Big Ten mailblog

August, 3, 2012
8/03/12
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Enjoy the weekend ...

BC from Minneapolis writes: Why is it that Iowa cannot hold on to a RB's? It may be since 2004 (Fred Russell and Jermelle Lewis) that they have had a serviceable RB go the entire 4-5 years (Shonn Greene came and left for 1 year). Is there a larger issue at hand? Is Ferentz and UI more demanding of the athletes when compared to other schools? With the amount of OL they put into the NFL I would think that RB's would be yearning for a chance play AND STAY.

Adam Rittenberg: BC, it's really hard to pinpoint the reason. As I tweeted earlier this week, I can't recall a single position group in the Big Ten that has been through so much turmoil as Iowa's running backs. And the crazy part about it is Iowa has had a lot of success at the running back spot despite all the issues. Marcus Coker rushed for nearly 1,400 yards last year. Iowa has had serviceable to good backs every year. But the number of player departures/off-field issues certainly is a concern. There's not much you can do about injuries, which happen everywhere, but Iowa needs to keep evaluating the types of running backs it recruits and whether these players aren't getting the right messages about conduct while in the program. Kirk Ferentz clearly is concerned about the trend, but I don't think it's a question of him being more demanding or less demanding. Most of the departures have occurred because of off-field conduct issues. Clearly, the message isn't sinking in well enough to this particular group of players.



Adam from Annapolis, Md., writes: Adam, great story about Rex Burkhead. I know it had to cross your mind when writing it though, just like it crossed a lot of peoples' minds when reading it. Do you think one of the reasons Rex might not get the national publicity is because he's a (gasp) Caucasian running back?

Adam Rittenberg: Adam, while I hope it's not a factor, it has crossed my mind in relation to Burkhead. Now it's important to remember that Stanford running back Toby Gerhart finished second in Heisman Trophy balloting in 2009, so race didn't seem to be a factor with him. I think the bigger issue with Rex is the lack of a signature moment or two. He's had some great individual games, but Heisman hype seems to grow after that an electrifying run or two, particularly in a big game at a critical point in that game. If Rex breaks off some big runs in the UCLA game, I think he'll help his cause. If he outshines Montee Ball in Lincoln on Sept. 29, he'll really boost his stock. I'd hope Heisman voters would take race completely out of the equation when voting -- whether it's a white running back or a black quarterback -- but you never truly know how people are evaluating the candidates.



Evan from Bradenton, Fla., writes: Hey Adam, I just want to say that I am highly disappointed in the NCAA for lowering their standards by allowing 5-7 teams to be eligible for bowls. As a fan of Purdue I know what it is like when your team just misses a bowl birth, but last year was extremely rewarding for me as a fan knowing that the Boilers fought and earned their way to a bowl game. Some can argue that allowing teams with just 6 wins rewards mediocrity, and now allowing teams with 5 wins rewards failing. I think by reducing the threshold to 5 wins cheapens the process.

Adam Rittenberg: Evan, I agree completely. While I like the principle that teams with strong APR scores can benefit in certain ways, having 5-7 bowl teams certainly isn't the answer. The bowl system is already too saturated with games and bad matchups -- "too much ice cream," as Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany likes to say. Ironically, it was the Big Ten -- which often takes a Little League approach toward these things (co-champions, awards for everything, etc.) -- that spurred the push toward increasing bowl eligibility to seven wins. Some of the other major conferences (SEC, Big 12) opposed this, and it stayed at six, which isn't great but still a lot better than five. I think there's a happy medium: if you beat six FBS opponents, you should be bowl-eligible. If it's less, you don't get to go. And certainly not at 5-7. Do people really want to see more games like the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (AKA the Bizarro Bowl)?



Marcus from Hudsonville, Mich., writes: Since Silas Redd announced his transfer after you begun your top 25 players list, did you not have him in the top 25, did you insert your 26th player in the 23rd spot and move everyone else up to Redd's vacated position (as I believe that you already did 24 and 25 when the transfer was announced), or will you insert the 26th player in Redd's vacated spot?

