- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Wishing you a great weekend. To the emails ...
Glenn from Randolph, N.J., writes: Adam - Love the analysis of rivalries. The challenge I see is that aside from Penn State, Rutgers and Maryland have no natural or historical rvialries with the existing B1G teams. When the new divisions are aligned and a nine or ten game scheule developed, is it possible that some schools may have protected games and some may not? This would allow the new schools to rotate through all of the "western" schools more frequently but allow a couple of historical games to remain on the schedule annually.
Adam Rittenberg: Glenn, it's very possible the Big Ten will change its use of crossover games in the new alignment. League commissioner Jim Delany actually told me this Monday. There's really no reason for each team to have a crossover game. You want to create as much rotation as possible, especially for the new Big Ten members. The protected crossovers should only be used to preserve the top rivalries, really those in the untouchable category. By prioritizing geography, the Big Ten can do a better job of maintaining more rivalries with this division alignment so that it won't have to use too many crossovers. The athletic directors and the league office get it.
Charlie from Ames, Iowa, writes: Adam, coming from a Husker fan, how the HECK did you rank us 8th in the B1G for defensive line?! Take out a few of Eric Martin's sacks and they literally did absolutely nothing all year. I love my Huskers and I'm optimistic for the future (Bo supporter all the way), but the DL was absolutely terrible last year. Please re-rank and move them down.
Adam Rittenberg: Wow, rough assessment, Charlie, although you're hardly the only Huskers fan who feels this way. The defensive line has been on the decline since 2010, although injuries like Jared Crick and, to a lesser extent, Baker Steinkuhler haven't helped matters. Purdue's defensive line underachieved more than Nebraska's, which is why we put the Boilers at No. 9. Illinois also had more talent than it showed. Iowa's and Indiana's defensive lines both stumbled down the stretch. Defensive line will be a major emphasis point for Nebraska this spring, particularly the thin defensive tackle spot.
Misplaced Gopher from Fargo, N.D., writes: The Little Brown Jug is expendable? I disagree in very strong terms. There's a great history behind that trophy; unlike most traveling trophies it began with a genuine rivalry between two football superpowers and it grew organically. It wasn't a gimmick. I belong to a significant contingent of Minnesota fans who would rather beat Michigan than Wisconsin or Iowa. Michigan fans may disagree, but I'm confident that WHEN Minnesota retakes its place at the top of the college football hierarchy in the next few years, that dormant rivalry will explode.The expendable trophy game for Minnesota is the Governor's Victory Bell, which goes to the winner of Minn-Penn State. You neglected to even include the bell in your list. But that's okay, because most people don't even know that The Victory Bell exists.
Adam Rittenberg: I completely agree with you about the Jug's history, and also about the irrelevance of the Victory Bell. I realized after the post published that we left off that "rivalry," but as you point out, no one will miss it. As for the Jug game, while the history is terrific, the competitiveness for a long period of time just hasn't been there. The league has to make some tough choices with division alignment, and not every rivalry game can be saved. Minnesota has a lot of rivalries and a lot of trophy games. As you mention, you're in the minority with wanting to beat Michigan more than Wisconsin or Iowa. The Big Ten has to deal more with what the majority wants since it can't preserve every single rivalry. Now if Minnesota makes the rise you envision and starts beating the Big Ten's elite every year, including Michigan, maybe we'll reconsider.
Andrew from Laingsburg, Mich., writes: My concern with increased penalties for "helmet-to-helmet hits" is that the B1G officials have been comparatively quick to call those penalties. There seemed to be one or two called in every B1G conference game but I didn't see any called (with non-B1G officials) in the B1G bowls. For example, I think the Clowney-on-Smith hit from the Outback Bowl would have been penalized by a B1G officiating crew.
Adam Rittenberg: Andrew, some good points here. Big Ten coordinator of football officials Bill Carollo has made high hits and player safety major priorities with his crews. I'll look into whether they're calling those penalties more than crews from other conferences, but you might be right. The key thing with this proposal is the replay component because the replay official can overturn an ejection if he feels there is conclusive evidence. If replay does its job, the right decisions ultimately will be made. Yet as we saw during last season in the Big Ten, replay officials make mistakes, too. But I'm very interested to see how that element factors into the new rule.
