Big Ten Friday mailblog

August, 19, 2011
8/19/11
3:30
PM ET
Enjoy one of the last non-football weekends.

Derek from Syracuse, N.Y., writes: Adam,I appreciate your Anti-Penn State antics, just makes the trend of '05 and '08 all the more likely to be fulfilled based on their history of non favoritism. I understand your unrest with some units of Penn State but to say another 7 win season is in the works is extremely brazen. Many of the the points made in your "Over/under" were offense related but you don't give the defense any credit when it is chop full of returning experience and we all know that especially in the Big Ten defense makes games. Even if there initially are some hiccups in the Offense the D should hold out until they can build momentum, i need to ask where is the love??

Adam Rittenberg: Derek, I really like what Penn State has coming back in the secondary and at linebacker. The defensive line, though, concerns me as Penn State has little proven depth at end. Larry Johnson typically produces excellent D-lines, but the group took a step back last year and Pete Massaro's injury this spring really stings. Devon Still should have a huge season inside, but Penn State must generate a pass rush from somewhere. They always say it starts up front, and if Penn State doesn't shore up that group, the linebackers and defensive backs will be taxed.


Phil from Winchester, Va., writes: With Tressel gone, who will be calling the plays on offense for the Buckeyes and will we see much difference in the playcalling? Tressel was not the most inovative playcaller. I expect the offense to rely on the running game, but the versatility of players like Jordan Hall and Jake Stoneburner could allow the offense to not be so vanilla.Thanks in advance for the respons

Adam Rittenberg: Phil, offensive coordinator Jim Bollman will be the primary playcaller, although I would think he'll get input from the other offensive assistants. Luke Fickell has made it clear he'll stay out of the way, unlike Tressel did. I definitely agree this will be a run-based offense, and I'm very interested to see how Ohio State will utilize its different running backs, especially a guy like Jordan Hall who can catch the ball out of the backfield. Jake Stoneburner is another good name to bring up. He looks like he could be a difference-maker, but will Ohio State truly feature a tight end in the offense? Need to see it to believe it.


Josh from Springdale, Ark., writes: How come so many so called experts aren't talking about Persa and Northwestern? Persa is like a Stanzi when he plays they win. I think they are a very underated team.

Adam Rittenberg: Josh, I think Dan Persa is getting a decent amount of national hype, especially after Northwestern launched the PersaStrong Heisman Trophy campaign for him. But few people are talking about Northwestern as a division title contender because of its defensive woes late last season and the questions about Persa's health following a long rehab from Achilles surgery. The Wildcats certainly can make some noise in the Legends division if their defense tightens up and Persa utilizes his many weapons to attack the opposition. While Ricky Stanzi and Persa are very different players, they both inspire a ton of confidence in their teammates.


Dave S. from Pittsburgh writes: I highly disagree with you about Pryor. He did agree to come back to Ohio Sate, this is true. When Tressel resigned, Pryor withdrew. He was in good status academically and was eligible to play after his suspension ended. Generally, players enter the supplemental draft because of academics, dismissal from the team or early graduation. Pryor left Ohio State because he, "didn't want to be a distraction." Him withdrawing from Ohio State did not make him eligible for the supplemental draft.His lawyers pursued Ohio State to effectively ban him from Ohio State athletics and recruits. They did not ban him from the university, itself. This in turn made him eligible for the draft. The NFL has to approve his eligibility, also. I think a dangerous path to the NFL has been created. I have issues with players being able to create there own ineligibility and be rewarded for it. The rules for this draft were not meant for the path he took.

Adam Rittenberg: Dave, thanks for the note, but you're leaving out an important point. The NCAA launched a separate investigation into Pryor, his use of cars while at Ohio State and other issues late this spring. That investigation eventually led to two things: Pryor reportedly mentioning cash he received from Ted Sarniak (a claim Ohio State has denied) and Pryor eventually not cooperating with NCAA investigators. That's what led to his status change with the football team. While he could have returned to school, he would have been ineligible for the entire 2011 season. It's certainly a unique case, but when the NFL talks about a status change for players entering the supplemental draft, Pryor seemed to meet the requirement.


Brian from Waterloo, Iowa, writes: Why didn't you press the AD's harder about the 9 game schedule eliminating the better non-conference match-ups? Assuming that playing another BCS team requires a home and away, and ignoring neutral site games, it's mathematically impossible to play multiple non-con BCS teams and have 7 home games every year. Having a protected game means you would need to pay 2 others to visit your stadium EVERY year. Seems like the same system we have now. You and many others have pointed this out. It's about time someone got straight answer from these guys.

Adam Rittenberg: Brian, I did ask the ADs about this topic, and their response was that the games against FCS schools or lower-level FBS schools were more likely to go away than games against other major-conference programs. You're absolutely right about it being much like the system we have now, as teams will play one marquee non-league game and several fairly cushy home games. So if the system isn't going to change with nine league games, I don't know what you're expecting the ADs to say. Even if the Big Ten kept eight league games, you wouldn't see many teams playing multiple premier nonconference games in the same season. There's too much risk, even though we'd all love to see more of these contests.


Jason from State College, Pa., writes: You're darn right Penn State fans are going to kill because you don't know what you are talking about. The line issues you speak of are imaginary. The D-line will be top three. The O-line is top two. Without Green, they merely tie with Sparty for the best collection of backs in the Big Ten. They have the best receivers in the league to with the top Linebacking corps and secondary. No Adam, the correct choice is the over. A realistic worse case scenario is 9 and 3 and they are the only Big Ten capable of running the table though they will like drop two games. Simply put, when Penn State is good, and they will be, Wisconsin cannot beat them home or away. They are schematically disadvantaged and far too slow.

Adam Rittenberg: Jason, please pass the Kool-Aid, my friend. Defensive line top 3? Have you looked around the conference? While the offensive line certainly could improve, most impartial fans would take Wisconsin's line, Iowa's line or Ohio State's line in a nanosecond. We'll see about the running backs, although I like the combination of Silas Redd (speed, moves) and Brandon Beachum (power). The thing you're totally ignoring is the schedule. Penn State has four games -- Alabama, Nebraska, at Ohio State, at Wisconsin -- where it likely will be an underdog. Along with several other toss-up games, including Lion killer Iowa, a 7-5 record isn't out of the question. While eight or nine wins wouldn't shock me, and Penn State will be a better team, a broader perspective is needed here.


Kurt from Traverse City, Mich., writes: Hi Adam, with 19 returning starters at Michigan, league MVP in Denard, and a defense that brings back a healthy Woolfolk, JT Floyd, Mike Martin, and more depth, experience and much better defensive oriented coaching in Hoke and Mattison, isn't Michigan capable of wiinning the Big Ten this year?

Adam Rittenberg: Kurt, if things fall right, Michigan could win a crowded Legends division. But a lot of issues would have to be resolved. I'm not sold on Michigan's defensive depth and worry about what happens to that line if Mike Martin misses any extended time. Just having defensive-oriented coaches doesn't mean you're automatically going to have a much better defense, especially in Year 1. The back seven on defense still has a ton to prove. But if Michigan builds some early confidence, Denard Robinson settles into the offense and the defense gets some good health and some good fortune, the Wolverines could surprise people.

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