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Big Ten mailblog

4/19/2011

I'll be compiling Friday's mailblog a little earlier than usual, so send me those questions and comments ASAP! Thanks for your continued participation.

Bryan from Kansas City, Mo., writes: Hey Adam, as a Nebraska fan I just recently started following your blog. Impressive! Thanks for all the coverage so far and for all your different vehicles to tell the stories. As a new Big 10 fan, I need to be made more aware of some of the gritty rivalries that are present, as well as which venues are some of the most daunting to play in. What would your top 3 "must see in person" matchups be for this upcoming season?

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks for reading, Bryan. Ohio State-Nebraska on Oct. 8 certainly jumps out to me. It has to be among the top five must-see games nationally entering the season, given the Big Ten/BCS implications and the return of Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel and the five suspended players, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Memorial Stadium will be electric that day/night. I'd also list the Nebraska-Wisconsin game on Oct. 1 in my must-see group. Although the Big Ten's primetime schedule hasn't been announced, it's a good bet the Huskers will play their first game as a Big Ten member under the lights. Camp Randall is awesome for night games. My third choice likely would be a nonconference game on Sept. 10: Alabama-Penn State or Notre Dame-Michigan (first night game at the Big House).


Matt from Farmington Hills, Mich., writes: Adam, If Rich Rod knew what the Michigan-Ohio State game really meant, he would not have fielded three of the worst defenses in Michigan history in embarrassing fashion each November. No toughness, poor tackling, lackluster effort. That is simply not Michigan's brand of football. THAT is why Michigan fans relentlessly insisted that Rodriguez just didn't get it. He created a kind of football foreign to the Wolverines and to the Great Rivalry.

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, you're not the only Michigan fan who feels this way. Rodriguez had won big with the spread offense and the 3-3-5 defense in the past, but it didn't work out for him at Michigan for a variety of reasons. His defenses displayed better fundamentals at West Virginia, and those units also had more experience. It's hard for coaches to go away from systems that have worked for them in the past, but Rodriguez could have been more flexible. Would things have turned out differently if Rodriguez had run a system similar to Greg Mattison's? Hard to tell. You need the players and you need coaches who can develop them. Rodriguez seemed to be lacking in both areas.


John from Norwalk, Iowa, writes: Hey Adam, do you think that there's any correlation between spring game performance and performance in the upcoming season? It makes you feel good about your team to read about how players stepped up in their respective spring games, but how often does that translate to on-field performance in the fall?

Adam Rittenberg: Great question, John. I know it's hard for fans because the spring game is usually all they see, but it's important to have perspective when judging a glorified scrimmage. I've seen too many players light it up in spring games and then do nothing on fall Saturdays. That's not to say a spring game performance like, say, Jamal Turner's at Nebraska doesn't suggest big things ahead, but it's important to see the spring games for what they are -- one of 15 spring practice sessions. I put a lot more stock in what coaches tell me about players' performances throughout spring ball.


Adam from Baltimore writes: Hey Adam, Question regarding Roushar's idea of trying to be more vertical with the passing game. I love the idea of them going deep, but the biggest problem I see is (especially after their first scrimmage) the QB needs a lot of time (3-4 secs) to wait for those receivers to get down field to really exploit that dimension and I worry that this new O-line is too young to give even a QB as good as Cousins enough time. I know the running game will also help that, but I just question how feasible this new plan really will be with such a young O-line.

Adam Rittenberg: You make an excellent point, Adam. Michigan State's offensive line has to be an area of concern with all the youth right now. The coaches feel there's more athleticism up front, but the line is really one area where you can't substitute for experience. I also wouldn't expect Dan Roushar to become Bobby Petrino overnight. Roushar knows the run game has to be a focal point, and I expect the Spartans to run the ball more this fall. You'll see some shots down the field, but more out of the play-action, which Kirk Cousins executes well.


David from Omaha writes: Adam, As a Nebraska fan im new to your blog and maybe its just the contrast with Ubben, but do you not hold weekly chats? They are one of the things I look forward tot hem most. Ubben used to hold his chat the same day of every week unless he needed to reschedule. And I say this with all due respect, but Ubben always made a point to communicate with his readers when the chat will be each week. Again, not wanting to offend as someone new to your chats, but I have yet to see any reference to your chats other than, here is today's chat. Id like to plan to read your chats as I have found ESPN buries them on the site the day after they happen. So my rather long-winded question is, do you hold a chat every week. And if so, when is said chat? A specific day or whenever you feel like it. I would be grateful If you would update us on when there will be chats and if there is any sort of schedule, formula or logic utilized in scheduling them. Thanks!

Adam Rittenberg: David, I'll chalk this up to you being new to the blog, as I typically list chat reminders every week on the day of the chat and also in the lunch links that day. Although the schedule has been a little crazy lately because of my vacation and my spring trips, the Big Ten chats take place every Wednesday at noon ET (1 p.m. CT). We might change the time during the season, but for now, plan to join me then. I'll post a reminder Wednesday morning.


Josh from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Adam, this is a fairly specific question but hopefully you can lend your insight. Even with Marcus Coker's outstanding performance last year in the Iowa's bowl game, the Hawks will not feature a lot of proven-depth at the RB position. Even with veterans like Marvin McNutt on the team other guys are going to have to step up. Which Iowa offensive players do you think will grab this opportunity. Keenan Davis was the first that crossed my mind, a big receiver with good hands who has worked under some of the best receivers Iowa has seen. Your thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Davis definitely comes to mind for me, too. He had a good spring by most accounts and looked very good in Iowa's spring scrimmage Saturday. It's important Davis takes hold of that No. 2 wideout spot. I also look at the tight ends, Brad Herman and C.J. Fiedorowicz, to play bigger roles in the offense. Herman has worked behind several NFL tight ends at Iowa, and Fiedorowicz boasts the physical gifts to really be special. One of the big keys is who steps up behind Coker. Will it be Jason White or De'Andre Johnson or an incoming freshman? You typically need at least two backs in the Big Ten.


Jeff from Lorain, Ohio, writes: Does Hoke know that meeechigan plays Ohio State and not Ohio Univ. at the end of the season? Can he be that stupid?

Adam Rittenberg: I think Hoke knows exactly what he's doing, Jeff. And from the looks of my inbox, he has tweaked quite a few Buckeyes fans with his "Ohio" references. It's all by design.


Oliver from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Adam, would the Ohio State coaching staff being doing a disservice to the team if they didn't put the best candidate/player at quarterback during the five-game suspension that gives the team the best chance for success? This means putting someone at QB which would create a simple transition to Terrelle Pryor in Game 6. Thanks.

Adam Rittenberg: Yes, the staff would be doing a disservice by not playing the best player. I don't see why they wouldn't in this situation. I'm guessing you think a guy like Kenny Guiton or Braxton Miller would create the easiest transition to Pryor because of their mobility in the pocket. Joe Bauserman moves around better than people think, though, and he has operated in this system for several years. I guess I'm not as concerned about having a similar quarterback to Pryor. The bigger question is how Pryor responds to his first game situation, a very difficult one in Lincoln.