Some questions and answers before the weekend ...
Antonio from Omaha writes: As I read Brian's article "Huskers take aim at turnover problem" earlier, it hit me how much an impact a team's offensive success or failure has on it's defense, and vice versa, but in a different light. Although the defensive letdowns at Ohio State and in the BIG 10 Championship game last year absolutely cannot be traced back to the offense being "too successful", is there any reason not to think that Nebraska offense SHOULDN'T go at a faster pace this year because it'll put the young and inexperienced defense on the field more? Call me biased and optimistic, but I just see this offense having the experience to be one of the best in the nation, esp if they improve their turnover issues, and could be a threat to put points on the board every time they have possession. Although I don't worry about putting up 35+ points by halftime in some of the nonconference games on the schedule, teams like Michigan and UCLA, who could turn around and score all over a young defense, make me think whether a slower offensive pace would be a beneficial team strategy ...
Adam Rittenberg: Antonio, this is a very interesting issue in college football right now as so many teams are trying to go faster on offense, in large part because of Oregon's success. I remember talking with Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges about this, and he did a study on how offensive tempo impacted a team's defense. Not surprisingly, he found that the faster teams go, the worse their defenses perform because those units are always on the field. So you want to be cognizant of that and careful. On the flip side, you don't want to hurt yourself by slowing down to save your shaky defense. As Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck once told me, "We want to play in that high tempo as much as we can. Our players seem to play well that way, our quarterback in particular. Taylor [Martinez], the game comes easier to him for some reason when we're playing fast." I think there's a balance and Nebraska can slow things down at times, but the Huskers don't want to go away from what makes their offense so dangerous.
Tom from Berkeley, Calif., writes: What would your thoughts be on an agreement with the P12 and involved bowls where the B1G sent their #3 team to the Holiday in even years and their 6 or 7 to the Kraft Fight Hunger in odd years? By getting teams at different 'levels' less likely for repeats or rematches, and when it does happen they'd be in different locations. B1G gets a second California bowl each year (three might be too many). Travelling fans could consider catching two.
Adam Rittenberg: Always great to hear from my hometown, Tom. I completely agree with the idea of having a second Big Ten bowl team in California each year. Your plan makes sense, although I wonder if the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl appeals enough to the Big Ten or its fans. It's a long trip for a fairly low-tier bowl, although the Bay Area is an attractive destination. The Holiday Bowl, meanwhile, carries a little more prestige, and there's mutual interest between the two groups. I would be in favor of adding both games on a rotational basis, and your point about eliminating repeats is a good one. But it ultimately comes down to how the Big Ten views the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
Jim from Racine, Wis., writes: So with the mess at Rutgers...what is the take of the Big Ten Commish? Did they make a mistake? Sounds like Rutgers is really messed up educationally and leadership wise.......Should Big Ten Reconsider ? Also how in the heck did Smith dodge a bullet at Ohio States mess.
Adam Rittenberg: Check out the previous post for the Big Ten's take on Rutgers. No real surprises, as Jim Delany acknowledges Mike Rice's conduct was unacceptable and Rutgers made some mistakes, but the school's future membership hasn't been questioned. As Delany points out, Rutgers isn't the first Big Ten school to deal with personnel issues involving a coach's conduct (see: Knight, Bobby). The difference between Tim Pernetti and Gene Smith is that Pernetti had knowledge of Rice's conduct problems, while Smith wasn't aware that Jim Tressel knew about the Tat-5.
Chris from New Haven, Conn., writes: Adam - I have heard a lot about how Michigan finally looks fast after having been in the same system now for the third year. After having seen Michigan practice do they appear faster, especially on defense? What one player on each side of the ball has stood out as impact players?
Adam Rittenberg: Chris, there definitely seems to be more team speed at Michigan, not only in the back seven but with linemen like Mario Ojemudia, a lean body who has good burst off of the edge. Linebacker James Ross is another defender generating buzz. He has good closing speed. The coaching staff sounds very excited about young cornerback Dymonte Thomas, one of the team's fastest players. Offensively, the Wolverines have good speed at receiver with Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo, and I'm interested to see if Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh can make an impact this season. I think they'll have a real chance.
Matt from Wausau, Wis., writes: Adam, this Rb draft class seems to be a real head-scratcher to me. I've been tearing through inside draft profiles both here and on other sites and it seems Eddie Lacy is the consensus top pick for RB's. I'll concede he may have better top-end speed then Montee Ball, but in every other facet of a RB profile, Ball is heads and tails above Lacy and everyone else. The other thing that bugs me is Lacy had a better OL this year, and worse numbers than Ball. Would someone stop this insanity and actually declare Ball the top back in the draft?
Adam Rittenberg: Matt, you know Brian and I are huge fans of Montee Ball, but how is he better than Lacy in "every other facet of a RB profile?" Does he have more power? I don't think so. Does he break more tackles? I saw Lacy break plenty during his Alabama career. Sure, Lacy played behind a better offensive line than Ball did last season, but he also did plenty of damage in the open field, particularly in big games. Lacy also wasn't featured as much as Ball. He had no game with more than 20 carries and just eight games with 15 or more carries. In those eight contests, Lacy averaged 123.5 yards per game. Ball certainly helped himself at Wisconsin's pro day and will be a very good NFL back in my view. But I think you're selling Lacy short.
MrVandy from Bethlehem, Pa., writes: Adam, I totally understand why Michigan State is not an option for the west division even though they would make the most sense competitivewise. With an odd number in each division, if we are to end the season with Big Ten teams playing each other, there will have to be one crossover game on that date. If we want to be consistent from year to year and als end with rivalries, of MSU is in the west the only constant crossover would be Michigan, and we all know they already have a partner for that Saturday. Otherwise, MSU would be stuck rotating with Penn St., Rutgers, and Maryland (and those teams would also rotate each other). That's why Purdue or Indiana must go west. Lastly, since the divisions will be aligned geographically, can we send you over to cover the west division, while Brian covers the east division?
Adam Rittenberg: So you're just trying to get rid of me, Vandy? I see how it is. We won't be splitting up the division coverage, so you're stuck with both of us covering the whole league. But you bring up a good point about the odd number of teams in the divisions and how it impacts the schedule for the final regular-season Saturday. You couldn't have Michigan-MSU on that date, so Purdue-Indiana is a good option. I also think the Big Ten loses less by having a weaker schedule rotation for Purdue or Indiana than it does with bigger brands like Michigan and Michigan State.
KMan from Baltimore writes: Adam,A couple questions/comments - as you did yesterday w/ Michigan State, will either you or Brian be doing a live blog from PSU this spring? Second, my pick for PSU's breakout player in 2013 is wideout Eugene Lewis. With measurables comparable to star receiver Allen Robinson, I've heard nothing but good things. He should complement Robinson nicely along with Moseby-Felder this season. In terms of the slot, I feel this is perfect spot for Bill Belton given his shiftiness and athleticism, much like his role in late 2011. I don't see him succeeding at tailback. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: Neither Brian nor I will be going to Penn State this spring, but our colleague Ivan Maisel will be there early next week. Look out for a possible live blog from Ivan. Lewis is a good call for potential breakout player, as the Lions need at least another receiver to emerge, even though they have Robinson and tremendous depth at the tight end position. I know Bill O'Brien is excited about the younger receivers like Lewis, Trevor Williams and Alex Kenney. As for Belton, I wouldn't give up on him at running back just yet, although slot receiver could be an option down the line. A lot depends on how he competes with the other backs like Zach Zwinak and Akeel Lynch.