Big Ten Friday mailbag

February, 27, 2009
2/27/09
1:12
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

A lot of hate mail today.

Chris from Lancaster, Pa., writes: The Big 10 is in a catch 22 as the weather is concerned. Let me explain: To win the Big 10, you have to play Big 10 ball...run, run, run. When you play games like Penn State did at Iowa with very low temperatures and extreme wind, you have to be able to slow the offense down a bit. HOWEVER, that type of game will NOT will the National Title. That leaves the Big 10 teams with 2 options: 1. Play Big 10 ball to with the conference and go to the Rose Bowl. 2. Play the kind of ball to win the National championship and lose at least 1 Big 10 game each year. There are really no alternatives. If you put ANY team (Texas, USC, Florida...) in the Big 10, they have the same 2 choices. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: It's an interesting take, Chris, but national championship teams have to be able to adjust to different types of games. Though I agree that cold-weather football is different, the Big Ten has featured its share of high-scoring, pass-happy games during this decade of bowl futility. Look at Ohio State-Michigan in 2006, billed as the Game of the Decade. The game featured 583 passing yards combined. Then both teams went to BCS bowl games and lost. Though last season certainly took us back to "Big Ten football" as we knew it, the league has shown the ability to play different styles, just not as well as some of the other top teams. I see your point, but I don't think it's so cut-and-dried for Big Ten teams.


Matt from Grand Forks, N.D., writes: Adam, like the 5 things mentioned today especially the horrid non-conference slates. As a die hard PSU fan, I'm embarrasses to see the teams we will beat by an aggregate of about 150-3 this fall. We do not deserve to be in the national title talk with that garbage even if we go undefeated (which perhaps luckily I don't see a snowball's chance in hell of ocurring). Also like the note that PSU-MSU might soon become the premier big ten game on the final weekend. My thoughts go a step further - it's not much of a stretch to say that PSU-OSU for the past 5 or so years has been the best game in the league. I'm sure the Michigan fans will hate this a lot but at least PSU can actually defeat OSU not only in Columbus this year but being the last team to beat OSU at home in the league (2005). PSU may not be stellar this fall but be assured of one thing, he'll never deal with a louder, more hostile crowd than the one he sees in State College this November.

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Matt. You're right about Penn State needing to go undefeated for just the chance to play for the national title. And even then, it's not a guarantee (but likely). Not only do the Lions have an easy non-league slate, but they get both Iowa and Ohio State at home. Penn State will benefit greatly if a few of its Big Ten road opponents (Illinois, Michigan, Northwestern and Michigan State) have strong seasons. A quality road win would go a long way toward helping the Lions.

I also can see your point about Penn State-Ohio State trumping The Game. Though the 2006 Michigan-Ohio State game remains the most significant Big Ten matchup in recent memory, the Buckeyes-Lions clashes have been very competitive. If Ohio State's dominance of Michigan continues, it will give more credence to your theory.


John from Washington D.C. writes: Adam, I agree with most of your 5 Things to Hate, and as a PSU fan, especially about the LGT. However, I think your criticism of the cold-weather argument misses the point. It's not about the weather, per se, but rather the institutionalized southern bias. The Big11Ten has played in its share (if not more) of bowl games, and we've won quite a few, so it's not like the Big11Ten is suffering from a perennial talent disadvantage despite what your SEC/USC fanboy colleagues might think. The issue instead is that when they added the 5th BCS game - the NC game - they didn't look elsewhere for venues, they stuck with the same 4 locations they had. Why can't they look north for a venue? What about Indy? Or Detroit? Those are places that would love an influx of money and attention and they're even domes so the poor lil' SEC kiddys can stay nice and warm. Of course you can hide behind the "nobody wants to go to Detroit in January" argument all you'd like, it's a free country. But let's make no mistake - the "nobody" you're referring to are the media assigned to cover the games. Hopefully if a playoff system comes we can finally shed the media's stranglehold on this sport and we can have some fairness for all, or at the least, seeded home field advantage.

Adam Rittenberg: You bring up some interesting points, John. The BCS organizers would never have selected a fifth game if it didn't include one of the existing bowl sites. But it would be interesting if they rotated the national championship site around the country, to places that don't currently host major bowls. As far as reporters being more stoked about Phoenix or Miami than Detroit or Indy, you're absolutely right. As my fiancee often tells me, I need all the sun I can get.

But I still have a hard time seeing how a major bowl in Indianapolis or Detroit would generate the same economic impact as games in warm-weather sites. Remember, these bowls are still all about the money. What if a Big Ten team didn't make the title game that year? Would the event attract as many fans and corporations? Perhaps. But especially in these economic times, the safe bet is to stick with what's familiar. For college football, that means January games in warm-weather sites. I'm also not sure how having the title game in a dome in the Midwest would even the playing field. Playing it outside in Ann Arbor or Columbus might be more effective, but again, that's a pipedream.


Tom from Charlotte writes: I like the work on the Big Ten's Mt Rushmore. Out of curiosity, what kept Wisconsin's Ronald Allen Dayne off the list? His career rushing numbers, 7,125 yards, remains an NCAA record. Do you think there isn't enough granite on the mountain to showcase his Heisman trophy and back-to-back Rose Bowl rings?

Adam Rittenberg: It's funny, Tom, I was thinking a lot about Dayne and should have at least included him on the also-considered list. The Big Ten has produced so many great coaches, and the league's long history is what makes it unique. At the same time, it felt odd not to have any players from the last two decades, even though the Big Ten has fallen off a bit. The two recent players I considered were Dayne and Charles Woodson, and either guy would have been a good candidate for Rushmore.


Brian from Batavia, Ill., writes: Adam, Could we see Ray Small have a Terry Glenn like year, when he surprised everyone and won the Biletnikoff award? Ray Small has has had his fair share of trouble at Ohio State, but is small and speedy! What are the chances he breaks out and becomes a big play threat like he was made to be?

Adam Rittenberg: I guess it's possible, Brian, and Small certainly has excellent speed, as he showed on punt returns. He'll certainly play a bigger role this fall, but I see Ohio State's younger wide receivers, particularly DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher, becoming the featured guys in the offense. Small quietly ranked fourth on the team
in receptions with 18 last year, and it will be interesting to see how much more Ohio State throws the ball this fall. Terrelle Pryor obviously is further along as a runner than a passer, but without a clear-cut dominant running back, Ohio State might look to the air a lot more.

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