Big Ten mailblog

September, 13, 2011
9/13/11
1:15
PM ET
Let's do this.

Pastor Mac from Sussex, N.J., writes: All I've been hearing is Texas A & M's desire to join the SEC and how Baylor is holding the Aggies hostage. Seems the Pac-12 is getting whispered as a location for some of the Big 12 if the Big 12 does indeed blow up. That's the steady refrain. What absolutely baffles me is there has been zip, zero, nada about the Big 10 in all this. Not a peep in any news story that I've seen that the Big 10 might be a destination. Why wouldn't the Big 10 be interested in Texas, OU, or OK State? Surely Nebraska could be of some influence? Why should they flee to the Pac-12? Please, say something on this.

Adam Rittenberg: Mike, just because it's quiet on the Big Ten front doesn't mean the league has no activity on this matter. The problem for the Big Ten -- and potentially the Pac-12 -- is that some if not all of its presidents wouldn't want to add Oklahoma State. Even Oklahoma could be a tough sell academically (not athletically). Although the Pac-12 has a wider variety of academic institutions than the Big Ten, several of its presidents aren't wild about OU and Oklahoma State. The Big Ten would love to add Texas and Notre Dame, but both those schools bring some potential problems because of their TV agreements. Is it worth the Big Ten restructuring its successful revenue-sharing model to add big fish like the Longhorns and Irish? That's a question commissioner Jim Delany and others have to be asking themselves right now.


Sam from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Brian:"If you want my honest answer, you should be happy to have Kirk Ferentz. This is Iowa football. It's not Alabama or Texas or even Ohio State. He's an excellent coach who's well respected by just about everybody. Be careful what you wish for."Adam or Brian, I really don't understand it and hope one of you will explain it to me. Why are expectations for Iowa as a program so low compared to the likes of Wisconsin or Michigan State. It seems like over the last few years, Wisconsin and Michigan State have been on the upswing and have been actively trying to take their programs to the next level. At the same time, Iowa has not shown much consistency from season to season and is expected to choke when expectations are high. And yet, we're constantly told we should be thankful for Kirk Ferentz, who himself has stated Iowa isn't going to the next level.Again I ask, why? Why is Iowa stuck when other middling programs in the Big Ten are not stuck?

Adam Rittenberg: Sam, you bring up a really good point. Although I've been a big advocate of Ferentz's and think Iowa has done the right thing by paying a good coach big bucks, investing in the coach is only part of the key to raising your profile. Iowa's upcoming facilities upgrade is overdue and will provide a nice boost. Michigan State has a beautiful new facility, and Wisconsin is doing an overdue facility upgrade of its own. I don't think Michigan State is at Iowa's level, but the Spartans benefit from being in a better state for recruiting and close enough to a major metropolitan area (Detroit). Wisconsin also benefits from its location -- Madison might be the nation's best college town -- and has been winning at a fairly high level for most of the past two decades. Still, I think Wisconsin and Iowa are pretty comparable.

I do think Iowa would benefit from a more open and aggressive approach to promoting its football program. Sure, Iowa football is a big deal within the state, but it's not on the regional or national radar as much as Wisconsin's. Bret Bielema understands the importance of getting his program in the national media spotlight. Iowa is much more buttoned-up in its approach, which hurts when you're not winning 10 or 11 games.


Timmy from Chicago writes: Adam, I hope you are enjoying this season now that you only have to do half the work. I was wondering what is up with NW's Jeremy Ebert? He was supposed to be one of the tops WR's in the Big 10 this year, and after a mediocre-at-best opening game, he was stat-less in last weeks game. Is he hurt, or is it because Dan Persa is out that they can't seem to get him the ball?

Adam Rittenberg: Ebert's production decline can be tied to two factors: Dan Persa's absence and Northwestern's insistence on establishing the run early this season. I reviewed the Wildcats' game against Eastern Illinois and I haven't seen Northwestern use so many run-heavy formations (pistol with two or three players in the backfield) in quite some time. Quarterback Kain Colter clearly is a terrific runner, but Northwestern didn't seem too interested in passing the ball against EIU. If Persa were healthy, Ebert would be racking up big numbers. While Colter has performed well, he needs to start using his weapons a little more at wide receiver, particularly No. 11.


