Big Ten mailblog

August, 9, 2011
Let's get to those emails.

Keep sending them in as we'll do this again Friday.

Mike from Raleigh, N.C., writes: I think the nine team conference schedule makes complete sense. As a Big Ten alum, I would much rather see another game against a Big Ten opponent than the garbage guaranteed win against a Div II opponent or yet another directional school in a smaller conference. Outside of a big payday for the other school, what's the point of another cheesy victory - a possible trip to a no name bowl? This game will NOT replace the best non conference game for the schools that are serious about a title game shot. Those schools (UM, OSU, Wis, Neb, MSU, IA, PSU) will keep one decent non conference game on the schedule. Two of the above and also Purdue will keep the Irish. The others have a history of playing one solid mid to top tier school out of conference. I think this makes for a much better schedule.

Adam Rittenberg: Mike, thanks for sharing your thoughts. You bring up a good point a lot of folks are missing about which game will go off of the schedule beginning in 2017. In many cases, teams will continue to play one premier nonconference game. Very few Big Ten teams play two premier non-league games per year in the current setup (four non-league games, eight league games). So, in many cases, the games that will go are the ones against lower-level FBS programs or against FCS programs. Athletic directors don't want to keep paying high guarantee fees to multiple teams every year. While the move to nine Big Ten games might discourage some schools from playing a second marquee non-league game, few schools are doing so anyway. And as you say, fans benefit from seeing more Big Ten teams each year.

Paul from Owatonna, Minn., writes: Stonum's punishment was the right call by Hoke? Give me a break. He doesnt get punished at all this way. He gets to use a redshirt to sit out the entire 2011 season and then come back in 2012 and not have to miss any games. Cowardly move by Hoke and it appears that both B1G schools in the state of Michigan will not be soft on disciplining their football players.

Adam Rittenberg: Paul, I'd say having to sit out a whole season counts as punishment. This type of redshirt is different than a freshman redshirting his first season. Stonum is a starter who will be missing games, even though he has a chance -- not a guarantee -- to return in 2012 if he avoids trouble. You can make a good case for Stonum to be dismissed after a second drunken driving offense, but I think Hoke's punishment is appropriate on the condition that any other misstep results in a dismissal.

Rudy from Cambridge, Mass., writes: Adam, I know you have documented well the abilities of Devon Still, but I still think that he is flying under the radar. This guy is an absolute moose (and as a New Englander, I should know) and really just played his first full season last year. I expect big things out of him and feel like he may be the best DT in the entire Big10. With PSU's biggest question mark on defense being its defensive ends, do you think that having someone so dominant in the middle (who commands double teams like Odrick a few years ago) will be able to spark some of Penn State's D-ends? Last year's pass rush was a joke so I hope this is the case.

Adam Rittenberg: Rudy, it's always good to hear from one of my former hometowns (lived in Cambridge from 1984-90). The expectations are high for Still, and they should be, especially after his dominant performance in the Outback Bowl (3.5 tackles for loss). My sense is Still would be generating more hype if the Big Ten wasn't so loaded at defensive tackle this year with players like Jared Crick, Mike Martin and Jerel Worthy. His credentials don't match up to Crick's, and Worthy is viewed as a bona fide NFL prospect. But I could see Still making major strides this year and contending for All-Big Ten honors. As you mention, he'll need a strong season because of the questions at defensive end.

Brad from Goose Creek, S.C., writes: If Russell Wilson is anything close to the player as he has been the past 3 years you guys have him way underrated. As an NC State alum and an ACC fan I acknowledge he played on a mediocre ACC team but he was the only play maker on that team and won games single handedly at times (see Miami 2009). This was on a team that didn't protect the QB that well and making him the primary running threat as well. He can make every throw needed in the college game, put him on a team like Wisconsin where he should have plenty of protection and he will pick teams apart. The only way to stop him is to get to him quickly but if they sell out to pressure him he beats you with his legs. I hated to see him go but think he made the right choice in Wisconsin. I'm not saying he's the best player in the Big 10 but at the least he will be top 10 ... certainly more of an impact than an OT from the Ohio State that is suspended for 5 games.

Adam Rittenberg: Brad, thanks for the perspective. You make an interesting point about Wilson thriving at NC State despite not getting the best protection from his offensive line. He shouldn't have that problem at Wisconsin. I know my colleague Heather Dinich really liked what Wilson brought to the field at NC State. While I think Wilson could climb the rankings by the end of the season, there are a lot of good players in front of him who have proven themselves in the Big Ten. Wilson still must adjust to a new system, to new personnel and to a league that has a lot of physical defensive players.

Alex from Kansas City, Mo., writes: So will we see alot of playing time this year for Aaron Green or does Pelini decide to let him sit?

Adam Rittenberg: Alex, I'm looking forward to talking with Huskers offensive coordinator Tim Beck about Green and the other backs. I know that both Beck and Pelini have a ton of confidence in Rex Burkhead, who has grasped the new system well and turned in a very nice sophomore season. Burkhead should be Nebraska's featured back, but there's not much proven depth behind him and a lot of talented young players coming in, including Green. Nebraska won't shy away from using multiple backs, so if Green backs up the hype in camp, he has an excellent chance to see time when the games begin.

Kevin from Sparkle City, S.C., writes: Adam, are you ready to move Marcus Coker up from 7th best back in B10 yet?? A man of your stature should have better insight!!

Adam Rittenberg: Ha, good one! But really, Kevin, you expect me to move Coker up the running back rankings based on what? Coaches and teammates saying he has impressed in practice? What would Allen Iverson say about that? Listen, Coker could be a superstar back for Iowa both this year and in the coming seasons. He has the size and the strength to be special. But I need to see more than a big night against an overrated Missouri defense in a bowl game. If Coker starts lighting up the likes of Michigan State and Nebraska, he'll be rewarded here.

Joe from Jericho, Vt., writes; With respect to remembering Bubba Smith, I spent the summer of 1967 in the chemistry department at Northwestern. Smith, and others preparing for the College All Star game, were practicing at NU. We frequently played touch football on the lakefront in the evenings, and there was Bubba, a massive guy in swim trunks, there watching us and cheering us on! He was delightful, friendly, and intimidating. I guess I'm getting old.

Adam Rittenberg: Joe, thanks for sharing this story. From reading the numerous tributes to Smith since his passing last week, you aren't the only one who holds him in high regard. He certainly will be missed, especially at Michigan State, where he became one of the most dominant players in Big Ten history.



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