- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Let's get down to business. I received many good responses from Nebraska fans about the Huskers' first year in the Big Ten, and I've listed several of them below.
Here we go ...
Jamie from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Adam, How would the B1G look if it was going into its first year with 12 team this season? I imagine that after everything that happened on and off the field last season, there would be a lot more discussion as to how to split the two divisions. With the new playoff system, the current situations at Penn State and OSU, and with emergence of Michigan State and Wisconsin, would we more likely be looking at two divisions split by time zones? (Think how easy it would be to remember the Eastern and Central Divisions, and never having to use the M,N, and Iowa trick.) Did the B1G build into the new conference format a plan to evaluated and revises the divisions if necessary? With change becoming the norm in college football these days, how will the B1G look in 5, 10, 15 years?
Adam Rittenberg: Jamie, I still think the historical data from 1993 onward would have indicated the tiers that led the Big Ten to divide the league the way it did. The divisions weren't assigned based on geography. They weren't done to make it easy for fans to understand. There were assigned based on competitive balance -- and brand names. The league wanted to evenly split its four major brands -- Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State -- into the divisions. The league also wanted to evenly split Wisconsin and Iowa, which had put up strong numbers during the time period considered. Michigan State's emergence eventually might lead to some reconsidering of the divisions, but Purdue had a similar emergence in the late 1990s. So did Northwestern in the mid 1990s. A lot depends on whether Michigan State can sustain its success, and if other teams rise or fall. The Big Ten isn't going to scrap the division alignments after a year or two. While a revision is possible, the data during a long period of time must support it.
Drew from Milwaukee writes: Hey Adam - you can definitely count me among the long suffering Wisconsin fans that are clamoring for an upgraded non conference schedule. As much as it pains me to say this, I think Ohio State deserves a ton of credit for its approach of scheduling a home and home with an out of conference big name opponent every two year cycle. Two questions: Was this approach more a product of Gene Smith or Jim Tressel, and do you see this as a good model for Alvarez and/or Bielema to follow in their own scheduling moving forward? As a side note, how epic would a September 1 night game match up between Alabama and Wisconsin at Camp Randall be?
Adam Rittenberg: That would be epic, Drew. Too bad Nick Saban didn't want to come to Mad-town. Ohio State's scheduling approach was a collaboration between Smith and Tressel, and both men supported the approach to have one marquee non-league opponent and three regional opponents (typically MAC schools from within the state). It will be interesting to see how this model changes when the Big Ten-Pac-12 partnership begins, specifically whether Big Ten teams will play a Pac-12 opponent and another team from a major conference. It would be great to see Wisconsin do this. I'm not saying the Badgers need to play USC and Oklahoma every year, but it'd be nice to see games with, say, Washington and Notre Dame in 2018. Wisconsin needs to figure out what works best, but the school's current philosophy thankfully doesn't work in a playoff environment where schedule strength is valued.
Jerome from Toronto writes: I know you guys are ranking the best facilities, and the best stadiums in the Big Ten. What about the best overall gameday experience for opposing fans? Take a look at their before game experience with tailgating, the things going on in the local community leading up to the game, the game atmosphere itself, and the partying after the game. Obviously, you need to look at the fan base as well to see which fans are good sports and are out having a fun time without being classless.With all this in mind, rank the top 5 Big Ten Game day experiences for any opposing fan. What are the must-see away games for an opposing fan to travel to? Any destinations that should be avoided due to poor fan behavior?
Adam Rittenberg: Jerome, while every fan base has a few idiots who can spoil the experience for visiting fans, I'd encourage Big Ten fans to visit as many opposing venues as possible. The Big Ten might not have the best football, but it has the best stadiums in the country. There also is great tailgating throughout most of the league, and a nice mix of different size stadiums -- from humongous to cozy -- and locations. As far as best overall game-day experiences, I'd definitely have Wisconsin and Penn State at the top. Great combination of stadiums and tailgating scenes. Iowa is up there for me -- love Kinnick and the atmosphere around it. Nebraska is lacking a bit tailgating-wise, but Memorial Stadium is awesome. You have to go to Michigan Stadium and Ohio Stadium at some point if you're a college football fan. Both offer different pros/cons and surroundings, but you just have to go. I'd also include Michigan State as a very solid game-day experience. The stadium will be improved with upgrades, and the tailgating scene is terrific.
