- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Lot of Penn State questions (understandable) and stadium rankings questions (give it a rest). Let's get to 'em.
Mike from Dallas writes: In your recent post regarding the dissolving of the Pac-12/Big Ten partnership, you mentioned that a nine game conference schedule would be a bad idea. You are likely correct, more wins would help to solidify the appointment of the Big Ten champ in the new playoff system, especially when SEC teams are only playing eight conference games as well. However, a nine game conference schedule means more matchups between Iowa and Wisconsin. It means more chances at upsetting Ohio State for teams in the Legends Division. It means better football that is more entertaining. This is the perfect example of how our obsession with naming a national champion is decreasing the quality of product we are giving fans.
Adam Rittenberg: Some great points here, Mike. You're right about a nine-game conference schedule both shortening the time two conference teams would go without facing one another, and in many cases providing better overall games. That said, I think an eight-game schedule coupled with at least one, and ideally two strong nonconference games strikes a good balance between overall quality/entertainment and a path to the playoff. I agree that eight-game league schedules plus four cupcakes doesn't benefit fans. But eight league games plus two quality nonconference games isn't a bad setup at all. What concerns me is having all the power conferences -- Pac-12, Big 12, Big Ten, ACC -- playing nine league games, while the SEC continues to play eight and win national titles. Doesn't seem right.
Erik from Waco, Texas, writes: With reports coming out about the possibility of the BIG granting Delany the power to fire a coach, wouldn't that put Delany in the hot seat? If something happened at a BIG school that he "should" have known about even if he didn't. People could be calling for him to resign for not firing a coach with his new power.
Adam Rittenberg: Erik, that's an interesting take. While I don't think Jim Delany would take heat for every infractions case involving a major program in the Big Ten, he would be responsible for monitoring schools to ensure a long-term major coverup doesn't take place like the one at Penn State. And I guess if something approached the magnitude of the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State, Delany could take heat. But every Big Ten school has a compliance staff that has contact with the Big Ten, and the league still will rely on the individual schools to police themselves. But in cases where power is too centralized, which certainly came into play at Penn State, Delany and the presidents would need to step in. The idea here is to put everyone on notice and make sure schools understand they can't create a situation where the Penn State situation can happen. The Big Ten plays a role in that, but it's ultimately up to the schools to learn some very difficult lessons from the Penn State mess.
Phil from Sarasota, Fla., writes: Adam,2 questions. With the B1G/Pac-12 deal falling apart, and the talk about the conferences future deals, and your conversation about the B1G/ACC possibility, things seem to be getting interesting as far as these talks. So, what do you think about a B1G/SEC partnership? Though it will never happen, could that idea greatly benefit the B1G, or just crush them? Also, why would Michigan schedule a neutral game against Bama so far away and so much closer to Alabama? I understand JerryWorld is awesome, but it seems Bama will have a much larger fan base and feel of a home game. B1G teams need to schedule neutral site games much closer to home in my opinion. I understand people dont like to play in cold weather, but wouldn't Indianapolis be a much better idea?
Adam Rittenberg: Phil, very good topic here. The neutral-site trend is definitely hot right now, and I applaud Big Ten schools like Michigan for participating in it. But you're right in that it would benefit the Big Ten to have some of these games closer to home. Indianapolis certainly would make sense, if the logistics worked out. I'll check with the Lucas Oil group on their willingness, which obviously isn't an issue with Jerry Jones and his venue in Texas. They want these games. Do venues in the Midwest? I can't see too many downsides to having, say, Wisconsin and Georgia meeting for a neutral-site opener in Indianapolis. That would be a lot of fun. I think you're realistic about the likelihood of a Big Ten-SEC partnership. Both leagues hate giving up home games, and the SEC's nonconference scheduling approach makes the Big Ten's look like the Pac-12's (very aggressive, for those who don't know). I just can't see every SEC school being on board with a nonleague scheduling partnership, which is what it would take to make it happen. The ACC seems like a more natural partner for the Big Ten if it wanted to revisit such a partnership. And for recruiting purposes, an ACC alliance would benefit the Big Ten more than a Pac-12 alliance would have. Big Ten teams would be making more trips to the fertile recruiting states of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. Besides California, the Pac-12 alliance didn't offer too much recruiting-wise.
GopherAbroad from Paris writes: Hey, Adam. I enjoy the blog but do you guys have some aversion to visiting Minnesota? When's the last time one of you was here? We're the only school you didn't visit for stadium rankings. I don't think you made it up for spring practice, 2011 fall camp or even a game. I know we're at the bottom of the conference right now but what is the deal?
