Big Ten Friday mailblog

February, 17, 2012
2/17/12
4:30
PM ET
Hoping everyone has a great weekend. The blog will be dark Monday for the holiday, but I'll be back at it bright and early Tuesday morning.

Onto your emails ...

Nick from Omaha writes: Adam, love the blog. I was just thinking: Everyone's asking what will happen to the Rose Bowl if a playoff system comes along. Well in the playoff system, there probably wouldn't be any important bowls so that would mean the end of the Rose Bowl. Well what if the Rose Bowl becomes a championship game of sorts for the B1G-Pac-12 and is played before the playoffs, or maybe as a way to get an automatic seed into an 8-team playoff? That would preserve the Rose Bowl and it would add greater importance to the season and partnership between the conferences. Whats your take?

Adam Rittenberg: Nick, it's an interesting idea. Your model would extend the season well into January, because the Rose Bowl isn't going to move from its traditional Jan. 1 date. In your model, we'd be seeing games at least two weeks into January and possibly three weeks in. Can't see the university presidents going for it, but you never know. Also, if the Rose Bowl determines an automatic bid to the playoffs, would there still be opportunities for other Big Ten and Pac-12 teams to make it. I don't think those two leagues want only one representative between the two of them in an eight-team playoff. I think it's more likely we see the Rose Bowl either incorporated into the playoff structure or exist independently of the playoff but take place around the same time. I think the time window we're looking at for all of this is between Dec. 20-Jan. 10.


Mark from Wooster, Ohio, writes: Thanks for answering my question but it just raises more questions. You write "While it's possible an undefeated Big Ten team could be left out, history shows it's highly unlikely. 'Bennett writes "Wisconsin makes three more plays last year it goes undefeated" So are you suggesting if the Badgers did not lose those two close games. They would have gone to the National Championship? It is my humble opinion In addition to making those close loses into wins, they would have needed some Quality wins outside the conference. What am I missing here?

Adam Rittenberg: That's exactly what I'm saying, Mark. Wisconsin would have been one of two FBS unbeaten teams (along with LSU) had it won at both Michigan State and at Ohio State, and captured the Big Ten championship game. Your national title game would have been Wisconsin-LSU in New Orleans. As I mentioned to you in my previous note, strength of schedule matters when you're comparing major-conference teams with the exact same record, not major-conference teams with different records. In many cases, we're comparing several 1-loss teams. In that case, Wisconsin's weaker strength of schedule would have hurt. But if Wisconsin and LSU were the only two unbeaten squads on the board, they would meet in the title game. Plus, Wisconsin would have had two more road wins (Michigan State and Ohio State), which would have helped the Badgers with the BCS computers.


Brian from Newmarket, United Kingdom, writes: Great column, helps me keep up with the Big Ten while I am overseas. My question is do you think the TCU drug scandal is actually a bigger issue than what happened at Penn State? TCU involved many football players and for all we know it could get bigger. Penn State's issue was with a retired coach, a head coach that the legal system considered innocent and some University officials (not football specific). I understand the crime at Penn State is worse but in regards to the football program which is bigger?

Adam Rittenberg: Brian, I see what you're getting at, and I guess in terms of the coming season, the TCU situation could have a bigger impact. The Frogs could be without several key players as they transition to a new conference (Big 12). There also will be further investigation into how rampant the drug problems were in the program. But in the greater picture, the Penn State scandal was a much bigger issue in virtually every way. The alleged crimes are much worse, as you point out. The scandal also led to a historic head-coaching change and the resignation of an athletic director. It negatively impacted a recruiting class and could have an impact in future recruiting. It has prompted the potential -- not the guarantee, but the possibility -- of sanctions from both the NCAA and the Big Ten. You're right in that the Penn State scandal might not impact the current roster in the way the TCU situation might, but in every other way the situation in State College is worse.


Travis from Omaha writes: I think you put way to much stock into divisional competition. Having followed Nebraska throught he Big12, I can't tell you how many times a cross division loss (Texas or OU) forced a tie breaker. The ONLY reason divisional compeition matters is for the tie breaker itself. Otherwise, it really doesn't mean anything. So lets say Nebraskas sweeps their division, but loses to Penn St. and another cross division team, Wisconsin. That's pretty easy to do, and sweeping your divisions doens't really mean anything because its the team with the best overall CONFERENCE record that wins the division. Michigan's could only lose one game to Nebraska, and beat everyone else on their schedule, but could be in the title game. I would say, look at Kansas's 2007 orange bowl run to see how important cross division games are. The onyl year they don't play OU or Texas, BAM! Orange bowl. Now, that doesn't mean cross division games are more imporant. It just means that a conference loss is a conference loss and division's don't mean anything until a tie breaker is needed.

Adam Rittenberg: Travis, thanks for sharing your perspective, especially as someone who has followed division play for a number of years. While you're right about a lot of this, I would point out that the Big 12 divisional alignment was structured a bit differently than the Big Ten seemingly will be. You had by far the two most dominant programs -- Texas and Oklahoma -- in the same division (South), and as a result you usually had the South division being much stronger than the North. So the North division teams that didn't play Texas and OU -- like Kansas -- had a much easier path, increasing the significance of cross-division games.

The Big Ten, meanwhile, seems to have greater balance in its division alignment than the Big 12. While you're right that all Big Ten games matter, there's still an added significance for division games. Look at Michigan and Ohio State, for example. While both fan bases want that win more than any other on the schedule, a Michigan win against Ohio State often might not be as significant as a Michigan win against Nebraska. Or if Ohio State has to lose one game in league play, it's probably better to lose to Michigan than Wisconsin, which is in the same division.

