Big Ten Friday mailblog

December, 2, 2011
12/02/11
4:00
PM ET
Championship game around the corner. Let's do this.

Alden from Chicago writes: Adam, Do you see potential for a budding rivalry between Michigan State and Wisconsin? As a huge Michigan State fan, I'm starting to feel it a bit. I see it possibly as a third obviously behind Michigan and Notre Dame. But perhaps it'd be more from Wisconsin fans at this point. Things are kind of building between the programs and we've clashed on several occasions. In recent history: Michigan State beats Wisconsin in 2010, but Wisconsin finishes ahead of Michigan State in the BCS and steals the Rose Bowl berth. Michigan State beats Wisconsin on a game ending (rocket) pass for a touchdown. Now, the rematch game in the first B1G Championship, and if this is as tough and close a game as we all expect, I can see some real animosity between the schools over it. If Michigan State loses and falls all the way down to the Outback bowl, I'll hate Wisconsin for beating us just as much as I'll hate Michigan for getting a BCS spot ahead of us. If Michigan State wins, I would expect them to hate us for stealing what was supposed to be their special season. Especially after Russell Wilson was draft... I mean, went to Wisconsin after his time at NC State. Countning down the hours to kickoff!!!

Adam Rittenberg: Bring it, Alden! Love the new rivalries that are building in the Big Ten, and Wisconsin-Michigan State certainly fits into the category. Michigan State always will hate Michigan, and Notre Dame is a great rivalry, but to have another true rival within the Big Ten would benefit the Spartans, who won't ever be Michigan's No. 1 rival. Wisconsin, meanwhile, has the rivalry with Minnesota, but the Gophers' struggles have taken the edge off of the game in my view. The Badgers have a more competitive rivalry with Iowa, but Michigan State certainly has to be rising to that level after the close games between Mark Dantonio and Bret Bielema.

Dan from Omaha writes: Can you imagine Bo Pelini and Mike Stoops on the same sideline?!? Refs will be bringing earplugs to every game! In all seriousness, I like the idea of Stoops, but if not him, who else would you potentially see filling this position?

Adam Rittenberg: It would be rather awesome, Dan. Most intense sideline in America, at least when the defense is on the field. Bo should make a play for Stoops, but it will be interesting to see who else he pursues to fill his big brother's shoes. Would Pelini try to get Mike Ekeler back? Ekeler left for a co-coordinator post at Indiana, and the Hoosiers' defense really struggled this year (110th nationally), but he did a nice job as a position coach with the Huskers and seems like a coach on the rise. There also could be some very good defensive coaches available from Penn State (Tom Bradley, Larry Johnson, Ron Vanderlinden) or Ohio State (Jim Heacock).

A-Duke from Waterloo, Wis., writes: Based on what metrics is Trent Richardson having a better year than Montee Ball?

Adam Rittenberg: Really none, Duke. Richardson's receiving numbers are a bit better than Ball's. But the eye test comes into play when voters are evaluating both backs, and Richardson plays in a league viewed as better than the Big Ten. His performance against LSU, even in a losing effort, strengthened his case immensely for the Heisman. But it would be a travesty if Ball didn't at least get an invitation to New York. He'll be on my Heisman ballot. Where he is depends a lot on how he performs Saturday night.

David from Wilmette, Ill., writes: Adam, with the bowl selection coming up shouldn't the NCAA rule on the OSU sanctions before the selections so that if they do a bowl ban for this year it will not mess up the fans travel plans as well as negativity impact the Bowl the Buckeyes are chosen to? If they do not rule until after is that a sign of no bowl ban?

Adam Rittenberg: Good question, David. With the process taking so long, it appears any bowl ban handed down would apply to future seasons rather than this one. Ohio State has said all along it doesn't expect a bowl ban, but you can bet the Buckeyes would rather accept one for this year than in future seasons. I can't imagine the NCAA would hand down a bowl ban for this season after Sunday's selections for the reasons you outline.

John from Pasadena, Md., writes: I thought only 2 teams from any one conference can be eligible to play in BCS bowl games? If Georgia beats LSU, they win the automatic berth from the SEC. How could Alabama and LSU still play for a national title in this case?