Justin from San Francisco writes: Hey Adam, Husker fan here, been loving the B1G blog. Anyway, my Huskers squeaked out a win against Fresno St. But let's be honest, the Bulldogs play inspired against BCS foes every year. The Huskers have a missing DB (Dennard), are still nurturing their new offensive scheme, not to mention the underclassmen! We always hear arguments when other teams struggle or lose early in the season about working out the kinks and "(team) isnt the same football club that we saw in september," why is everyone so quick to sell the huskers when other B1G teams havent played anyone either (Wisconsin, Michigan st)? Is it simply a perception based on consistency or lack thereof? What gives? Thanks Adam!

Adam Rittenberg: Justin, you're right that a certain amount of credit needs to be given to Fresno State, although the program isn't the giant killer it was in the early to middle part of the past decade. The ups and downs on offense were to be expected, but Nebraska's defense should perform a lot better than it did Saturday night, even without Alfonzo Dennard. Jared Crick and others have repeatedly oozed confidence about the Blackshirts' potential, and for good reason. But Fresno found too many gaps in Nebraska's defense. If things don't get shored up by Oct. 1, Wisconsin will put up a lot of points with one of the nation's best offenses. No one should be selling the Huskers so early in the season, as they remain an extremely talented team, but the defense must improve.


Brett from Conshohocken, Pa., writes: Adam,I was tailgating after our loss against Alabama at my family's RV this weekend, when I heard something that struck a chord. My grandfather, a fervent Joe Paterno supporter who is also six years his junior, said he needs to retire. If it were just a fellow 20-something I heard utter those words, I would think nothing of it. There is no doubt that Joe Paterno has done more for Penn State University than any one person in the history of the institution. I owe much of the incredible undergraduate experience I had to the 84-year old man who has roamed our sidelines for nearly half a century as the head man. But as the mystique of a forever proud football program erodes, there is an undeniable sense of tension within the fan base. How much longer can the unquestionable loyalty we owe to JoePa stand in the way of the excellence we expect on the field? Speaking with many Alabama fans this weekend, it was almost as if they sensed the beginning of an ugly end as much as we've been fearing it for the better part of the last decade.

Adam Rittenberg: Brett, thanks for sharing your story, and I'm sure you're not the only conflicted Penn State fan out there. Listen, all Penn State fans want to see the program return to elite status, and they also have incredible loyalty toward Paterno. No one wants to see an ugly end for one of college football's all-time greatest figures. But the inability to beat top-5 opponents for more than a decade is unsettling. Sure, Penn State can go 8-4 or 9-3 with the current setup. If the schedule is really soft, like in 2009, the Lions can win 10 or 11 games. But is that enough? All I know is that walking around Beaver Stadium on Saturday, I see a program that deserves to be elite. I see incredible fan support, incredible student support and top-of-the-line facilities. Sure, the location is a bit challenging, but Penn State can recruit well and be a national power again. The mystique you mention certainly surrounds Paterno, but it no longer surrounds the program year to year. Can Penn State regain the mystique with Paterno in place? I've learned better than to doubt JoePa, but something needs to shift.


Jon from New York writes: Adam,I'm a big time fan and recent Alum of Wisconsin, do you think there will be an undefeated team in the big 10 this year? With the tough road schedules for Nebraska (@Wisconsin), Wisconsin (@Michigan State), and Michigan State (@Ohio State, @Nebraska) I dont think any of these teams can make it through their schedule without a 1 in the loss columnn. Whats your opinion, if someone could do it, who would it be?

Adam Rittenberg: Jon, I don't think a Big Ten team will run the table this year, and the schedules you list are big reasons why. Of the teams you mention, Wisconsin has the best chance to go undefeated, but back-to-back road games at night against Michigan State and Ohio State won't be easy. Also, the Badgers aren't overly deep in the secondary and at wide receiver, and if anything happens to quarterback Russell Wilson, things could get ugly. I think we could see several 10-win teams in the Big Ten, but I don't see any squad running the table.

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