- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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I didn't have time for the regular mailblog Tuesday, but I didn't forget it. Let's get to those questions.
Sean from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Adam, While I like the targeting rule, what happens to players that dont get flagged on the field, but the play gets reviewed after the game? I can think of plenty of times a hit doesnt get flagged during the game and then the following week a suspension is handed down. Also, what happens when a ref flags a call that isnt targeting and suspends a playmaker? They cant review flags, and taking out a major player for a good hit could completely change the momentum of a game, or worse the outcome.
Adam Rittenberg: Sean, Big Ten officiating chief Bill Carollo reviews plays after every set of games, as coaches from around the league send in clips for review. Carollo and commissioner Jim Delany still will determine any penalties (i.e., suspensions) if they're warranted, just like they've done in the past. We haven't seen suspensions handed down after games very often in recent seasons, but the review process will continue. Carollo told me mistakes will be made and some targeting penalties will be called -- with ejections -- when they shouldn't be. Officials hope replay will clarify whether a hit is targeting or not, and the replay booth will have the final say on whether a player is ejected.
We could see key players ejected when they should remain in the game, and that'll be very unfortunate, but the idea is to reduce the number of hits to the head in the long term. And if a player is unfairly ejected, Carollo will review the play and have the power to reduce any punishment that carries over into the next game. So if a player is ejected in the second half, he may not have to sit out the first half of the following game.
Kevin from Scottsdale, Ariz., writes: Adam,I see where Adullah for Nebraska is out for about two weeks. With Heard gone there is only Imani Cross left, and two rookies. Why did Pelini not keep heard from transferring? We're in the same boat as last year where Cross is then only good running back if Abdullah goes down. If you look at it with Martinez, Abdullah, Cross and Heard, Marlowe and Bell that would have been a great offensive attack. And even last year we would have had Green in the backfield. What is Coach thinking?
Adam Rittenberg: Kevin, I understand your concern here, although coaches can't "keep" a player from transferring if the player has made up his mind and wants to leave. Heard clearly had reached that point with Nebraska. It's fair to ask whether Pelini should have been more in tune with Heard's unhappiness in Lincoln, as he was surprised by the first report about a Heard transfer. It's also fair to ask whether the coaches made a mistake by suggesting Heard move from running back to wide receiver, where the team already has good depth. After losing Aaron Green last spring, Nebraska certainly could have benefited from three backs with experience entering the 2013 season. Abdullah's knee injury fortunately isn't serious, and I really like Cross' potential. But after those two, it's a little shaky, and most Big Ten teams play at least two backs. Ultimately, I think Nebraska will be OK at running back, but the Huskers can't afford many injuries.
Zac from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: What are your guesses for night games this year? Do you think Michigan-Penn State or UM-MSU will be one? Do you know when they will be released?
Adam Rittenberg: Zac, the Big Ten and its television partners have started discussing the primetime schedule, but I don't expect it to be finalized until late April, if not early May. Maybe they'll get it done sooner, but with the NCAA basketball tournament kicking off, things get put on hold. We already know three night games in Week 1 -- UNLV at Minnesota, Indiana State at Indiana and Western Michigan at Michigan State -- along with the Notre Dame-Michigan game in Week 2 at the Big House. There also will be some -- not a ton, but some -- November night games this year, which is a welcome change. I'd love to see Michigan-MSU under the lights at Spartan Stadium, and there's certainly a chance there. While Michigan doesn't want to play MSU at night, MSU athletic director Mark Hollis is more open to the idea. I'd expect Michigan-Penn State to end up at night in State College. Other possible/likely night games include Wisconsin-Ohio State, Ohio State-Northwestern, Northwestern-Nebraska and Penn State-Ohio State.
Trevor from Wisconsin writes: In regards to Wisconsin's QB battle, I have a simple solution. Stave gets the nod, but has to battle Houston to keep the job (ultimate tie-breaker is a best-of-7 rock/paper/scissors match), move the JUCO transfer to wide receiver (where he was meant to be out of HS), and have tell Danny to grab a clipboard and Curt a coaching cap. Everything would work out for the best if that was the scenario, just saying ...