Let's also look at your favorite team, Nebraska, in 2011. The Huskers actually handled themselves well in tough cross-division matchups, going 2-1 against Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Nebraska also scored a big Legends division win against Michigan State. But it was the division losses -- Northwestern and Michigan -- that doomed Big Red in its quest for a Big Ten title.

Every conference game matters, but I do think that the Big Ten having pretty good balance in its division alignment (maybe not in 2012, but in most years) adds significance to the division games.


Michael from New York writes: For next year at least, isn't Ted Roof under a lot more pressure that O'Brien? He replaces a very successful coordinator who most fans feel got a raw deal. He is also inherriting plenty of talent.

Adam Rittenberg: I think both men are under some pressure, Michael, but you make an excellent point about Roof. His hiring was greeted with a lot of skepticism by Penn State fans, mainly because of how things ended at Auburn. Penn State has historically been very strong on defense, and Tom Bradley was one of the better coordinators in the country. Any sort of step back under Roof would cause some grumbling, especially if it's related to the scheme. Roof did retain two excellent defensive assistants in line coach Larry Johnson and linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden, and I like the John Butler hire from South Carolina. But Penn State likely will need to be a defense-driven team, and there's a lot of talent coming back, particularly at linebacker. It's important for Roof to keep the unit performing at a high level.


Chris from Bloomington, Ind., writes: What do you think the chances are of the B1G making similar arrangements with other conferences as they have with the Pac 12 in regards to scheduling? With the B1G tv contract negotiations coming up soon and the possible move to a strength of schedule based playoff, it may neutralize many of the drawbacks such as reduced ticket revenue and the need to go undefeated for the NCG.

Adam Rittenberg: Chris, you make some good points, but I don't know how much more the Big Ten can dictate how its teams schedule non-league games. You're dealing with a majority of schools that need at least three non-league home games a year. The Pac-12 agreement calls for home-and-home series, so six Big Ten schools will be playing at least one non-league road game each season. You also have school-specific nonconference agreements like the ones Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue have with Notre Dame, and Iowa has with Iowa State. Another scheduling initiative might be a tough sell to the ADs. So while we'd all love to see every Big Ten school play at least two stronger non-league games a season, I don't see it happening.


Rich from Baltimore writes: What is the most important out of conference game for the B1G in 2012? UM/Alabama and MSU/Boise stand out, but are there others that can build the case for a deeper B1G?

Adam Rittenberg: The Alabama and Boise State games will shape the Big Ten's national perception more than any others, Rich. And if I had to pick one, it's Alabama. You beat the defending national champion, a team that has won two of the past three national titles, and you gain instant respect around the country. There are some other nonconference games that will matter, too. Notre Dame likely will be ranked in the top 20 entering the season, so beating the Irish at least twice would help the Big Ten. You also have some interesting Big Ten-Pac-12 matchups, such as Ohio State hosting California, Wisconsin visiting Oregon State, Nebraska visiting UCLA and Illinois visiting Arizona State. One game that might fly under the radar is Northwestern hosting Vanderbilt, but Vandy is a program on the rise. This would be a nice win against an SEC opponent.


Greg from Brockton, Mass., writes: Just to clarify, O'Brien could rejoin former Maryland assistant James Franklin at Vanderbilt, but he couldn't receive a scholarship from the school. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that O'Brien has yet to contact Wisconsin. I thought he was a graduate student and as such could transfer depending on grad programs. How can Maryland restrict those?

Adam Rittenberg: Greg, I can't help but think of "Coneheads" when I see Brockton, Mass. Good times. ... In this case, we're talking about two issues: academics and athletics. From an academic perspective, Maryland can't restrict quarterback Danny O'Brien at all. He can enroll anywhere he wants and pay tuition like any other student. But if he wants to receive an athletic scholarship from Vanderbilt, he needs his release from the previous institution. That's what Randy Edsall is preventing. Maryland reportedly will grant O'Brien's release to a school like Wisconsin, where he could receive an athletic scholarship. So there's an academic component and an athletic scholarship component to this.


Aaron from New Braunfels, Texas, writes: Hi Adam, I love the work you guys are doing here: I am a big Hawkeye fan, and am a little nervous over Phil Parker being named the new D coordinator. Here is why I am worried. Norm Parker was not only a outstanding coach, but a master motivator. I noticed that when he had to leave the sidelines the D appeared to lose alot of its fire- escpecially in the 4th quarter when it counted the most. All the while Phil was on the sidelines filling in. Exactly what was Phil's role in Norm's abscence, and how concerned (if any) should I be? I want to give the guy a fair shake, but it is hard to ignore the forementioned observation.

Adam Rittenberg: Aaron, that's an interesting take about the defense losing its edge when Norm's health problems forced him off of the sideline. Not sure the two are connected, but it's worth noting. Phil Parker worked in collaboration with the other defensive assistants during Norm's absence in 2010. They all took on additional duties at that time. Phil also was known as the "yeller" on Iowa's staff during the early part of his tenure with the Hawkeyes, and he doesn't seem to lack fire or the ability to motivate players. Iowa fans should pay more attention to Parker's play calls and personnel groupings than his passion for the game, which doesn't appear to be a problem. Will Phil Parker truly put his imprint on the defense or just continue what Norm did? That's what I'm interested to find out this fall.

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