L. Narrative from Land of 3 Rs writes: Adam,You were big on highlighting the "lazy narrative" when discussing the Big Ten/SEC positions on a college football playoff, an emphasis with which I agreed. Given this, do you see the lazy narrative with all the Sandusky stories? Reading comprehension failures seem to permeate the news cycle these days, but given the number of articles on this Sandusky subject, I think your readers would benefit from an assessment of the lazy narrative in this situation.
Adam Rittenberg: There's definitely a bit of laziness with every major news story, as everyone feels they need to weigh in but not everyone does their homework. I've tried to link people who know what they're writing about. While I'm sure I've missed on a few, I know there has been some good commentary done on the Sandusky case. My guess is you're referring to the belief that the NCAA "has to give Penn State the death penalty." This is a bit lazy because those who understand how the NCAA works and how its death penalty works know it relates to being a repeat violator of NCAA rules, not a violator of state or federal laws. While there's pressure on the NCAA to do something, it comes largely from those who don't understand what the NCAA really does (usually nothing).
SI.com's Andy Staples had the best take on the situation:
This may seem cold, but nowhere in the 426-page Division I manual is there a rule forbidding the cover-up of a violation of state statute. There is no obstruction of justice charge, no way to punish someone for his or her failure to call the police. The NCAA has rules to handle free tattoos, excessive phone calls and couch surfing (maybe not even that), but it is way out of its league here. So even though NCAA president Mark Emmert inserted the organization into the case with one of the most misguided missives ever to emerge from NCAA headquarters,* please stop suggesting the NCAA needs to crush Penn State's football program because of the Sandusky tragedy. It may make a bunch of rival fans feel better if a bunch of players who were in elementary school in 2001 suffer, but it won't solve anything. It won't help anyone heal. It won't send any message that matters.
Here is how these things work. Something awful such as the Sandusky case happens, and people at powerful organizations such as the NCAA feel they have to say something. This is partially the fault of people in my business who constantly call for comment and partially the fault of the people inside NCAA headquarters who failed to realize that they needed to butt out of this issue in the absence of actual NCAA violations.
There you have it.
Grant from Cedar Falls, Iowa, writes: In light of this great American Holiday coming up I'm curious. Which BiG team is the second most patriotic? Obviously Iowa is number 1 ( It's not hard when your previous QB was "A Great American", Air Force fly-overs well below there minimum elevation, need I even mention the card stunt at the NW game last year ) I know Purdue has a pretty cool thing with the "I am an American speech," but what do the other schools do during home games to celebrate and honor America, and whose the 2nd most patriotic?
Adam Rittenberg: Ha, good topic, Grant. You forgot the Nile Kinnick Heisman speech -- very patriotic. I do enjoy the "I am an American" reading at Ross-Ade Stadium. Perhaps the only recent Big Ten player who could give Ricky Stanzi a run for most patriotic might be former Illinois linebacker J Leman (love the tie). Ohio State has earned some patriotic points in recent years, particularly with its Take the Field tribute to Navy in 2009. There also was Jim Tressel's spring game getup in what turned out to be his final appearance at Ohio Stadium. Michigan often has cool pregame flyovers and tributes, including this one before last year's game against Nebraska. Wolverines coach Brady Hoke took the team's seniors to work out with Navy SEAL's in May. Nebraska and other schools also have been very patriotic on game day. If I had to pick the second most patriotic school behind Iowa, I'd go with Ohio State. But it's close.
Glenn from Kilburn, Ohio, writes: Adam, regarding Penn State, can you start talking about the upcoming season and let the "Scandal" be handled by regular news outlets? In today's lunch links, you mention current team related items for every other team, but for PSU you only list things to click on that relate to the negative news instead of what's happening with the team. It's obvious that you drink ESPN's kool aid.
Adam Rittenberg: It's obvious you can't handle reality. For those thinking about sending similar emails, let me save you the time. The scandal will be covered in the blog because it's a significant national news story affecting a school in the Big Ten. I don't make the news. It happened. It will be covered here. That's just the way it works. We didn't overload you with Sandusky trial updates, and most of the news will appear in our news rail on the main page. We've also been posting many items related to Penn State's team and the upcoming season (feel free to find another national sports outlet doing that). But if there are items that relate to former coach Joe Paterno, the football program and investigations that could impact the program, they will be posted here or linked to from the blog.
