Big Ten Friday mailblog


Hoping you have a great weekend.

Mochila from Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: Adam, I enjoyed your evaluation of the new kick-off rules, but you left out one other change that I thought was surprising. The NCAA also proposed moving the Touchback to the 25-yard line, up from the 20. How might this factor into teams' kick-off strategy? I'm guessing this was done to curb the anger of the Purdues and Nebraskas of the country, but it's a greater boon to teams that are bad in the kick return game. Will we see teams attempt to pooch it to the 1-5 yard line to force a return? Thanks for keeping us Bored-at-Work folks breathing through the off-season.

Adam Rittenberg: Good call, Mochila. I should have included the part about the 25-yard line. I think it all depends on the quality of the return man, the leg strength of the kicker and how much faith a coach has in his coverage team. For the most part, coaches can live with teams starting on the 25-yard line after a touchback. It's certainly better than watching a guy like Raheem Mostert or Ameer Abdullah break into the open field. The rule changes are designed to slow down the actual kickoff play -- coverage teams won't have as long a long run-up to the ball -- so teams that want to kick inside the 5-yard line had better be solid in closing gaps. My sense is if teams have a kicker who can record touchbacks, they'll go that route and then take their chances defending 75 yards of field.

Tim from Parts Unknown writes: Adam,Brian blames you for DRob's low rating. I'm curious to how low you thought he should be. Let me paste a section of the article here. If his rank was a compromise, where did you want the guy who "led the Big Ten -- again -- in total offense, was responsible for 36 touchdowns, ran for more than 1,000 yards as a quarterback and led his team to an 11-2 record and BCS win?"

Paul from Escanaba, Mich., writes: Adam,You wanted Denard Robinson ranked lower than 16? Maybe behind that guard from Wisconsin?Well he might not be the protypical QB and did turn the ball over too much, his value to Michigan is undenialable and by the way they went 11-2. The do not beat Ohio St., Nebraska, ND without him. Not saying he is the best player in the league (Montee Ball this year), but he has to be in the top

J DePoy from Asheville, N.C., writes: Dear Adam,Why do you hate Denard Robinson? Your double-talking hypocrisy is dripping with lunacy; in one sentence you use words like "electrifying" and "Heisman Contender" to describe the most prolific athlete in the conference. But then you don't even rank him in the top 15? And you actually wanted to rank him "much lower"! You have laid your cards on the table, thus revealing your true ignorance. I can forgive your water boy golly shocks northwestern charm, but seriously ~ this nonsense blogging list pure vomit.

Adam Rittenberg: Let me make this clear: I don't hate Denard Robinson at all. He has been great to watch the past few seasons, and he's certainly one of the most exciting players in the country. I ranked him as the league's No. 3 player following the 2010 season. I don't believe he was one of the Big Ten's best in 2011, despite still being one of the league's most exciting. There's a difference. A guy can be "electrifying," but he can also make a lot of mistakes, as Robinson did in 2011. J, there's also a difference between calling Robinson a Heisman contender in September and then evaluating his entire season. I've never called Denard a Heisman contender in November.

Some folks I'm hearing from about this are blinded by the fact that many of Robinson's mistakes didn't lead to losses. It's rare to have a team go 11-2 with a quarterback who leads the league in interceptions (15) and completes only 55 percent of his passes. Michigan's defense repeatedly bailed out Robinson, and in some games, like the Northwestern contest, bought him enough time to rebound with some big plays and great overall production. He also got a lot of help from his receivers, like in the Sugar Bowl. Robinson had some huge performances, like Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State, but he also struggled in the two losses and was fortunate his mistakes didn't lead to additional losses. If he can produce like he has the past few seasons and cut down on his mistakes, he'll be ranked much higher after the 2012 season.

Rand from Orlando writes: REALLY, Adam? Who do the FANS want as OC? I grew up on Iowa football in the 50's, 60's, 70's when the rallying cry was "wait til wrestling season!" Why do you think "In heaven there is no beer" became the student body anthem? Then I attended Iowa 76 - 77 and came back as a Naval Officer recruiter in1981. I'm hanging on tightly to my Ferentz-Hawkeye bandwagon seat. The fair-weather whiners ought to shut up and not love 'em because they win - love 'em because they're IOWA!

