Catching up on some mail over the weekend.
JD from Avalon, N.J., writes: Funny how no Penn Staters are on the list? In his most recent season, Pete Massaro was better than every Big Ten player on the list and Sean Stalney was just as good as a part timer last season. Gotta love the bias.
Adam Rittenberg: JD, understand your sensitivity to these issues right now. Sean Stanley certainly could have been included on the Ted Hendricks Award watch list. He's just as deserving as Craig Roh or Cam Meredith, in my view. Massaro, on the other hand, is coming off of several serious knee injuries. Much like Wisconsin's David Gilbert and Ohio State's Nathan Williams, Massaro has to prove himself again this fall. I don't think you need to have him on a preseason watch list. He can earn his way into consideration.
Antwon from Cleveland writes: Adam the big ten takes a lot of criticism nationally do you think one of those reasons is because they focus so much on getting to the rose bowl and not the national championship?
Adam Rittenberg: Antwon, I think it's more that the Big Ten doesn't win enough Rose Bowls or national championships. The league has just one national title in the BCS era (2002) and just three Rose Bowl victories (1998, 1999, 2009). The struggles in those two areas really work against the Big Ten's national reputation. While nothing helps a league's rep more than winning a national title, the Big Ten would benefit from doing better in Pasadena. I think more Big Ten teams need to start thinking national title because that's what leagues are judged on, but the Rose Bowl remains significant, and it's critical that the Big Ten starts performing better in its signature postseason game.
SpartanBadger from Carmel, Ind., writes: Hi Adam, As a graduate of both Michigan State and Wisconsin (living in Indiana), I'm split on what the league should do for this year. While I support a selection committee especially if MSU takes second in a tough division race, I also don't think Wisconsin should be penalized if it takes second in its division because of either OSU or PSU being ineligible. We only have to look at Alabama last year who didn't even win its own division, but took home the crystal trophy. What is your thought on the league moving forward with this idea of a selection committee, or do you just see them sticking with the status quo and taking the next eligible team? My only thought as I write this to you is what if OSU and PSU go 1 and 2....do you then go with the third place team?? Could be a crazy year of B1G football! Here's hoping to see at least one of my teams in Indy again!
Adam Rittenberg: SpartanBadger, not sure if you saw our video interview with commissioner Jim Delany, but he said the selection committee proposal didn't gain serious consideration from the league. This isn't a surprise. It would be a pretty dramatic step to install a selection committee for one year, especially so close to the season. That said, I agree with Pat Fitzgerald and some of the other Legends Division coaches about the division imbalance, and it would be unfortunate to see a really good Legends Division team face a mediocre Leaders Division squad in Indy. No one wants to see a game like Oregon-UCLA (2011 Pac-12 championship) in the Big Ten. The ideal situation is for Wisconsin or another Leaders team to win the division outright, but it wouldn't surprise me to see both Ohio State and Penn State high up in the final standings.
Dirk from the Big Apple writes: Oh ho! Now we have an interesting situation. The NCAA did quite a bit to mortally wound the Penn State football program. Their well thought-out plan was to hurt the program but allow the players to leave. Make the program weak so they can focus on the "important" things. It's very early in the process, and the players have a lot of time, but I'm not seeing a mass exodus. In fact, 6 of their 2013 recruits have affirmed their commitment to Penn State. So what happens now? If the team moves forward with quality recruits, wins some games, and does better than just limping along, what kind of message does that send? It would prove that the only real way to hurt a program is to give the death penalty. Of course, there's a lot of assumptions here, such as winning some games and the players staying committed. But I think it would be a really big slap in the NCAA's face if Penn State found a way to succeed. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: Dirk, I think we have to wait several seasons to fairly judge the impact of the NCAA's penalties on Penn State's program. It's a good sign that the recruits reaffirmed their commitment to PSU, but there's a long way until national signing day, so a lot could change. Also, it's possible we could see more departures after the 2012 season than before it. Penn State should still have a solid team this season, particularly on the defensive side. Although some players will depart before Sept. 1, the scholarship issues won't really take full effect until 2013-14. If Penn State still can field decent teams with 65 scholarship players and limited recruiting classes, we can then judge whether the NCAA penalties were too light.
