<
>

Big Ten Friday mailblog

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

I'm a lot like The Most Interesting Man in the World. If I disagree with you, it is because you are wrong.

Kurt from Chesapeake, Va., writes: Adam, As you are talking bowl tie-ins I got to thinking. One of the reasons that the Big Ten has such a bad record in bowl games is because there have been 2 teams in BCS games. Because of this, the rest of the Big Ten has been "bumped up" in the slotting. Take last year for example. If Ohio State would have not been a BCS team, they would have taken Michigan States place and probably beat Georgia. Michigan State would have then played in Iowa's place and beat South Carolina. And so on. Is the Big Ten looking at this senario when making new bowl tie in agreements?

Adam Rittenberg: You're absolutely spot on, Kurt. While the Big Ten must perform better in BCS games, the league's overall bowl record would be much better if each team moved down a slot and there was only one BCS selection. No league plays as challenging a bowl lineup as the Big Ten, especially when you factor in the geography. That said, I don't think the Big Ten will ever scream, "Please don't take two of our teams for BCS bowls!" The revenue and exposure is way too appealing to pass up. But as far as the proposed lineup, it does give the Big Ten another manageable matchup on Jan. 1 in the Gator Bowl. The Big Ten still will be "playing up" against the ACC in Jacksonville, but I doubt there'll be a major difference between those teams.


Brett from Scranton, Pa., writes: Adam,Great job on the blog, I've been reading up on the stuff you've posted about Northwestern and had a couple questions for you about them. They have always given my alma mater (PSU) trouble and also have a similar recent history with Iowa. Playing those schools consecutively might not be helpful, but not having Ohio State on the schedule could do wonders for them. Do you think Northwestern has a chance of playing two major Big11Ten games in a row against PSU and Iowa late in the season? Their non-conference is about as friendly as PSU's so I could see them making it to October 31st unscathed or with only one loss. It's always hard to tell which Northwestern you're going to get, but I could see it happening. Looking past Northwestern seems like it would be a bad idea for anyone in the league this year, thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Brett. Northwestern has some issues to work out on offense at both running back and wide receiver, but the defense carried the team last year and figures to do so again. A hot start is certainly possible, and the Penn State game could really turn into a bigger deal than many people think. Critical early games for Northwestern are Minnesota (home) and Purdue (road). The Penn State-Iowa-Illinois stretch is undoubtedly Northwestern's toughest of the season, and the Wildcats would be thrilled to go 2-1 there. Penn State isn't the same team away from Happy Valley, but Northwestern could have a hard time running the ball against the Lions. A lot of people are waiting to see if Northwestern can reload at the offensive skill spots, but I would agree that looking past the Wildcats would be a mistake.


Caleb from Salida, Colo., writes: Adam, I'm getting way, way ahead of myself, but looking at the current Big Ten quarterbacks I was wondering what you think about where they might be drafted. While not indicative of success, it is kind of embarrassing that the last Big Ten quarterback drafted in the first round was Kerry Collins in 1995. Drew Brees and Tom Brady have both found great success getting picked after round one. My money would be on Terrell Pryor breaking this drought, or Ricky Stanzi IF he develops into a consistent playmaker. What say you?

Adam Rittenberg: Wow, has it been that long? I'll have to check, but that's quite a drought and a sad commentary on Big Ten QBs the last 15 years. Pryor certainly has the potential to be a high pick, but he's got to continue to make progress as a passer. His mechanics and footwork were messy at times last fall, but he looked a lot better this spring. Interesting that you bring up Stanzi because I think he could end up being a solid pro quarterback. He's got the right mental makeup and the right body type. He's nowhere near the level of a high draft pick now, but from talking with people around the league, he's got potential.


Ryan from Washington writes: I noticed that Sean Lee was left off of your first team defense? Is it because of the uncertainty of whether he's retained his top-level playing ability that is keeping him off the list? Or are you planning to do a second team listing for players like him and others who are just as talented yet competing with the depth of other players in their positions?

Adam Rittenberg: You got it, Ryan. If Sean returns to the form he showed in 2007, he'll definitely make the All-Big Ten team when it counts -- in late November. But all three linebackers I selected had tremendous seasons last year and figure to only get better, so they deserved it more. There won't be a second list, but I think Lee will have a nice season.


Gray from Bloomington, Ind., writes: i bet you $1000 dollars with 3 to 1 odds that IU makes a bowl this year.

Adam Rittenberg: You must be a very wealthy man, Gray. I'll let you keep your money. In this economy, it's probably a good idea for all of us.