- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Mr. Pozzum from Arcadia, Calif., writes: Hi Adam. The new alignment in the B1G puts Michigan and OSU in the same divison? Is this true? It looks like a move to keep OSU and Michigan from playing in "The Game" then again in the B1G title game. Both teams will be back on top again and this looks like a move to keep other teams alive to play in the conference title game to me. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: While nothing is official and discussions are ongoing, I'd be absolutely stunned if Ohio State and Michigan aren't in the same division beginning in 2014. Avoiding a rematch in the championship game is one reason, and you can make a case that the Big Ten would like to see more teams in the league title game. But I also don't buy the argument that Ohio State and Michigan would make it every year if placed in opposite divisions. It hasn't worked out that way in the ACC with Florida State and Miami, and while the gap could be widening between the Buckeyes/Wolverines and the rest of the league, teams like Nebraska, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State and Northwestern aren't going to simply fade away. A bigger reason for bunching Ohio State and Michigan is the emphasis on geography with the divisions and the Big Ten's desire to brand itself more in new markets. By putting Michigan and Ohio State in the same division with Rutgers and Maryland, the Big Ten ensures that its biggest brands will be playing in those new markets every other year (most likely alternating).
Mike from Centennial, Colo., writes: Adam, if we split into west and east divisions do see the conference returning to rival games at the end of the season? I would love to see my Gophers playing Wisconsin to close the season. It would be great to see Nebraska vs Iowa, Northwestern vs Illinois, Indiana vs Purdue, etc.
Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Mike. The proposed divisions would make it much easier to have a true rivalry weekend at the end of the season. I think it's imperative that Big Ten teams play division games on the final regular-season Saturday rather than the division crossovers we see too often in November with the current model. With an East-West split, the schedule for the final Saturday should/could be: Michigan-Ohio State, Iowa-Nebraska, Wisconsin-Minnesota, Northwestern-Illinois, Penn State-Michigan State, Indiana-Purdue and Rutgers-Maryland. This slate would feature six division games and only one cross-division contest in Purdue-Indiana, which absolutely should remain on its traditional date. I also would like to see Wisconsin-Minnesota as the regular-season finale, and a Maryland-Rutgers game makes sense since they're the two new additions. Best of all, it means the revered Land Grant Trophy would be at stake as Penn State and Michigan State do battle.
Jim from Omaha writes: Adam, Nebraska fans need to chill out and respect the tradition they have just joined. Sorry, but we won't be viewed as full fledged members of the B1G until: 1) we win the conference championship, at least 3 times, and 2) we win a BCS bowl game or two. We can moan all we want, but we are not top tier until we compete well with top tier. I don't begrudge OSU-Mich their hubris. They've earned it. We joined their conference, they didn't join us (like Texas). I look forward to the future in the B1G. We can and will compete well, East or West, Leaders or Legends. I just want to play PSU every year. That is our best hope for a rivalry of merit like we had with OU. Any word PSU-NU will be protected?
Adam Rittenberg: Jim, you definitely raise fair points about Nebraska needing to legitimize itself in the Big Ten before complaining about the division alignment and claiming to be the only real threat in the future "West" division. I also think people are selling short programs like Wisconsin, Northwestern and Iowa. Wisconsin has been a more consistent Big Ten power since 1993 than every squad other than Michigan and Ohio State. Iowa won a BCS bowl game after the 2009 season -- not that long ago -- and has been a force at times during Kirk Ferentz's tenure. Northwestern's recent rise under Pat Fitzgerald largely mirrors that of Michigan State's under Mark Dantonio.
Although I agree that the proposed divisions appear imbalanced, these things often change over time, and we'll see another round of alignment if and when the Big Ten expands beyond 14. As for the Nebraska-Penn State series, I don't expect it to be protected. The athletic directors want as broad a schedule rotation as possible beginning in 2014, and the protected crossover games hurt the rotation. Indiana-Purdue is the only crossover game expected to remain. Although it would be nice to see Nebraska and Penn State play every year, I think there's great potential in the Nebraska-Wisconsin series.
