- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Wishing you a great weekend ...
Hunter from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Enough about Michigan and Ohio State!! Lets hear more about the Spartans!! Although not as decorated as the Buckeyes and the Wolverines recruiting classes (obviously), I think it still has some great talent. If [Andrew] Maxwell performs poorly next season again, do you think Damion Terry has a shot at grabbing a starting job before the end of the year? [Coach Mark] Dantonio showed that he is definitely supports change after he played Connor Cook for most of their bowl game.
Adam Rittenberg: Hunter, Michigan State has a good history of doing more with less-decorated recruits, and its 2013 class, while small, seems pretty solid to me. I'd be surprised to see Terry move ahead of both Maxwell and Cook into the starting lineup. Those two would have to play really poorly for that to happen. The other thing with Terry is he has a different skill set than Michigan State's recent quarterbacks. I wonder how much the offense will change if and when he becomes the starter. That type of shift might be hard to do midseason. Ideally, Maxwell and Cook perform well and Terry has some time to develop in the program. If he's being thrust into action this season, Michigan State could be in trouble again on offense.
Christopher from Middleton, Wis., writes: Is Wisconsin in a better position this year having a coaching staff that has worked together in the past and time to prepare for the season than they were last year assembling coaches who had not worked together previously, were from different programs, and assembling that staff with little time before spring practice? My observation is that this Wisconsin staff is more coordinated and onboard with a plan than last year.
Adam Rittenberg: Christopher, a good observation here. Although Bret Bielema and his new assistants tried to downplay the transition before last season, the growing pains became obvious when the games began. We saw an unprecedented assistant coach change after two games (Mike Markuson), and the offense only got on track for short stretches. The familiarity on Gary Andersen's staff will be much stronger, and the two assistants Andersen retained, Thomas Hammock and Ben Strickland, should blend in well. The key is connecting with the players, who are now going through another transition with new systems, new terminology and new emphasis points. It's fair to expect some bumps along the way again, but if Wisconsin's players and coaches can get on the same page by August, the Badgers should once again challenge Ohio State in the Leaders Division.
Sean from Cincinnati writes: I saw you guys just posted the combine list and put Boren as a running back. He played linebacker at the end of the season, what are the chances a NFL team takes him as a linebacker?
Adam Rittenberg: While Zach Boren did a nice job filling in for Ohio State at linebacker after rash of injuries, his future really appears to be at the fullback/running back spot. That's where NFL teams are evaluating him, and while it's hardly unprecedented for players to change positions at the next level, I'd be surprised to see Boren drafted as anything but a fullback. College football isn't exactly mass-producing great fullbacks these days with the changes on offense, and Boren is a very good one. He'll find a home there.
Jonathan from St. Louis writes: Fan who bleeds Maize and Blue stuck here in SEC country. What does it take to get Notre Dame to join the Big Ten? Is that even feasible? Would the Big Ten even want Notre Dame since they want to expand out of traditional Big Ten country into new markets? Finally, would Notre Dame even be worth the effort (to the Big Ten) to pursue?
Adam Rittenberg: I did a double-take when you wrote SEC country and then I remembered -- Mizzou. As for Notre Dame, the Big Ten likely would be a last-resort option for the Irish. The two sides have had so many conversations during the past 15 years, and each time, Notre Dame decided to stay put as an independent. Notre Dame's new affiliation with the ACC increases the likelihood that if it ever plays football in a conference, it would be the ACC, not the Big Ten. Bottom line: I wouldn't hold your breath about ND and the Big Ten. Would the Big Ten want ND? Sure. It's a national brand and would enhance the Big Ten in many different areas. But Notre Dame would have to join on the Big Ten's terms -- full member, no special treatment, equal revenue sharing, etc. That's the culture Jim Delany has created in the Big Ten, and he's not going to change it for Notre Dame when other big-time programs -- Ohio State, Michigan -- agree to the terms. The other thing is that if ND wants to be in the Big Ten, it has to take the initiative. There's a perception that Delany cries himself to sleep every night because he couldn't land the beloved Notre Dame brand. That's simply not true. He has moved on to other schools and other ventures. So if this partnership ever happens, I really think Notre Dame has to make the first move.
