- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Enjoy Super Bowl weekend. And another 49ers victory celebration.
To the mail ...
Kenny from Hastings, Neb., writes: Hey Adam, My question is about officiating. Many times this year we saw a lot of problems with the big ten crews and several were in key points of games. Is it possible that a rule would ever go into affect that would make certain penalties reviewable plays? I think having a rule or rules would take some of the pressure off the officiating crews and allow them to make the right call by being able to review it. Everybody wants the game to be as fair as possible and when it comes to the officiating, everybody wants the right calls to be made. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: Interesting question, Kenny. I don't think we'll see replay review for judgment calls like pass interference, holding or offsides. Those calls -- right or wrong -- are part of the game, and while officials must improve in those areas, I don't know if using replay review for every questionable call is the right move. Big Ten officiating chief Bill Carollo told me during the season that pass interference would be a greater emphasis point for his crews after some iffy calls. There are some penalties that can be reviewed such as illegal substitution and illegal touching -- for example, a player who goes out of bounds voluntarily and is the first one to recover a fumble. But replay is there to review goal-line plays, sideline plays, turnovers, etc. Here's a good list about replay and which plays are reviewed.
Brian from Atlanta writes: Why do you keep acting like crossover games are meaningless? They matter just as much in the standings as divisional games but you treat them like scrimmages. I don't see the division races suffering at all if WI and NE play in November. How would making it be WI/IN or WI/IL or WI/PU make it better? Big games are big games regardless of divisions.
Adam Rittenberg: Brian, I've never treated them like scrimmages. When have I written that the Ohio State-Michigan game meant nothing? Or Penn State-Nebraska? Or Wisconsin-Minnesota? The point you continue to miss is that division play matters more in determining which teams go to Indianapolis. Check out the division tiebreakers again. If two teams tie atop a division, the winner of their head-to-head matchup -- a division game -- goes to Indy. If three or more teams tie, the second tiebreaker -- after comparing overall records -- is records within the division. The third tiebreaker is comparing the tied teams' records against the next-best teams within the division. Sure, crossover games matter in the standings, but given the likelihood of ties, the division games simply matter more. If a team sweeps its division games, it would have to really struggle in the crossovers not to win the division. My point here is that the division races should dominate the discussion in November, and when teams are playing cross-division games, rather than division games that really shape the race, it takes away from the intrigue. That's why crossover games should decrease in importance with the new alignment.
Gary from Maryland writes: Hey Adam. Really appreciate the work you guys do. So is losing marquee out of conference games really that bad (due to a 9 or 10 game schedule)? If the other major conferences end up doing the same thing, wouldn't that increase the appeal of bowl season (similar to how the world series and all-star games used to be for baseball)? I understand there are negatives. Season-ticket holders have less to be excited about and it might also complicate determining relative strength for playoff spots, but I think getting less of something makes you want it that much more. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: Interesting take, Gary. Maybe it would help the bowls a little, although so much attention will be on the four-team playoff that it might not matter. College football is by nature a regional sport, and the Conference A vs. Conference B debates have become more popular in recent years. It's a big reason why we started the college blog network, and why the bloggers debate one another so much, comparing one league to another. Right now, we only get two chances to see how leagues match up -- non-league play and the bowl season. Taking one of those away would be a shame. I think exciting non-league matchups are great for the game. We get an early sense of which teams are leagues are going to compete for championships and which teams/leagues have to make up ground during conference play. It helps voters in the polls when teams from different leagues compete against one another. No one enjoys seeing Big Ten teams play FCS squads or low-level FBS squads. Although maintaining intimacy in ever-growing leagues also is vital, and no one wants to see players go through four years without facing a league opponent, the ADs can't go into this with the mind-set that blockbuster non-league games are irrelevant. The good news is that nonconference strength of schedule will be a factor in determining playoff teams. The Big Ten ADs know this as they discuss how best to proceed with schedules for 2014 and beyond.
