vs. its struggles as a unit. As good as Greg Jones has been individually for the Spartans in his career, he hasn't played for a top 25 defense. Knowing Greg, I bet he'd trade those great individual numbers for a chance to lead a top 10 defense this season. Can Michigan State put it together in 2010? The secondary still concerns me, although MSU could have a little addition by subtraction in that group, if you catch my drift. The Spartans need guys like Adams and Trenton Robinson to become stars. They also need to find ways to generate more turnovers and a more consistent pass rush. It's a big year for Pat Narduzzi.

Kelly from Manassas, Va., writes: Adam, I think you are selling the Big Ten short and putting too much weight into bowl games without putting them into perspective. Not only has the Big Ten caught the SEC (which they did in 2008) but they surpassed them a year ago. People bashed the Big Ten's bowl record in 08/09 but fail to acknowledge the fact that PSU and OSU played the nation's top two teams. PSU was the third best and OSU was the sixth best. In 2008, they had the SEC beat at the top but trailed in depth. Last season, while Bama jumped ahead of everyone, the Big Ten built more depth with four teams that were as good or better than 11 of 12 of their SEC counterparts. Unfortunately, the Big Ten won't get a chance to test the SEC in the title game because that contest will be played by Virginia Tech and Ohio State.

Adam Rittenberg: Kelly, what would I do without our debates? Here's how college football works these days. If you don't beat another league in the biggest games, nothing else matters. Don't blame me. Blame the BCS bowl structure. The BCS championship game is everything in terms of perception. The bottom line is the Big Ten hasn't beaten an elite SEC opponent for quite some time (Michigan beat Alabama in the 2000 Orange Bowl), and the SEC has won the last four national championships. We can point to other bowls like the Capital One and Outback where the Big Ten has fared decently, but where exactly did the Big Ten "catch" the SEC or "surpass" it? So what if Penn State and Ohio State played the nation's best teams in 2008? You've got to win those games to be considered a superior conference.

Luke from Columbia, S.C., writes: Adam,JoePa is 6 wins from 400. Versus which team do you think he'll get #400, and why is no one talking about this?

Adam Rittenberg: Luke, this is something I'll examine more closely in the coming weeks and months, but it's a great topic to discuss. Penn State should emerge from nonconference play at 3-1, and no worse than 2-2. The game at Iowa looks tough, but Penn State should win three of its first four Big Ten games. I'd say Joe gets No. 400 at Beaver Stadium either against Michigan (Oct. 31) or Northwestern (Nov. 6). He could also get it Oct. 23 at Minnesota. I can't see the Lions starting the season 6-0, which would give him the record Oct. 9 against Illinois in Happy Valley.

Adam from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Adam, do you think that Notre Dame is on the edge of fadding into oblivion, or at least off the national radar. I know people don't think it can happen but I think its very plausable. As a 20 year old college student, and huge college sports fan, I don't look at Notre Dame as being this storied school. I look at them as being good back when my Dad was in his prime and thats about it. They never play for anything that matters so why care about them. The last meaningful season that they played for a championship of some kind was when Holtz was roaming the sideline 20 years ago. Without joining a conference I don't see Notre Dame ever recoving as the landscape is amazingly different now then it was 30 years ago. Asked some friends to name popular, big time schools in the midwest the other day and none of them said Notre Dame, rather they named all of the Big Ten teams and a few even said Cinncinatti! Is this a program breaking decision for Notre Dame Adam?

Adam Rittenberg: Adam, thanks for sharing this note because it touches on a very important point about Notre Dame: how the younger generation views the Fighting Irish football program. I tend to believe most of the folks who would be unhappy about ND joining a conference are 40 years of age or older. Yes, I know Notre Dame students made T-shirts urging the school to remain independent, but in the long run, I think the opposition would fade among young people. They don't remember the glory days. Notre Dame has won only one national title in my lifetime, and while I recognize the national appeal the school still has, I wonder if things will be the same way in 30 years. It's a question Notre Dame officials have to ask themselves with the expansion issue on the table in college sports.