John from Chicago writes: Adam, After reading about Urban Meyer and his plans to address Big Ten coaches about weak recruiting, I'm curious to hear your thoughts on the topic, specifically as it relates to class rankings. Most of the rankings I see are based on total stars or points, so a team like Michigan State taking only 17 players ends up in the 30's and 40's, while the majority of the top 15-20 are taking somewhere between 20-25 commits. In the case of MSU, a main driver of the smaller class size is the very high percentage of redshirts in prior classes. If you're a fan, are you concerned about seeing your team with a lower ranked class, or is the depth and relative lack of attrition a good thing? I tend to side with the latter, but curious to hear your thoughts.
Adam Rittenberg: John, I definitely agree that teams with smaller classes can be penalized in recruiting classes, even if their quality trumps the quantity of other teams. The whole thing is an inexact science, and as Tom VanHaaren told us on Thursday's podcast, the ratings are merely projections. Most fans know their team's roster through and through, and they understand that having a lot of redshirts typically leads to smaller recruiting classes. There could be different opinions about mass redshirting -- some love it, others say it indicates a lack of talent/weak recruiting -- but the Big Ten tends to have programs that place more on development than bringing in the flashiest recruits. Maybe that changes in time as Ohio State and Michigan pile up blue-chip prospects, but programs like Wisconsin, Michigan State, Iowa, Northwestern and Purdue have built their success on players who blossom while in college.
Kyle from Okemos, Mich., writes: What do you think about going to pods to determine divisions with 14 members? Have two 4-team pods (Wisc, Minn, Iowa, Neb) and (Mich, MSU, OSU, NU) and two 3-team pods (Ill, Ind, Purdue) and (Penn St, Rutgers, Maryland). Divisions are one 4-team pod and one 3-team pod. With 6 games against divisional foes, that leaves 2 crossovers. A team from a 4-team pod would play two games against teams from the other 4-team pod. With a traditional home/away series in back-to-back years, each team would play every other team home and away in a 4-year span.
Adam Rittenberg: Kyle, I guess this could work, but I'm not a fan of pods or divisions with unequal numbers of teams. I've never liked it in pro sports when some divisions have more teams than others. The pod system seems to make a lot more sense if and when the Big Ten goes to 16 teams. It becomes simple with four 4-team pods. I know you and other Big Ten fans are coming up with these ideas with the same objective -- to get Big Ten teams playing each other as much as possible. But the reality is there will be gaps in the schedule, just like there were for years in the 11-team Big Ten. I think seven-team divisions with limited protected crossovers and nine-game Big Ten schedules could work, as long as athletic directors keep some of their marquee non-league games. And if the Big Ten goes to 16 teams, the pod system certainly makes a lot of sense.
Chris from Jacksonville, Fla., writes: Adam, I know you are a graduate of Northwestern University which is obviously in Chicago and given the recent news of Northwestern playing more games at Wrigley Field in the near future I have a question that is somewhat related. Why doesn't Illinois seek to play games at Soldier Field? I'm not an Illini fan but I have read a number of times that Illinois needs more in-state talent to commit for the program to grow. I would think playing games at Soldier Field would be very helpful for the Illini. Am I unaware of some rule preventing them from playing games there?
Adam Rittenberg: Chris, Illinois has launched its own in-state marketing push and wants to increase its presence in the Chicago area. It includes a game at Soldier Field this coming season against Washington. Illinois has played only one other game at Soldier Field (1994), so it will be interesting to see if this year's game leads to others along the lakefront. I agree that it could be helpful, although Illinois has to start winning more consistently on the field to give people in Chicago and throughout state a reason to get excited. I doubt we'll see Illinois at Wrigley Field because of the Northwestern-Cubs partnership, and I don't think we'll see Northwestern "host" the Illini at the Friendly Confines in the near future. But the Soldier Field contest seems like a positive step for Illinois, which has benefited from basketball games in Chicago in the past.