I'm going to be off most of Friday and Monday -- I'll be at the Big Ten presidents and chancellors meeting Sunday -- so the mailblog comes to you a little bit earlier.
We'll begin with a plea from an ailing Penn State fan.
Dan from Center Valley, Pa., writes: Adam-I read your blog every day at least once I day. Just had surgery this morning and I'm in a terrible friggin' mood. Being a recent Penn State grad, think you could write something...ANYTHING...to brighten my mood? The merits of Larry Johnson Sr.'s coaching, how awesome Joe Paterno is, the deliciousness about the creamery's ice cream? These doctors are saying I might be here overnight, think you could help me out. (Yes, I'm reading your blog from the recovery ward)
Adam Rittenberg: Dan, thanks for checking in and hope you get out of there soon. Let's see ... Penn State is playing Alabama at night, which should be an amazing atmosphere at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Penn State fans love night games, right?!?! Also, I'm pretty excited to see what Evan Royster does in his senior season. He's been so consistent for Penn State the past two years, and with a new quarterback, he should finally get a full load of carries. When will Royster break Curt Warner's career rushing record? When will Joe Paterno reach 400 wins? Both things should happen this fall, so get excited! And get well soon, my friend!
Hunter from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: I like the Best Case/Worst Case videos. On the first one (MSU I think) at the end you said what YOU think is PROBABLE for their record, and I missed that with the Penn State and Northwestern videos. I know it's Best/Worst, but I'm interested at least in a general opinion of where you think each team will be at the end of the year. Speculation is just fun, you know?
Adam Rittenberg: Good catch, Hunter. The Spartans can go 8-4 or 9-3 this fall, especially because of the record. They'll lose a game or two that they're not supposed to, but it will be a solid season overall. For Northwestern, the probable result is 7-5 or 6-6. The Wildcats lose a lot of key players, but they have enough winnable games on the schedule, especially early on, to get back to a bowl game.
Kelly from Manassas Take 1: Adam, normally I resist the urge to call you an idiot, but not today. You show your ignorance of Penn State by capping them at 10 and 2 for your best case scenario and greatly underestimate this team with a worst case of 6 and 6. Penn State has more speed than any team they play this year, Alabama included. They can hold their own talent wise with just about anyone. While you are right to question the QB position, it is not as big of a question mark as the fools in the media think it is. Nor is the offensive line where they will field the top player in the league at no less than two positions. The defense is fine. Best case scenario is an undefeated season. Worst case is 9 and 3 as no team on their schedule can match up to them at home.
Kelly from Manassas Take 2: I may have overstated Penn State's chances. While 6 and 6 is a moronic worst case when you look at that schedule, my 9 and 3 may be a game too high. An 8 and 4 absolute worst case scenario is a bit more accurate. Looking at the schedule, talent alone nets them wins against Youngstown State, Kent State, Temple, Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana and Michigan. Michigan State and Northwestern play in State College and have never had much success but it is possible to lose one of them. Either way, 6 and 6 is not realistic. And this team is entirely capable of running the table whether you want to admit it or not.
Adam Rittenberg: Well, Kelly, since you refrained from calling me an idiot outright -- feel free to do so, by the way -- and you adjusted your scenarios, I'll do the same. Penn State's worst-case scenario can be upgraded to 7-5. I'm not going to go any higher than that because there are far too many questions in all three phases of the game. Everyone focuses on the quarterback situation (guilty as charged), but there are also concerns at offensive line and in special teams. And I didn't show my ignorance by capping the best case at 10-2. Many Penn State fans have contacted me today saying 10-2 or 9-3 is right on the money. Penn State isn't going undefeated, not this year.
Frank from Chicago writes: Adam, the hype surrounding the 2010 Hawkeyes reminds me a lot of the summer of 2005, when Iowa was coming off a Capital One Bowl victory and had Drew Tate and a host of other key players returning. Iowa went on to underachieve horribly, with Tate and many other players being ineffective. How do you think Ferentz will try to prevent the same thing from happening this fall?
Adam Rittenberg: Good comparison, Frank, and Hawkeyes fans should hope history doesn't repeat itself. The difference this year is that many of these players have already been through some mental challenges in 2009, when Iowa had to overcome a lot of adversity to go 11-2. These guys understand expectations, and they know that wins are never guaranteed. Kirk Ferentz is very aware that Iowa football is in a fishbowl, and the Hawkeyes are such a huge deal in that state. I think he'd prefer if everyone toned down the hype, but he knows why it's there. I just don't get the sense Iowa will underachieve because of overconfidence or a lack of focus. The coaching staff and these team leaders won't let that happen. If Iowa struggles, it will be because the Hawkeyes just aren't good enough.
John L. from Phoenix writes: You wrote, "The league also wants to avoid mistakes made in past expansions, and minimize the damage on the back end."I was wondering what you meant by that? Do you feel the Big Ten (11) has made a mistake in past expansion(s)? Or, rather, avoid mistakes made by other conferences? Either way, however, I'm curious to know what mistakes come to your mind when conferences expanded, Big 10 or otherwise.Thank you.
Adam Rittenberg: I was referring to mistakes made by other conferences, not the Big Ten. Jim Delany has brought up the ACC-Big East situation enough to indicate that he'd like to avoid the nastiness that took place in 2003. He knows that there is some inherent messiness when expansion occurs, but he wants to go about things in a certain way, contacting league commissioners before contacting individual institutions.