Matt from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Adam, it has been brought up a few times that the SEC only played one game north of Missouri last season and that was Vandy at Northwestern. This is not a new development and needs to change. I understand the SEC not wanting to travel to a bowl game in a northern state during the middle of winter, but an early September game in the Midwest should not be a problem. I love that Michigan and Arkansas have the home and home scheduled but please tell me there will be more of that to come!
Adam Rittenberg: Matt, I wish I could say there are a bunch of Big Ten-SEC matchups around the corner, but it's simply not the case. We likely will see more neutral-site meetings between the leagues like Michigan-Alabama last year and Wisconsin-Alabama in 2015 at Dallas Cowboys Stadium. Of all the SEC schools, Alabama really deserves credit for being willing to play Big Ten teams (the Tide also had a home-and-home against Penn State in 2010 and 2011). But most SEC teams, like many Big Ten teams, hate giving up home games, and if they have to travel, they don't want to come North. Nebraska has a home-and-home series set with Tennessee in 2016 and 2017, Indiana plays Missouri this season and next, and you mention the Michigan-Arkansas series in 2018 and 2019, but I wouldn't hold my breath for many more of these series. It's much more likely we see one-time neutral-site meetings so teams don't lose as much money as they would with pure road games.
John from Skippack, Pa., writes: Hello Adam...ok, so I am going to,disagree with your recent disagreement: "I also disagree with you that Penn State can "match" Ohio State. The Ohio State program is at a higher level." So, Ohio State is not at a higher level. At the moment, they have more talent, and likely will during the sanction period. But when it comes to the two "programs", Penn State is very much on par with Ohio State's. from the coaching staff to the facilities, to their fan base and their success in graduating their players, thee is no doubt whatsoever that Penn State is equal, if not ahead of Ohio State. Bill O'Brien can and will recruit an extremely competitive team. And they will get their share of Big10 titles. Just wait and watch.
Adam Rittenberg: John, I don't deny there are plenty of comparable traits between Penn State and Ohio State, many of which you outline here (great fans, great facilities, great football tradition, strong graduation rates, good coaches). Bill O'Brien is an excellent coach with a strong staff. But Ohio State is in a better recruiting position than Penn State. There's more talent in the state of Ohio, Ohio State has more national recruiting reach, Ohio State is more easily accessible than Penn State, and Urban Meyer is one of the nation's truly elite recruiters. That's not a knock on O'Brien or his coaches, but Meyer is recruiting at a higher level. Also, let's look at the two programs since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993 (for these purposes, no wins/titles are vacated). Ohio State has won or shared 10 Big Ten titles, while Penn State has won or shared three. Ohio State has reached 10 BCS bowls (National Championship, Rose, Fiesta, Orange, Sugar). Penn State has reached four. Could things change in the next 5-10 years? Sure. Again, O'Brien has the Penn State program on the right track. But Penn State hasn't been the world beater many thought it would be when it entered the Big Ten. Ohio State, meanwhile, has been the league's dominant program.
Kevin from Evanston, Ill., writes: Adam I think one of the biggest things you missed in your 2 qb system article was when Colter told McCall to let Siemian finish the game against Syracuse. That truly shows that they are both out there to win regardless of ego. I just thought that was a huge part of this qb system and actually surprised you didnt mention it.
Adam Rittenberg: Kevin, that's a good point, and one I should have included in the post. Kain Colter was a bit banged up at the time, but he showed his unselfish nature by pushing for Trevor Siemian to lead the game-winning drive against Syracuse. In many ways, it set the tone for a functional rotation that helped Northwestern win 10 games last season.
Kyle from State College, Pa., writes: Hey Adam, have you guys heard about former PSU DT Anthony Adams' retirement video at White Castle?
Adam Rittenberg: That is OUTSTANDING! Thanks for passing along. As someone who has spent the past four Valentine's Days dining at White Castle -- and my wife still hasn't divorced me -- I can appreciate this. Adams was a great Bear here in Chicago. The best part is when he asks his sleeping baby daughter if she has any questions for him. I also couldn't stop staring at the poster with the new sweet potato fries. Yum. Thank goodness there's a White Caste five blocks away.