Adam Rittenberg: The transfer rumors started last week, so Brian and I prepared to have a top 25 player rankings without Redd. Had he stayed, we would have adjusted the list to include him somewhere in the top 10. But we began the rankings Monday with the idea Redd would transfer to USC and therefore not be in them.



Akshay from Seattle writes: Adam - is it too late for the B1G to change rules for who goes to Indy this year? I understand why they don't want a selection committee after some farcical BCS bowls last year -- but how about a rules-based selection instead?I'm thinking: First -- the Legends winner to Indy. Second -- the Leaders winner goes to Indy *provided* they finish tied or higher with the 2nd team in Legends, else the 2nd team in the Legends division goes.The advantage is obvious -- this way, the teams know the rules and have the opportunity to settle it on the field.

Adam Rittenberg: Akshay, while anything is possible, I really don't see the Big Ten going down that road only weeks before the season. I like your suggestion, and it would increase the possibility of a better matchup in Indy. No one wants to see the Legends Division champion against the third-best team from the Leaders. No one in Big Ten country wants to see a title game like the Pac-12's in 2011 (Oregon-UCLA). But I don't think the momentum is centralized enough or strong enough to generate a change so late in the process. Pat Fitzgerald's selection committee proposal didn't generate serious consideration, according to Jim Delany. I think the Big Ten is going to get through this year -- hoping the Leaders doesn't turn into a total mess -- and then move forward.



Brian from Bloomington, Ind., writes: Adam, Is Kevin Wilson the right guy to bring Indiana football back to respectability? To me it seems like we are going to have to hire a big name coach, like Butch Davis, in order to be able to compete in the Big Ten.

Adam Rittenberg: Brian, keep in mind that Wilson came to Indiana as one of the nation's most highly regarded assistant coaches. His name was on the short list for a lot of potential FBS jobs. Plus, it would be very difficult for a program like Indiana to lure an established "big-name" head coach. I think Wilson will have some success in Bloomington, although the big key is what he can do to upgrade a historically porous defense. There's little doubt Indiana will score points during his tenure, and I expect the offense to be more dangerous this season. But it's always about the defense at IU -- can they get enough Big Ten-level athletes on that side of the ball and execute at a decent level to win some league games?



Brandon from Cleveland writes: Adam,While there have been numerous blogs and articles written about the 8 transers from Penn State, I have seen none about the 84 players who have re-affirmed their committment to Penn State. Yes we lost 2 starters, and I would be naive to think that Redd and Fera will not hurt us. However the loss of our back up in Fortt will not hurt...this is LBU. Losing our 3rd string QB, OL and S will not hurt. Losing a freshman DT wont hurt. However the 84 commitments completely outweigh the 8 transfers. Not to mention 9 of our 12, 2013 commitments have re-committed. I understand they can change their commitments at any time as verbal commitements change their minds all the time. However these young men did not have to recommit at all and they have. This shows the character of these young men, and I have never been more proud of our boys...Cant wait for this year to kick off...We Are!

Adam Rittenberg: Brandon, while I echo your sentiments about the players committing to stay at Penn State, you're falling victim to selective reading. We have covered the players/recruits reaffirming their pledges here and here and here. Of course, we're also going to post about every transfer because it's relevant after what has taken place at Penn State. The situation has unfolded more or less how I expected. I figured most of Penn State's seniors would remain in State College. They're heavily invested in the program and wouldn't really benefit from leaving at this point. Players with more than one year of eligibility remaining seemed more likely to depart, and that's what we've seen. The reaffirmed commitment from so many recruits is notable. As for Khairi Fortt, he had a pretty good chance to start at linebacker this year, so I wouldn't totally write off his departure. Penn State should still be OK at the linebacker spot, but Fortt would have been a nice piece to retain.

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