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks for the perspective, Rand. Things certainly have been worse at Iowa, but I also understand fans' desire to see a dynamic play-caller come to Iowa City. Did Ken O'Keefe get too much criticism during his tenure? No doubt, but most offensive coordinators do. He did a nice job developing quarterbacks during his tenure. Fans like exciting play calls and guys who take chances. Those types of coordinators don't necessarily fit Kirk Ferentz and the way he runs a program. And that's OK, as Ferentz has had a lot of success. But I think it's more than fair for fans to question a hire or want an exciting play-caller, especially when the program seems to be trending down a bit.

Adam from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Michigan State will win over/under 22.5 games over the next two years. I say over based on schedule, depth chart, momentum, and these green glasses I am wearing.What say you Adam (great name).

Adam Rittenberg: Same to you, sir. That's a lot of wins in a two-year span, and it likely would mean Michigan State records four consecutive seasons of 10 or more wins. Although I like the momentum Mark Dantonio has generated and the way they're recruiting, I think it's likely the Spartans have a mini step back either in 2012 or 2013. Will Michigan State go 5-7? Highly unlikely. But I could see an 8-4 or something like that. So I'm going with the under but wouldn't be shocked if Michigan State goes over.

Josh from Nebraska writes: What do you make of Bo Pelini hiring an outside agency to help improve recruiting? Is this him admitting they are not getting the job done, or simply him trying to get better in every aspect of being a head coach? Fact is Nebraska is geographically challenged when it comes to recruiting and is at a huge disadvantage to many other programs. Do you think this will actually impact the Huskers recruiting success?

Adam Rittenberg: It's an interesting move, Josh. I think it's Bo trying to grow as a leader and take a different approach to a huge part of his job. I remember reading a piece from last March about Bo embracing his role as a CEO of the program, and how he had TD Ameritrade's CEO around the program for two years as an executive adviser. These are all steps he's taking to do his job better. People can view this latest step as an admission that Nebraska's recruiting could be better, but I think it's good to think outside the box, especially because, as you state, Nebraska faces some inherent hurdles in recruiting. The Nebraska brand simply isn't what it was in the mid to late 1990s. That's what happens when you don't win a conference title for a while. But the Nebraska tradition remains a great recruiting tool, along with superb facilities and other areas, but there are some challenges, too, especially in a new league? It'll be interesting to see what type of impact this approach has going forward.

Roger from Eagan, Minn., writes: Adam: Enjoyed the story about Troy, but even though it may seem trivial you should really correct the 6th year theme runing throughout. Troy never red-shirted and will entering his 5th year in the program. His situation is like Royston's only in that they both were granted medical waivers to play an additional year. In Kim's case that was his 6th year.

Adam Rittenberg: Roger, my apologies for the confusion. I did correctly state in the story that Stoudermire "had applied to the Big Ten for a medical hardship waiver for 2011, which would give him one more season of eligibility." I also used some examples of players applying for sixth years of eligibility (Kim Royston, Keith Smith). My point was to illustrate how the applications for both hardship waivers or sixth years are really crap shoots. You never know how they'll turn out. But I get how that might have been confusion, as Stoudermire, unlike Royston, never sat out a season.

Jim from PA writes: I've asked this question two different times to both you and Brian, so now that it's the off-season, maybe the fifth time is the charm. What is the official reason night games aren't played in November in the Big Ten? I'm assuming it's the weather? If that's the case, are the people who agreed to that aware that high school football is played at night in November?

Adam Rittenberg: Jim, I wrote about this back in May 2009, as it's something that has bothered Big Ten fans for some time. It's worth reposting some of the key points about the policy I gleaned from talking with Big Ten senior associate commissioner Mark Rudner at the 2009 spring meetings:

  • Weather certainly is a factor, but it's not the only factor. The Big Ten is simply not a conference that traditionally plays games at night, and that tradition still matters. There's no Tiger Stadium At Night in the Big Ten. Rudner noted that the league still plays night games in September and October and sees the value in doing so, but it doesn't lose much exposure because all of its games are nationally televised. He also really values the 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff time, which has become the Big Ten's showcase game in recent years.

  • Night games present a logistical nightmare that most fans can't fully comprehend. From getting fans in and out of mammoth stadiums to policing the areas -- all in potentially lousy weather -- these events present some tough obstacles. Though many of the same challenges are present with September and October night games, the November weather compounds things.

  • This is not a new policy. It has been in place for quite some time. The Big Ten has no plans to revisit the policy, and any change likely wouldn't be made until the league renews its TV contract in the distant future.

Again, it's not the explanation you or I want to hear, but it's worth reviewing.