Trotter from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Since the end of last year's college football season and up to this point for the upcoming season it has been James Vandenberg being the best pocket passer in the B1G, but Denard being the obvoius #1 choice. Call me a homer being an Iowa fan from dead-moines, but in my mind the best QB is the one that makes his team around him better and has that legit chance of going pro talk. Denard isn't playing QB in the NFL and if he does I'm going to tryout for the Minnesota Vikings at receiver (5'9'' 160lbs). Either way my point is that is seems pretty sound from writers/bloggers Vandenberg is the best QB in the B1G(overall)...is that a good or bad thing ranked against other QB's from other leagues like Matt Barkley (USC), Tyler Wilson (Arkansas), Landry Jones (Oklahoma). Does it show strength at QB in the B1G, or weakness? I ask because looking after Vandenberg, Denard and Martinez arent pocket passers and I dont have faith that this will be their year, and Braxton Miller is unproven to me. Thanks!
Adam Rittenberg: Trotter, your definition of best quarterback has two parts: 1) make his teammates around him better and 2) has the best pro potential. These requirements can be very different. A great quarterback can make those around him better and still lack pro potential. The college game is different, and a playmaking quarterback like Robinson can be a more valuable overall player than a pro-style guy. Former West Virginia star Pat White was an unbelievable college quarterback who lacked pro potential. I'd still take him on my team over some guys who projected better to the next level. It's a close call for me between Robinson and Vandenberg for the No. 1 quarterback spot. They're vastly different players, and both have their strengths and weaknesses. We agree that Vandenberg has more pro potential at QB than Robinson does.
Regarding your question, the Big Ten quarterback contingent is a bit different from those from other leagues because there are so many dual-threat, running types and not many true pro-style threats. Vandenberg is the only true proven pro-style quarterback in the Big Ten entering the 2012 season. Michigan State's Andrew Maxwell could work his way into that category, but he has yet to start a game in college. Perhaps Wisconsin's Danny O'Brien fits the label as well, but he has yet to play a Big Ten game. The others, as you mention, are more known for their explosive running skills (Robinson, Miller, Martinez, Minnesota's MarQueis Gray, Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase, Northwestern's Kain Colter). I don't think anyone is comparing Vandenberg with Barkley and Wilson at this point, although a strong senior season will put James in the conversation.
Steve from Pittsburgh writes: Regarding the ESPN article on Redd going to USC: "USC, which was sanctioned by the NCAA in 2010 over improper benefits, is at its limit of 75 players, so a spot would have to open up for Redd to transfer to the school. USC believes at least one player will be academically ineligible, opening up a spot for Redd. The backup plan would have a walk-on giving up a scholarship."1) USC would be looking forward to one of their current players to not do well in school so they get a better player to win games;2) USC would be willing to have an innocent kid give up their scholarship (who might otherwise not have a chance to pay for school) to have a better player to win games.Can you please explain how this shows emphasis on academics?
Adam Rittenberg: Steve, I agree that it looks bad on USC's part, but if their roster size will accommodate Redd, they're not breaking the rules by adding him. I don't think any team "hopes" for a player to be academically ineligible. But it happens a decent amount, opening up roster spots. If Redd's arrival costs a walk-on the chance to be on scholarship, that's unfortunate. Teams accommodate walk-ons with scholarships when they can, but they also don't shy away from adding transfers who have to take up a scholarship spot. Again, it definitely raises questions about the NCAA's intent to see a team on probation adding a Penn State player. But USC, like the other teams, isn't breaking any rules.
Adam from San Diego writes: Hey Adam, whatever happened to ranking the B1G's non-conference opponents? There was a post on July 19 and July 20 and then nothing. We're down to the top 20, but no update on the list in 10 days. Did you guys give up? I want my list!
Adam Rittenberg: Patience, Adam. Big Ten media days arrived last week, and all our efforts went into coverage for the two-day event in Chicago. We'll resume the nonconference schedule rankings Wednesday with Nos. 20-11.
Alex G. from Iowa writes: I don't know how much contact you have or can have with B1G players, but I want to try to challenge you and do something no other blogger on ESPN is doing: do a poll of several players, a few from each team, and release results on the blog. I just read that Denard Robinson considers Kinnick Stadium the toughest place to play on the road in the B1G. You just did your list of B1G stadiums and Kinnick ended up at #5. I just think it would be interesting to see the players point of view (and if possible, even coaches) so the B1G fans can know what the players think of the conference
Adam Rittenberg: We're ahead of you on this, Alex. Stay tuned.