Rich from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Adam, As the discussion of division realignment continues, it seems increasingly clear to me that the most important consideration is preserving the longest-standing and important rivalries and play them every year. The secondary consideration should be ensuring that every team plays all the teams in the other division at least once in a four year period. The best alignment that addresses these two concerns is the so-called inner/outer. All of the most important rivalries would be preserved without the need for protected crossover games. And teams would be able to rotate through all seven teams in the opposite division every four years while playing one of those teams twice in that time frame.This alignment is a headache for naming divisions, but because the geography is understandable, confusion would be limited. It is the most practical and simple solution to the scheduling conundrum facing the league at 14 members. Do you have a sense of the level of support the inner/outer alignment has from any of your sources and contacts in the conference?
Adam Rittenberg: Rich, I definitely agree with your first point about maintaining the most important rivalries on an annual basis without using many or any protected crossovers. From what we heard from athletic directors about geography being such a key factor in this round of division alignment, I don't think the inner-outer model will get too much consideration. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't get that sense. We're going to see Wisconsin back with its traditional rivals Iowa and Minnesota, as well as new rival Nebraska. Penn State almost certainly will be with Rutgers and Maryland, and I think the Big Ten will keep Penn State with Ohio State and Michigan as well (fellow big brands). I think the divide will be more geographical, near the middle of the Big Ten footprint.
Matt M. from Chicago writes: Hi Adam -- Your 1/30 mailblog had an e-mail about "saving the Rose Bowl". Do you think there is an avenue for bowl games to re-define themselves as the playoffs steal there post-season thunder? I think one possibility would be to play "Bowl Games" as the kick-off to a new season. It would be really cool if there could be a way to organize the Defending B1G Champion meeting the Defending Pac-12 Champion in the Rose Bowl to open the following season each year.
Adam Rittenberg: Matt, while I'm all for creative marketing approaches, I can't support moving the Rose Bowl from New Year's Day to Sept. 1 or whatever. We might as well move Christmas to July 25 or Halloween to April 31. Bowl games are defined by when they take place. They were formed to boost tourism around the holidays, and they are, in essence, rewards for the best teams after good seasons. The Rose Bowl in particular is a New Year's Day event, complete with the parade and all the other events. The fact it will move to New Year's Eve in 2016 and 2022 -- because New Year's Day falls on a Sunday -- already seems odd. I'm all for having blockbuster non-league games to open the season at the Rose Bowl, especially since neutral-site games are becoming more popular. There has been some discussion between Big Ten and Pac-12 officials about these types of games. But they wouldn't take the place of the Rose Bowl Game itself.
Jodh from Lincoln, Neb., writes: How would you feel about a Big 10 Big 12 Merger? It would make a league of 24 divided into 4 divisions. It would provide new great markets, keep and renew old rivalries (Iowa vs Iowa State, Nebraska vs Oklahoma). Strength of schedule would be unmatched and there would never be a need to add more teams. The league could then negotiate for two BCS bowl.
Adam Rittenberg: Jodh, I don't see the need for a complete merger. These are two separate leagues that have their own cultures and values. Also, I'm a little surprised someone who lives in Lincoln would want to get back in the Big 12 after the way things ended with Nebraska. You do know Texas remains a Big 12 member, right? There are fundamental differences between the Big Ten and the Big 12, from revenue sharing to academics to market presence. While I could see a scheduling partnership if everyone was on board -- like the Big Ten and Pac-12 had before several Pac-12 schools backed out -- a full merger doesn't seem realistic.
Keith from Florida writes: I am from central PA (Jared Odrick and Kerry Collins are from the same town) so PSU will always be my team. My question is about alignment. I really don't follow basketball, but how do other sports fit into the alignment spectrum?? PSU and OSU might be a great yearly match up on the football field, but on the basketball court, it would be OSU hands down. Then the lesser sports (money makers or losses) like men's wrestling and women's volleyball, that's a win for PSU every wear. Do you believe when the pod/east-west/inner-outer concepts are looked into, they will focus around football (since many programs support the athletic depart on football revenue) or will they take into consideration non-football factors (geography or non-football competitive balance)?
Adam Rittenberg: Keith, the division discussions we've been writing about pertain only to football. These are sport-specific decisions, so basketball or other sports wouldn't be affected. Geography will be a factor, but more because of geographic rivalries in football than anything else. Will we ever see Big Ten divisions in basketball? Probably not. There's really no need when you have a conference tournament that includes every member school.
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