- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Some questions and answers before another weekend of college football. Enjoy.
Evan from Bradenton, Fla., writes: Hey Adam, I understand that B1G had a rough weekend against the Pac-12 last week, but I don't understand why the coverage is so negative for the B1G. Point in case, last year the conference dominated the Pac-12, going 5-2 against our west cost opponents, but we didn't get any recognition for it. And one of those loses was USC barely getting by a very bad Minnesota. However, all the sudden since the Pac-12 won four home games (including Arizona) the Pac-12 is getting so much media love. So why is it when the B1G does something good, like consistently get two teams into the BCS or win the Sugar Bowl for back to back years, it never materializes into good press?
Adam Rittenberg: Evan, you bring up some fair points here. The Big Ten didn't get much credit for taking care of business against Pac-12 foes. The difference this year is that two Pac-12 teams (Oregon State, UCLA) pulled off upsets, and, in Oregon State's case, a significant upset against the defending Big Ten champ. You also had some new Pac-12 coaches -- Rich Rodriguez, Jim Mora, Todd Graham -- notching their first signature wins at their respective schools, which generates more national attention. As for the Big Ten getting "credit" for multiple BCS entries every year, that's a tough case to make when you don't win more of those games. Several Big Ten teams have received BCS invites based on name recognition and fan base more than what they've done on the field. Lastly, the standards are high for the Big Ten. It's the wealthiest conference and the most tradition-rich. The league will get credit when it starts winning Rose Bowls and national titles again.
Ryan from Fairfax, Iowa, writes: Adam, As a Hawkeye fan I'm obviously upset with the first two weeks of the season. I do find it hilarious that Ken O' Keefe haters are asking for him back. I've learned as a Hawkeye fan that we have to take the good years with the bad years. I come to the realization that we are a developmental program and we're going to have some tough to stomach years, but we will also mix in some exciting years where we will compete for BCS bowls. With that being said I do find some reasons to still be optimistic about this season. Number 1 being our defense. No one expected our defense to be this good, this early in the year. I think they could actually be a quite scary defense come B10 play. Number 2.. the offense can't get any worse haha.. You can't blame Davis and Ferentz for our WR's dropping balls that hit them between the numbers, but I do think they need to put Vandenberg in a better position to be successful. There has been a ton of negativity surrounding this team after 2 weeks. There is plenty of time left for this offensive unit to put it together. But everyone calling for Vandenberg to be benched and crying for O'Keefe to return.. all I gotta say is C'mon MAN! Just wanted to share a little optimism and get your thoughts on where our DEFENSE might be able to take us this year.
Adam Rittenberg: Ryan, a very level-headed email here. It's comical to me how some fans are asking for O'Keefe back and likening James Vandenberg to Jake Christensen. Please. Yes, the offense looks terrible so far and Davis hasn't found the right play-calling mix, but it's too soon to make sweeping judgment. Especially, as you say, when no one can consistently catch the ball (which was a problem last season). I agree the defense provides reason for optimism, and it's encouraging to see what Iowa has done in the red zone defensively so far. But you need to score touchdowns and you need to execute better on offense. I can't imagine what the negativity will be like if Iowa loses to Northern Iowa on Saturday. Maybe fans will start a movement to get O'Keefe to replace Ferentz.
Mark from Lakewood Ranch, Fla., writes: Disclaimer(MSU Alum) Curious your take on Frank Clark being allowed to play for Mich. Since you were so vocal on Dion Sims who sat out a year to get his affairs in order,will there be similar outrage on this ? Brady Hoke had to know he was going to plead guilty yet still allowed him to play vs AF. Not sure the message this sends,but a felony charge seems much worse than the MSU tweets that generated National attention.
Adam Rittenberg: This was one of about 100 emails I received from MSU fans this week, which is pretty disappointing given that the Spartans have a huge game coming up. I'll address this once as I don't like folks demanding for equal outrage or whatever without actually examining whether the situations are remotely similar (not singling you out, Mark, but it's really the worst side of college fans). Frank Clark should have been suspended longer than a game. To equate his situation to Fitzgerald Toussaint's and give them both the same length suspension doesn't send a good message. Clark's situation was more serious (i.e. felony), and he should have been sitting against Air Force and at least another game. Brady Hoke has to live with this. I was "outraged" about the Sims situation more because it had to do with a crime ring stealing computers from Detroit Public Schools. I didn't feel Michigan State acted inappropriately regarding Sims (had bigger issues with Glenn Winston mess). My "vomit" comment was about the nature of the crime ring, not how Michigan State handled the Sims case. As for the Michigan State tweets, I can't help that it attracted more attention than it probably should. We posted something here but didn't hammer on it like others.