Bill from Streeterville writes: I was a little surprised to see Nebraska-Ohio State as a rivalry you "would keep if possible," but no mention of Nebraska-Michigan. Not only do OSU and NU roll off one another's schedules for the foreseeable future, but the NU-UM match-up has had significance in divisional play for the Huskers' first two years in the B1G. Is it the Pelini-Ohio connection you're promoting? Or is OSU-NU better for the B1G for other reasons?
Adam Rittenberg: Both games are potential showcases for the Big Ten, the types of games that could command national television audiences in primetime. We could have included Nebraska-Michigan as well, but I do like the Pelini connection to Ohio State and the fact both schools have some tradition of hosting night football (Michigan just recently entered that realm), as their games more often than not should be held under the lights. But there isn't much separating the two games in my mind. It's likely that Michigan joins Ohio State's division in the new alignment, so Nebraska would only play the Wolverines and the Buckeyes on a rotational basis unless protected by a crossover, which is currently Penn State. I actually like keeping the Nebraska-Penn State game on an annual basis and rotating Michigan and Ohio State onto Nebraska's schedules from the other division.
John from DeForest, Wis., writes: Adam - Maybe the B1G can capitalize on a 9 game conference schedule to lock up that elusive scheduling agreement with another conference. Since several major conferences are already committed to 9 game conference schedules, they are hurting from the schedule imbalance too. Why not use the non-conference tie-in to balance it? When a team has only 4 conference home games, then their tie-in non-conference game would be home. It might not balance the conference aspect of things, but I think it would help to balance everything else.
Adam Rittenberg: John, several folks have brought this up, and Jim Delany told me Monday that despite the collapse of the Pac-12 alliance, he remains interested in forming partnerships with other conferences, whether it's for scheduling or bowl tie-ins. The Big Ten certainly doesn't want to get burned again, and it would need strong assurances from another conference that all of that league's members would be on board. The ACC would make the most sense as a partner -- I don't think the SEC would ever go for it -- as it also soon will have 14 teams and will play nine league games. The Big Ten-ACC alliance in basketball has worked out well. You have to wonder whether any tension from Maryland's departure to the Big Ten -- or the rumors about the Big Ten targeting other ACC programs for expansion -- would turn off ACC commissioner John Swofford. But it's something to monitor and would be a nice complement to a 9-game league slate.
Shawn from Oshkosh, Wis., writes: Adam, I respectfully disagree with your analysis of teams that have a chance to have a 1,000-yard rushers, 1,000-yard receiver and 2,000-yard quarterback. As you stated no Badger QB eclipsed 1,200 yards passing but Stave only played in 7 of the 14 games and in 2 of those 7 he played in he didn't play the full game. Aside from Stave, Phillips/O'Brien combined for over 1,000 yards in their 7 games; given the opportunity for a UW starter to play a full season it will be very possible for a 2,000-yard passing season. Next year, I expect much more continuity at the QB spot and thus Wisconsin should be among those with an expected 2,000-yard passer. At RB, White had 806 yards and Gordon 621, all while splitting carries with each other and Montee so at least one of those guys will get 1,000. At WR, Abbrederis had 837 yards and with more continuity at QB I expect this number to rise. I appreciate your blog and enjoy all of your(and Brian's) thoughts. Do you think what I'm saying is a fair assumption or am I just overly optimistic?
Adam Rittenberg: Shawn, I think you misunderstood the post. It points out that from a statistical standpoint, the Big Ten has few teams that return elite triumvirates -- quarterback, running back and wide receiver. You don't need to sell me on Jared Abbrederis or on the two running backs. But you're assuming one of those quarterbacks is going to produce. I could assume the same thing about the other returning quarterbacks who didn't come close to 2,000 pass yards. The post deals in absolutes -- who put up numbers and who didn't. I think it's telling that the Big Ten has only three teams bringing back a quarterback, a running back and a receiver who all put up big numbers in 2012.
Matt from Stamford, Conn., writes: Adam - I have just finished listening to your colleague Ivan Maisel discuss and interview Don Van Natta Jr. regarding the Freeh and Paterno reports. I think it would be a great option to add the podcast to the B1G Blog for everyone to listen to. It provides an excellent analysis and summary of where things stand with the Sandusky situation, while most other articles I've read or interviews I've heard are strictly for or against each report.