Adam Rittenberg: John, first of all, I didn't know there was a Pasadena in Maryland. Think I'd rather spend New Year's Day at the other one, but thanks for your note. Here's the deal: if LSU and Alabama finish 1-2 in the final BCS standings, no matter what LSU does Saturday, those two teams go to the title game. Georgia would gain the SEC's automatic berth to the Sugar Bowl, but LSU and Alabama would head to the championship if they're 1-2 in the BCS standings.

Jason from Dallas writes: Illinois, Texas A&M, Ohio State and others have realized that 6-6 is not acceptable (despite bowl bids) and have fired their coaches. Any chance Purdue does the right thing and fires Danny Hope and goes after Purdue Alumn Kevin Sumlin? Purdue at 6-6, not having beat anyone with a winning record, should not be acceptable either, even if they get to go to a bowl.

Adam Rittenberg: Jason, I'm stunned you're writing to me rather than gearing up to see the Boilers play in your home city, as they're looking likely for the TicketCity Bowl. Listen, I understand your frustration about Hope, and you're not alone. But the team did take a step forward this year, albeit a small step, and became bowl eligible for the first time since 2007. This is a team that also lost its starting quarterback (Rob Henry) weeks before the opener. Purdue fans should expect more and Hope will need to produce next year, but this isn't the time to make a change. Hope has had no luck on the injury front and has only been in this position for three seasons. As for Sumlin, while he's an alum, I'd be surprised if he chose Purdue over some of the other options he'll have.

Jim from Cape Giradeau, Mo., writes: Adam, I can't believe that coverage of Saturday's game hasn't included one of the most obvious storylines -- Keshawn Martin is kryptonite to the Badgers. Jet sweep/double reverse -- touchdown; drag route over the middle -- touchdown; punt return -- touchdown; 85 yard pass -- touchdown. Maybe you could correct me if I missed a few. I expect the national media to be unawares, but I thought you would have been all over this. Please comment.

Adam Rittenberg: Jim, I touched on this a bit with discussing how Wisconsin has to avoid a special teams breakdown (citing Martin's TD return from last year), but you bring up a great point about how much No. 82 has tormented the Badgers. He's one of the fastest and most dangerous offensive weapons in the Big Ten, and Wisconsin has to make sure Martin doesn't enter the open field. Almost impossible to catch him. Wisconsin ranks 58th nationally in punt return yards defense (7.63 ypr).

Herky from Kansas City, Mo., writes: Adam, If you take out the 2009 season which appears to be a flash in the pan, Kirk Ferentz is a very average 36-27 overall. If you take into a consideration a generally fluffy non-conference schedule each year, then I'm sure he's closer to .500 in the last 6 years or so. Before Urban Meyer joined the league, Kirk was the highest paid coach in the B1G. Is his seat getting warmer and warmer by the year? As a Hawks fan I love Kirk as a coach, but I also love being nationally relevant and beating teams that we should beat. Is Kirk's Iowa career winding down or is he safe for awhile given the amount of support he has from Hawkeye faithful? Can he get us over the hump to be a B1G contender every year?

Adam Rittenberg: Herky, you're overlooking the stretch from 2002-04, when Ferentz's Iowa's teams averaged 10.3 wins. But I totally see your point, and you're not the only Iowa fan who feels this way. A lot of people struggle to see why Iowa pays its coach like a top 10 program but doesn't get the top 10 results on the field that often. I've supported Ferentz and his salary, as I think Iowa could become like Washington State (Mike Price) or North Carolina (Mack Brown) if it doesn't pay its coach top dollar. But Iowa fans also deserve more 9- or 10-win seasons than they're getting. Does Ferentz wield too much power at that university? Probably. Has he upgraded the program? Without a doubt. But there should be more pressure to produce because a lot of coaches could win 6-8 games a year at Iowa for less money.

Adam from Atlanta writes: Hey Adam,Quick question PSU stated they want the next coach to be a man of integrity...how about Mike Sherman? He turned A&M around and had a top 10 recruiting class coming in...plus he has some ties to the Midwest coaching in Green Bay.

Adam Rittenberg: Sherman hasn't coached college football in the Midwest for a very long time -- he was a GA at Pitt and also coached at Holy Cross. No direct ties to Penn State. I wasn't very excited when Texas A&M hired Sherman, and while I agree with others that he got a raw deal in College Station, his team really didn't impress this season after all the hype. He certainly is an accomplished coach, but I don't see this happening. We'll see.

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