- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Your questions, my answers ...
Kevin from St. Paul, Minn., writes: With 3-4 games remaining, let's talk hypotheticals. What would happen if there was a 4-way tie for first in the Legends with Michigan, Michigan St, Nebraska, and Northwestern? To make it fun, each team will have a 5-3 conference record, and a 3-2 division record. Who goes to Indy?
Adam Rittenberg: According to the Big Ten's complete division tiebreakers, the records of the tied teams would be compared with the next-best team in the division. In this case, that team would be Iowa or Minnesota. Northwestern is the only one of the four to play both the Hawkeyes and the Gophers, defeating both, so the Wildcats would have the edge for now. Michigan State already has lost to Iowa, while Michigan and Nebraska both still must play the Hawkeyes and the Gophers. Eventually, the tiebreaker would get to records against common opponents and ultimately highest spot in the BCS standings. The goal is to reduce the pool to two teams, and then you'd have a head-to-head tiebreaker to determine the division champion.
Craig from Silver Lake, Wis., writes: Why do you constantly bash or look down on the bowl eligible teams in the Leaders Division? If the Badgers get to the Big 10 Championship game, or the Rose Bowl, so be it. They deserve it, and the league is what it is. It is a worthy accomplishment for whichever team represents the Leaders. You guys seem to punish the teams in the Leaders Division that have run clean programs.
Adam Rittenberg: Craig, we don't bash those teams. They're average teams that can capitalize on a unique/unfortunate situation. They don't have to feel badly about it, and they should celebrate if they get to Indy. But we're not going to celebrate them over and over on this blog. The reality is a 6-6 Wisconsin team or a 5-7 Indiana team playing for a championship isn't good for the Big Ten. It makes the Big Ten, already struggling with its national perception, look even worse. That's the situation when teams receive NCAA sanctions, but it's still unfortunate. If Nebraska finishes 10-2, Michigan finishes 9-3 and Northwestern finishes 9-3, you'll have two 9-win teams out of the championship game and possibly a 6-win team in it. That doesn't excite me. Wisconsin or Indiana only would have gotten there based on the sheer luck of being in the division with two ineligible teams. That's not really a cause for celebration in my view.
Kyle from Denton, Texas, writes: Adam, what are the chances the Huskers end up playing Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl this year? My thinking is very high since the Big 12 doesn't have a championship game and the SEC and the Pac-12 do... that could end up pushing Oregon into the NCG. Oklahoma sits at #12 right now and if they win out will be eligible for an At-Large bid. If Nebraska wins out could we expect to see this match up in the Rose Bowl? I don't see how the bowl selection committee could pass this potential game up.
Adam Rittenberg: Kyle, this won't happen because the Rose Bowl still will select another team from the Pac-12. The Rose Bowl only must select a non-Big Ten or Pac-12 team once in a four-year cycle when it loses one of its conference champions and an eligible team from a non-automatic-qualifying conference is eligible. That's why you saw the Rose Bowl, after losing Oregon to the national title game in 2010, select TCU to face Big Ten champion Wisconsin. So it doesn't matter if Oklahoma is eligible for an at-large bid. The Rose Bowl will select a Pac-12 opponent -- USC, Oregon State, Stanford being the likely candidates -- if it loses Oregon to the title game.
Alden from Chicago writes: Adam, how big is it that Michigan State won AT Wisconsin? Is breaking the 21-game win streak at Camp Randall noteworthy, or is it just statistical fodder? It might help us salvage the rest of the season on increased confidence. To be honest, I was scowling for most of that game until the final minutes. Then the offense did something they haven't done all year. Throw the ball over the middle of the field. Crossing routes and subsequently opening running game including a Maxwell rush for 7. Maxwell was 9 for 11 on that last drive and I'm screaming, where has this been all season?? Maxwell can throw it and apparently the receivers are now able to catch it. Those throws were to more than one guy. Catches made by, Bell, Sims, Lippet, Fowler, and Mumphery. Where's our power ranking if that's the offense that starts showing up from now on?