OK, now time for some Nebraska reflections on Year 1 in the Big Ten ...
Roy from Omaha: I'm not a native Nebraskan, but have grown to love the passion and class of the NU fan base. Originally from Austin and a naturally a decided Longhorn fan, I was slowly swayed to the power of Red (much to the dismay of many relatives). When NU joined the Big 12, I was all for it and thought it would be great to play the teams I grew up watching. It was. We had some great games and rivalries (never seemed to get Texas' number, even when they were down). We lost our favorite rivalry with OU, and that was sad, but it couldnt be helped. The Big 8 is long, long gone, and we'll miss some of the annual contests. It was satisfactory, but I dont think we ever felt like we fit. We fit with the old Big * brethren and enjoyed playing the SWC teams, but something wasnt quite right. I dont feel any bad blood. The worst fans *were* our old Big 8 brethren and you cant blame them for their animosity - hell I'm sure it sucks to get beat up by the cafeteria bully every year. I cant describe the level of excitement though when it was started to be rumored that we might make a move to the Big 10. I can honestly say that no one I know wasnt for it 100%. We just seemed like a perfect fit. Throw in a protected rivalry with Penn State and a Thanksgiving game with Iowa, and you couldnt ask for more. B1G fans have been accomodating in so many ways - welcoming us and sincerely happy to have us in the fold. We fit. Finally after 15 tyears we feel like we belong. Thanks to all the B1G folks for that. We're so happy to be here.
Joshua from Chicago: Nebraska coming into the Big Ten was a blessing to Husker Nation. Our culture as a program and fan base simply fits better than that of the Big 12. It is good to be in a conference that puts the standards of being a student athlete first! It has been great blog this last year Adam! Keep it up and can't wait for this year to begin.GBR!
Chad from Mount Vernon, Wash.: i know, i know...i'm writing from Washington stat, but i'm a Cornhusker for life! you asked about thoughts on the Huskers first year in the Big 10, and that's what you'll get...it's weird. i still find myself watching Oklahoma, hoping they lose; Texas, hoping they somehow fall off the planet and lose every game; Kansas State, hoping for an even worse fate.so now I'm supposed to care about Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin? i just don't...yet. in fact, for so long i hated the Big 10 - thought it was weak as it was filled with so many pushovers (Northwestern, Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue). all that said, the move was a good one for the future of Husker football. other sports, not so sure. as a baseball enthusiast, the Big 10 is not such a good move. for football, this was a good move for the Huskers. the Big 10 blue collar attitude is more akin to what Nebraska football has always been about. i look forward to many great seasons, even if in my gut i still somehow hate the Big 10!
Gene from Omaha: Although the football team needs to adjust and take it up a notch(no doubt Bo Pelini feels the same), on a basis of atmosphere, the B1G beats the big 12 hands down. Having a commissioner who's actually in charge makes a huge difference. It's amazing how much acting as a cohesive unit makes things work easier. Just being able to watch games without having one ham-fisted school trying to dictate policy makes for an easier to watch, more competitive on-the-field game. The only thing I, as a Husker fan, would suggest is the league take a slightly different view on the Rose Bowl. While a very important goal, a national championship should be top priority.
JP from Washington D.C.: You asked for Nebraska fans to share their opinions on NU's first year in the B1G. As a Husker fan living on the East Coast, I have to say that I could not be happier that NU made the move to the B1G. For the first time in forever, I was able to see every single game of the season televised. This is in no small part thanks to the B1G Network, but it is also due to the fact that the B1G simply gets more national exposure than the Big 12. I can remember more than one season being unable to watch big games... huge games like NU vs Oklahoma (!!!!)... because primetime Big 12 games were part of the ABC regional coverage package. Instead of one of the game's greatest historical rivalries, my local broadcast would inevitably be some ACC or (god forbid) SEC match-up. This is simply not a problem now that NU is in the B1G. Being able to watch NU-Wisconsin was a pleasure (despite the fact we only played one quarter) because I didn't have to spend hours trying to figure out whether or not the game would be broadcast in my area. I just knew the game would be on.
4hJosh Moyer and Dan Murphy