Good response on the Big Ten depth post. Pat yourselves on the back.
Adam from Cincinnati writes: Regarding your post on Big Ten depth, I think the criticism of the Big Ten for a lack of depth after the top four teams and their past criticism for their bowl losses before '09/10 are related. Because the Big Ten has not won a title since '02, teams in the Big Ten are not given the benefit of the doubt in the rankings. This is relevant when you look at the SEC. In my opinion, after Bama and Florida, there is no one else in the conference. However, borderline teams like LSU, Georgia, and Arkansas are given the benefit of the doubt because their conference's champ won the title. In the Big Ten, teams like MSU and NW are suffering from the lack of national titles in the conference. It isn't right that SEC teams automatically get points because a much better team in their conference did so well, but it is unfortunately the way it is.
Adam Rittenberg: Adam, you bring up a truly excellent point here. The trickle-down effect certainly exists in college football, and average teams in leagues that produce the national champion get more hype than they often deserve. I even notice it in which teams get more media coverage. You hear a lot about Arkansas, South Carolina, Auburn and even Ole Miss than Michigan State, Northwestern and Purdue, and I don't see a huge difference between those groups of programs. The Big Ten also is hurt by Michigan being down, because most people nationally only think about Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan in the league. Can programs like Iowa and Wisconsin get the attention they deserve? We'll find out this fall.
Nathan from Waverly, Iowa, writes: Would a bigger question be brought upon the big ten if the traditional "bottom-feeding" teams beat the top-tier programs in the B10? Would it be said the B10 is just a pile of garbage or would they say the Schools are actually good? Or is it better to have it tiered as it apparently is right now? Long term, which would be worse for the B10?
Adam Rittenberg: Another great point, Nathan. Let's say Ohio State loses to Purdue again, while Iowa stumbles against Northwestern and Wisconsin loses to Michigan State. All three defeats take those teams out of the national title race, and ultimately, a BCS championship is what the Big Ten sorely needs. So in this case, a deeper pool of teams might work against the league. The best-case scenario is for the Big Ten to win a national title and another BCS bowl game but also fill out all of its bowl slots and post another winning record in the postseason. In many ways, the Big Ten came pretty close to the ideal scenario last year. If Northwestern and Minnesota had won their bowl games and Michigan qualified for the postseason and won, you're looking at a 7-1 record in bowls with two BCS wins and four wins against the nation's top 15. Hard to top that.
Mike from New Haven, Conn., writes: If the scenario of splitting OSU and Michigan does indeed play out and the game is moved earlier in the season. Who will become Ohio State's end of season game? It would have to be Penn State one would assume. If this is indeed the case and the game continues to be as one sided as it has been the past decade, is it possible the Penn State game takes on even more significance in the eyes of Buckeye fans? or do the Buckeyes simply begin to resent PSU for not being Michigan and destroying all that was right with the world?
Adam Rittenberg: An Ohio State-Penn State game on the final regular-season Saturday makes a lot of sense, Mike. While the rivalry has grown for both fan bases in the last few years, nothing will ever top Ohio State-Michigan for Buckeyes fans. Too much history, too much hatred, too much of everything that makes a rivalry special. The fact that The Game could never be replaced is one of the reasons why it shouldn't be moved. Ohio State-Michigan in mid-October doesn't feel right at all. But if the teams were in separate divisions, you'd probably see Ohio State-Penn State on that final Saturday.
Bruce from Farmington Hills, Mich., writes: Side Note: ... the next time the BIG plays a real OCC schedule will be the first. .... And please stop with the "I wish those southern teams would come up North in October " I don't see Wisconsin signing up to go down to Miami in Sept ...I'd love to see them @ 4th QTR in 200% humidity.
Adam Rittenberg: You're right, Bruce, you won't see Wisconsin playing at Miami in September. But you will see Ohio State down in Miami. Mark your calendar: Sept. 17, 2011. The forecast should be humid. Iowa also heads out to Arizona in September this year, where it figures to be pretty toasty. And Penn State heads down to Alabama in a few weeks on Sept. 11. Now Alabama returns the game next year, but the Tide won't have to deal with Big Ten weather in State College. The way the schedule works, teams from the South never have to play the Big Ten in the cold. Hear that sound? It's water running through your argument.
D.J. from Richfield, Minn., writes: Hi Adam: You mentioned that the Gophers are perceived as bottom-feeders in the Big Ten. This has actually been a big topic here lately. Both locally and nationally the Gophers have this stigma as being something of a joke of a program. Obviously they aren't on the OSU level, but they have been to a bowl game basically every year this past decade. Sure they have been mid-tier bowls but I can think of a number of teams that would be happy to have played in as many mid-tier bowls as they have. The 1-11 year was more fluke than anything. Take that away and they have gone 13-13 over the past two seasons, not great but at least respectable. So where does this perception come from?
Adam Rittenberg: It's interesting, D.J. I can't remember a program returning a senior quarterback (Adam Weber) and coming off of back-to-back bowl appearances taking such a beating nationally. I think people see a very challenging schedule (non-conference and Big Ten), plus the loss of nine defensive starters and superstar wide receiver Eric Decker. They also see things beginning to slip for head coach Tim Brewster, who arrived talking about Big Ten championships but hasn't delivered in the games that truly matter. All the coaching changes in Minnesota also creates a shaky feeling around the program. That said, Minnesota isn't a 2-win team this fall and could really surprise people, especially if the offensive line and run game come together. But I think the schedule and the doubt about the coaching staff are the two driving forces behind the poor forecast.
Amanda from Madison, Wis., writes: As a Badger fan, the 2 scariest games on the schedule appear to be Iowa and Ohio St. However, Kirk Cousins and his talented core on offense have the potential to tear up our secondary. Ben Chappell with his 2 targets [Tandon] Doss and [Damarlo] Belcher scare me as well and could do damage. Do you think the Badgers have enough talent in the secondary to stop these passing games?
Adam Rittenberg: Amanda, you make some really good observations here. I'd add Purdue in that mix because the Boilers will have a dynamic passing attack this year, and they'll be looking to avenge an embarrassing performance last year in Madison. Purdue was competitive in every other game but Wisconsin in 2009. The secondary certainly is a question mark after Chris Maragos' departure, but I like the playmakers back there. If safeties Jay Valai and Aaron Henry work well together, Wisconsin should be decent. You also have to give the Badgers' offense some credit here. Opposing teams might have success through the air against Wisconsin, but the Badgers can control the clock, overpower defenses and simply outscore their opponents, too. Wisconsin's offense should give MSU, Indiana and Purdue all kinds of trouble.
Dave from Kansas writes: Lets just say OSU has one loss, and Iowa or wisconsin goes unbeaten do you see the big 10 playing for a national title, or do you see Boise st getting in over a 1 loss big 10 team.
Adam Rittenberg: Another great question here, Dave. Boise State obviously has to go undefeated, win impressively against Virginia Tech and/or Oregon State and also have both the Hokies and Beavers remain high in the national rankings. If all those things happen, the Broncos have a legit shot at the title game. An undefeated Big Ten team most likely gets in ahead of Boise, and Ohio State almost surely would because of its preseason ranking (No. 2). An undefeated Big Ten squad would be helped by having at least one other Big Ten team remain in the top 10. I have a tough time seeing a 1-loss Big Ten team jump an undefeated Boise State squad, unless Boise's schedule (both nonconference and conference) really backfires.