Adam Rittenberg: Gopher, understand your frustration, but you and other Minnesota fans need to understand a few things about our travel. First of all, it's never up to us. We go where we're told, plain and simple. Those decisions are made in Bristol, and there are several factors that go into it. Minnesota's struggles the past few seasons absolutely have played a part in me visiting campus less. I was there in 2008 when the Gophers were 7-1. I was there the next September when Minnesota entered the season with a lot of hype and won its first two games. The fact I haven't been there since directly coincides with the program's downturn. Again, that plays a huge factor in where we go, as does distance from where Brian and I live. It's pretty simple: when the Gophers start playing better, they'll be sending us to the Twin Cities more often. Whether you like it or not, that's the way things go in terms of blogger travel. Because I love visiting, I'm looking forward to it. Bottom line: as one of my esteemed editors in Bristol loves to say when asked why one team gets less coverage than another ... suck less.
Jeff from San Diego writes: Adam,Love the blog, thanks so much. Here's my question. I wasn't reading the blog back in 2002 but I can only imagine it was the same story as today with regards to "emerging powerhouse" teams of the B1G. Swap MSU for Iowa and presto, it's 2002 all over again. Is there any way, any way at all, for a team to truly emerge and be able to hang it's helmet with OSU, MI, NEB, and PSU? I know they need to win games and beat those teams consistently, but is this really a decade+ long process?
Adam Rittenberg: Well, Jeff, there was no blog back in 2002 (started in 2008), but I'm sure we would have been writing about Iowa as an emerging power back then. I really think of any team outside the four big brand names, Wisconsin is closest to achieving powerhouse status. Since 1998, the Badgers have won four Big Ten championships, made four Rose Bowl appearances and recorded 10 seasons of nine or more wins. That's an extended track record of success that eclipses what both Nebraska and Penn State have done during the same span. Wisconsin still has its challenges, specifically in recruiting, but the identity has been established in Madison, and there has been continuity at the head-coaching position with Barry Alvarez and now Bret Bielema. To truly carve a place among the nationally elite, a program needs coaching continuity and a clear identity, but it also needs some recruiting clout. Michigan State has recruited well in recent years, but it needs to show it can keep things going at a time when Michigan is again on the rise and doing extremely well on the trail. Having Mark Dantonio in place is huge for Michigan State, which until now hasn't the right guy in the head coach's office for an extended period. It'll be hard for Michigan State to average 10 wins a year, or to even reach Wisconsin's level since 1998. But a lot of the pieces are in place for sustained success in East Lansing.
John from Chicago writes: Adam,I probably should've realized this by now, but I didn't until I printed out Iowa's schedule. The Hawkeyes barely play any true road games this year. There's the Soldier Field game against NIU (and let's be honest, that will pretty much be like a home game for Iowa), 2 games against the Michigan schools (hardest games on the schedule?), Indiana (not a great home crowd turnout there), and Northwestern (another game for which tons of Iowa fans show up, granted we have a recent history of trouble against the Wildcats). With 7 games at Kinnick and 2 in Chicago, there should be 8 or 9 games this year in which the majority of the crowd are Iowa fans. This schedule should really work to Iowa's advantage. The question is: do they take advantage of it and have a decent shot at a great season and a BCS bowl?
Adam Rittenberg: John, some good points on how Iowa won't have to deal with too many hostile settings this season. The Hawkeyes' two Legends Division road trips, however, are extremely difficult as they must visit Michigan and Michigan State, considered by many as the Big Ten's top two teams. Although Iowa has had a lot of success against Michigan in recent years, another win at the Big House will be tough for Kirk Ferentz's crew. Michigan State thoroughly outclassed the Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium last fall, although these two teams typically play evenly matched games. Ultimately, I think Iowa has too many glaring weaknesses -- defensive line, running back, depth at safety and receiver -- to win 10 games and challenge for a BCS berth. But an eight-win season seems realistic, and nine wins isn't out of the question, either.
Jones from Omaha writes: Adam, in regard to the B1G stadium rankings, I have been confused by the results. I'm a Husker fan and extremely biased, but seeing Memorial Stadium at #4 seems way off IF the ranking is based on the best stadium and not the best experience. No one on earth can look at me with a straight face and tell me that Camp Randall is more impressive structurally and architecturally than Memorial Stadium. Toss in the East Stadium expansion, which is happening now, and you'd be reaching to find a more impressive, good-lookin', and imposing structure in all of college football. #4 in the country? Maybe. #4 in the B1G? Behind Camp Raaaaaaandall? Not a chance.
Adam Rittenberg: Let's put this out there now. These rankings are highly, highly based on how intimidating the venue is for the opposing team. I place more weight on this than most folks. I also look at winning streaks, how successful teams have performed at home, etc. Maybe it's not the best way to rank stadiums, but as I've stated time and again, these are purely subjective and shouldn't be taken as anything more than offseason filler. I've never hidden the fact that I love Camp Randall Stadium, and the fact that it's such a hard place to play factors into the rankings. Memorial Stadium is a fabulous venue, too, and there's very little separating the top six Big Ten stadiums. Is it undoubtedly more imposing or intimidating than Camp Randall? I don't think so. But that's my opinion.
Lot of Penn State questions (understandable) and stadium rankings questions (give it a rest). Let's get to 'em.Mike from Dallas writes: In your recent post regarding the dissolving of the Pac-12/Big Ten partnership, you mentioned that a nine game conference schedule would be a bad idea.