Adam Rittenberg: Glad to hear you have it all figured out, Trevor! Gary Andersen and Andy Ludwig are going to take the rest of the spring off. I do love the rock/paper/scissors tiebreaker. Ultimately, I think it will come down to Stave and Houston for the starting job, but Andersen repeatedly has said Tanner McEvoy, like all junior-college players, will have a chance to compete for a starting job even though he doesn't arrive until the summer. Wisconsin really could use another wide receiver, though. Hmmm ... I'm also interested to see how Wisconsin uses Phillips. He could be a great change-of-pace guy with his running ability.
J.J. from Tumalo, Ore., writes: B1G in discussion with ACC (!), B12 and SEC to form a bowl alliance. What about your buddies out here on the Left Coast? Et tu B1G!
Adam Rittenberg: The CBSSports.com story you refer to suggests the Big Ten would have a reduced role -- if any role at all -- in the multileague bowl alliance. But we will be seeing leagues partner up with bowl tie-ins for the next cycle. As I reported last week, it's possible we see the Big Ten and Big 12 share a tie-in with the Holiday Bowl, where they'll face a Pac-12 opponent. I think it's imperative that the Big Ten creates another tie-in -- either annually or on a rotational basis -- with the Pac-12 aside from the Rose Bowl. Big Ten and Pac-12 teams no longer meet every Jan. 1 in Pasadena, and with the Rose Bowl being part of the playoff semifinal rotation, there are no guarantees for the traditional matchup. So the Big Ten shouldn't forget about the Pac-12 when forming its new bowl lineup. Although the short-lived scheduling alliance between the leagues frayed the relationship a bit, the Big Ten and Pac-12 still have a lot in common and so many years of history with one another.
Machineunit27 from Berkley, Mich., writes: I know it's really early, but looking at Michigan's schedule, I can't see this team losing more than two games. Last year's losses were to two teams who played in the National Championship game, an undefeated Buckeyes squad, Nebraska, and South Carolina. All of these teams are good teams and every loss (with the exception to Alabama, who hardly anyone played close) were close losses. It took 6 turnovers for ND to beat us by a TD and a Denard Robinson injury to stop the comeback against the Cornhuskers dead in its tracks. Michigan is returning a great deal of talent, but it seems like they are getting a bad rap for their 8-5 record even though many knew they were playing a much tougher schedule compared to the previous years Sugar Bowl Champions. After all that, my question is: Is the B1G really becoming the Big 2 and the other 10, are we already there, or is there more parity in the conference with Ohio State at the front of it all?
Adam Rittenberg: I think the schedule argument is somewhat valid, Machine. Michigan probably wasn't as good as its 11-2 record in 2011 (benefited from an easy schedule) and not as bad as its 8-5 mark last season (played so many elite teams). The Wolverines have some question marks on both sides of the ball, as head coach Brady Hoke detailed in his interview with Brian, but they certainly could take that next step and win the Legends division. I don't think the Big Ten is back to the Big Two and everyone else. Although Ohio State is the obvious favorite to win the conference this season, the Legends division will be very competitive with Michigan, Nebraska, Northwestern and Michigan State. Don't count out Wisconsin or Penn State, either. And other programs like Minnesota and Indiana are making progress. If Ohio State and Michigan continue to recruit this well and develop the talent into stars, we could see more separation with those two and the rest of the league.
Mr. Pozzum from Arcadia, Calif., writes: Hey Adam! I love reading your blog about the B1G. Have you and Brian ever thought about taking one of us fans along with you on the spring games? If you need someone to go to the Michigan spring game, I'm available :)
Adam Rittenberg: Interesting idea, Pozzum. Maybe we'll create some kind of contest with that as a grand prize. You could be my cameraman and carry my bags. Sounds like a great idea. Will keep you posted.