Adam Rittenberg: Alden, any win at Wisconsin is significant, no matter the circumstances. That Michigan State snapped the nation's second-longest win streak means something, especially after how poorly the Spartan offense played for three-plus quarters. Coach Mark Dantonio mentioned today that the offense ran some plays at the end that it hadn't used before, in part because Andrew Maxwell was gaining confidence. Wisconsin's passive defensive approach helped, but you have to give Michigan State credit for taking what's there. The big key is whether the Spartans can build on the performance this week at home against a Nebraska defense that shut them down last season -- a much better MSU offense, as you know. Bo Pelini's defenses feast on pro-style offenses, so Michigan State will need to be a lot better from the get-go on Saturday. Either it's one good drive or it's a starting point for a unit to elevate its play for the stretch run of the season.
Jerome from Toronto writes: Do you think that Michigan and Ohio State are doing the B1G a disservice by having "The Game" played as the last game in November? I get how important this game is to these two teams, but after watching this last weekend's games that featured Nebraska and Michigan in the Legends division and Penn State and Ohio State in the Leaders division, it would make much more sense for Ohio State and Michigan to face off in week five or six.That way, you could have this type of weekend we just had where Nebraska and Michigan play on the Friday after Thanksgiving and Ohio State and Penn State play on the Saturday. If these are the B1G's four premium teams, it would be cool to spotlight them each on their own day as the last B1G games of the regular season.Then if Michigan and Ohio State truly are the two best teams from their divisions, then you get the rematch in the Championship Game (in years when OSU isn't on probation). I'd be much more inclined to watch this rematch if they played a game in October then if they just played the weekend before as I think is true for anyone outside of the states of Michigan and Ohio State.I think Michigan and Ohio State need to look at the bigger picture here and Delaney should be helping paint that picture for them. What are your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: Jerome, while you never say never, the backlash from both fan bases at the possibility of The Game being moved up back in 2010 indicates this won't be happening any time soon. There's too much tradition with Ohio State-Michigan being on the final Saturday of the regular season, and while you might not be as interested, The Game still will get monster ratings both regionally and nationally. I agree that Michigan-Nebraska and Ohio State-Penn State made for a nice doubleheader, but they won't be the Big Ten's four premium teams every year. They're the four biggest brands, but Wisconsin has been better than Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State recently. Michigan State also has been up there. The rematch factor with Ohio State and Michigan is a concern, but let's see how it plays out the first time those teams meet in the title game. If most of the fans want that game to stay put, I'm fine with it. If the sentiment changes with the next generation, maybe it'll be moved up a week. It never should be played in October. I grew up a big Cal fan and hated seeing the Big Game take place on Oct. 20. There are a lot of folks who never wanted to see a night game at Michigan Stadium. The thinking changed with time, and most would agree that's a good thing. So things evolve, but there's something to be said for tradition, too.
Andrew from Bloomington, Ind., writes: Does Kevin Wilson enter the discussion for Coach of the Year if he can lead IU to the B1G Championship game (or even a 6-6 record period)?
Adam Rittenberg: Andrew, there's a case to be made for Wilson, who is gradually upgrading the program at IU. We knew the offense would be good, the defense is looking better and the recruiting has picked up, especially on the defensive side. Let's see what happens these next two weeks against Iowa and Wisconsin, but if Indiana can somehow win out, Wilson should be in the mix along with Urban Meyer and Bill O'Brien. I still give the edge to O'Brien, especially if Penn State finishes with eight or nine wins, but if Indiana surges down the stretch after struggling so much in recent years, you can't dismiss Wilson. And Meyer has to be considered if Ohio State goes 12-0.
Cody from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Adam, three games left in the season for OSU. The odds are pretty decent of going undefeated with Wisky's QB being out and Michigan at home. What are the odds that the NCAA realizes they are total jerks for punishing an Ohio State team not featuring any of the players who were responsible for the whole scandal?? Why couldn't they have made up their minds quicker and came out with the bowl ban last year!!? I'm upset Adam.
Adam Rittenberg: Cody, be upset at Jim Tressel. Be upset about all the layers of problems that emerged during the scandal that pushed back the infractions decision. Be upset at an undermanned compliance department. Be upset at Gene Smith and the administration for misjudging what the NCAA would do and not self-imposing a one-year bowl ban. The nature of NCAA penalties, as we're seeing now with Penn State, is to punish the present because of the past. Ohio State really is no exception. While you feel for the current seniors and players, I would direct your anger away from the NCAA this time.