Kyle from Denton, Texas, writes: Adam,With Notre Dame basically selling it's soul to the ACC I think the Big Ten has to make a move here. It doesn't have to be in the form of actually expanding, but it does need to be in the form of preparing for the future. I think the Big Ten should come out and say that in the case that it would expand, it would not be opposed to adding a non-AAU member to the league. Looking at the members list of the AAU you really limit yourself TV market wise by saying you really want that in your members. Otherwise the only thing that would make a splash in the College Football world would be for the Big Ten to invite Toronto University and expand into Canada...
Adam Rittenberg: Kyle, you're not the first person to bring up University of Toronto as an expansion option for the Big Ten. It certainly would be an out-of-the-box move by Jim Delany. There would have to be assurances about how successful college football would be North of the border, and I'm not sure the Big Ten could get those. I can guarantee you the Big Ten isn't turning its eyes away from what's happening around college football, but the league's presidents are also very happy at 12. As for the AAU issue, it's interesting. While I understand what you're saying about limiting yourself by AAU status, it really does resonate with the Big Ten presidents and chancellors. I've heard that had Nebraska lost its AAU status before being admitted to the Big Ten, there would have been hesitation about adding the school. I think there are some decent non-AAU options out there that might help the Big Ten. However, I maintain that the Big Ten shouldn't expand just to expand, and there aren't many home-run candidates. Again, as the richest league, do you want to feed another mouth just to "keep up" with other leagues?
From @SpencerLeone (via Twitter): Would you agree the two best teams in the #B1G this year are in the Legends Division?
Adam Rittenberg: It's a close call right now between Michigan and Ohio State, which has looked better but hasn't played anyone near the caliber of Alabama. I've felt the Big Ten champ always would come out of the Legends division, and I feel even stronger about that after Wisconsin's struggles early this season. Michigan State and Michigan could be the class of the conference, especially with Ohio State ineligible for postseason play. But the Buckeyes might end up being the No. 2 or No. 1 team in the league by the end of the season.
Eric from New York writes: Hi Adam! I love reading your work on the blog. It makes my job tolerable. My question is: How do you feel about Penn State's future? I'm trying not to be biased (since I'm a PSU alum), but it looks like Coach O'Brien is running an excellent offensive system. There are obviously some big gaps to fill like red-zone scoring, but the staff has improved the passing game tremendously. McGloin looks more confident than ever. With a potential star QB like Hackenburg leading the way (fingers crossed) and our typical strong defense, I don't think Penn State will completely fall off the map like everyone predicts. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Eric. I agree with you about Penn State's offense under O'Brien and McGloin's improvement as a passer. O'Brien should be able to use the offense as a selling point to recruits, even in the next few years as the NCAA sanctions continue. As I've written before, O'Brien and his assistants have to become really selective with scholarship offers and who they bring in. With only 15 scholies per year beginning with the 2013 class, they simply can't afford to miss on the same number of guys as most programs. They'll also need walk-ons -- or run-ons, as BO'B says -- to contribute in major roles. I think there will be some more tough days ahead, but I also don't expect Penn State to start going 3-9 every year. It really comes down to this staff and its ability to scout and develop players because of the limited roster size.
Eric M. from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Given the conference's performance last weekend, what are the chances that a Big Ten team digs deep and somehow finds a way to lose on the road this weekend?
Adam Rittenberg: That would require some serious digging, Eric. All 12 Big Ten teams play at home Saturday.
Chris from Buffalo, N.Y., writes: I have noticed MSU is very talented, deep, and athletic, despite youth/inexperience. Maxwell also showcases good mechanics and a strong arm. If this group comes full circle saturday night, do you see them beating ND? Would they become a more legit NC darkhorse?
Adam Rittenberg: Chris, I have Michigan State winning 17-10. I also think it's too soon to label the Spartans a national title contender. They at least need beat Ohio State in the Big Ten opener, and they most likely need a signature road win against Michigan on Oct. 20. The stretch that gives everyone pause about the Spartans is the Michigan (road), Wisconsin (road), Nebraska (gauntlet) midway through Big Ten play. The Wisconsin trip doesn't look as tough as it did a few weeks ago, but it's not easy to survive that stretch, plus Ohio State, without a loss. I do think that Maxwell and the passing game are the missing pieces to a Big Ten championship formula for the Spartans, and, who knows, maybe more.