- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Illini Mike from Chicago writes: Hey Adam, I have a divisional alignment question. I know a lot of the focus centers on what rivalries teams get to keep, is there any emphasis on the rivalries that will be lost. As an Illinois fan I am worried as most alignment scenarios leave us with a lack of good divisional rivals. I have a feeling we will be saying goodbye to geographic rivals such as Indiana and Purdue, trophy rival Ohio State, and semi-rival Michigan (great recent games in 99, 00, 01, 07-09 as well as historical games). All of these I would rank ahead of our so called in-state rival Northwestern, who we will mostly likely end up in a division with along with other good but not great rivalries. I can't help but feel that whatever happens, Illinois will be coming out the big loser of the Big 10. Do you see another team with this big of an issue?
Adam Rittenberg: I'm worried about Illinois, too, Mike, as several of those rivalries could be lost in the alignment shuffle. It's one of the reasons why I eliminated the Illinois-Northwestern rivalry in my Big Ten divisions proposal. In my plan, Illinois would be in the same division with both Ohio State and Michigan, and would play Indiana as a protected crossover every year. You would lose the Northwestern and Purdue games, but I think most Illinois fans could live with that scenario. Another team I worry about is Minnesota. The Gophers have longstanding rivalries with both Wisconsin and Iowa, but Minnesota hasn't performed nearly as well since 1993, the period the Big Ten will use to determine divisions. Will the Big Ten preserve long-term history or aim to create sexier matchups, especially for television, the driving force for college football? It'll be interesting to see what they decide.
Anthony from Cleveland writes: Adam, my fiance is in the midst of planning our wedding for next fall and I am trying to set the date so it won't conflict with Ohio State games (for my guests sake, I swear). I was wondering how much you thought the Ohio State schedule was subject to change based upon the addition of Nebraska in 2011? I was going to schedule the wedding for September 24 (OSU's open date) but now I don't know if that will remain the open date. Please let me know your thoughts. Many Thanks,For Better or Buckeyes in Cleveland.
Adam Rittenberg: Wow, that's dedication Anthony! I told my then-fiancée that we couldn't get married in the fall, which she wasn't happy about, but it sounds like you guys are past that point. You won't have to worry about nine conference games in 2011, as that won't take place until 2012 at the very earliest and more likely 2014 or 2015. But the Big Ten could shuffle the open dates as it tries to integrate Nebraska. I don't want to tell you to go ahead and set your date and have to change it later. I'd sit tight for a few more weeks, and then you'll know for sure what Ohio State's schedule will look like.
Luke from Philadelphia writes: Hey, Adam - I just read your blog regarding SI's predictions for the Big 10. When I read your thoughts, I agreed totally - PSU belongs at 19 given the question marks heading into the season. But then I read SI's predictions for the Lions' schedule (9-3, 6-2) and this did not ring true. I think there are MAJOR question marks for PSU, so much so that even 9-3 seems generous to me. 8-4 seems WAY more likely. I know it's just 1 game diff, but quality of bowls is decided thusly. I am counting on losses at Bama, Iowa, and OSU. But I am not optimistic about MSU either. And given the QB play in the Blue/White game, I wouldn't be totally shocked by a loss at the Gophers either - your blog has convinced me that they are going to be tough this year! Am I being realistic or can you talk sense into me??
Adam Rittenberg: Luke, let me first say that being realistic is a good thing, and it's a breath of fresh air to see as someone who deals with a ton of delusional fans. You're spot on about Penn State hovering in that 9-4 or 8-4 range this season. Those three road games against preseason top 10 foes won't be easy, and Penn State could stumble again in Big Ten play. Minnesota on the road could be tough, but Penn State's defense should be too much for the Gophers. I'm actually looking at some of the home dates (Michigan State, Northwestern, Michigan) as potentially tricky for the Lions. The good news is even at 8-4, Penn State would almost certainly play on Jan. 1 because of the Big Ten's new bowl lineup.
Tom from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Great Blog Adam but, who's your wardrobe consultant? My wife saw you and said "isn't he married"? Anyway, could you please elucidate the Rich Rod situation with the NCAA? If he is found in violation and get's restrictions, even if he wins nine games this year, do you think he'll keep his job?
Adam Rittenberg: Damn, I thought I was dressing better! I certainly out-GQ-ed colleague Mark Schlabach at Big Ten media days. Plus, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald was giving me grief for showing up at the school's media day in a shirt and tie. I can't win! ... Anyway, Rich Rodriguez's primary concern with the NCAA is the dreaded show-cause penalty, which brings sanctions against individuals found to have committed NCAA violations. These sanctions can prohibit them from recruiting or coaching without approval from the Committee on Infractions for a set period of time. This is very bad, and Rodriguez needs to be concerned because he's being investigated at both Michigan and West Virginia. If the Committee on Infractions finds him non-compliant in both cases, it could issue a severe show-cause penalty. I don't think this is likely and Rodriguez's fate remains tied to wins and losses on the field this fall, but it's something to consider.
Erik from Palatine, Ill., writes: I'm a die-hard Northwestern fan, and I'm curious about the Ward and Dieters battle. They are both competing for a right tackle spot? Who will be the guard then? I thought Ward was going to be our Tackle and Dieters our guard (even though I didn't understand why Dieters, who won awards last year, was being replaced).I'd like to know your thoughts if you have a second.
Adam Rittenberg: It surprised me, too, when offensive line coach Adam Cushing listed Neal Dieters as Patrick Ward's primary competition at right tackle. But that's coming directly from the source. Cushing said there are three candidates -- Doug Bartels, Keenan Grant and Brian Mulroe -- competing for the two starting guard spots. Obviously, Bartels and Grant both have extensive starting experience, but Northwestern really likes its depth up front and wants the competition to continue for a while.
Brian from Madison, Wis., writes: Adam,It's been about two months since you came out with your plan for alignment. I'm curious whether you've changed your mind on any of the decisions you made while creating the plan. It has some strengths and some clear weaknesses. I also wonder if you have any thoughts on the likelihood of the various types of division plans (maybe giving odds to the different ideas happening, i.e. Michigan OSU split up, PSU going west, Wisconsin-Iowa-Minnesota being split up, etc.). I think division alignment is still a hot topic, might be fun to see if your opinions have changed any.
Adam Rittenberg: Brian, I'm still comfortable with my plan, but I'm definitely keeping an open mind about what others have to say. While I still don't agree Ohio State and Michigan should be in opposite divisions, I see the potential upside and how it could benefit the league (I also see the drawbacks). I don't have a problem with Penn State being in the same division as some of the "western" teams, namely Nebraska and Iowa, because those games would be amazing to see every year. My philosophy on this is to leave geography out of it and really try to do what's best for the Big Ten brand, which must be driven by television exposure. I still struggle with the Wisconsin-Minnesota-Iowa bloc, as I do think the league would benefit from some type of split, even if those schools wouldn't as much.
Have a great weekend. As always, contact me here and follow me on Twitter (I'm one of the sports media's top 200, ya know).Illini Mike from Chicago writes: Hey Adam, I have a divisional alignment question.