Big Ten mailblog

Your questions, my answers ...

Mike from Denver writes: Because it's never too early to compare....You were in East Lansing and two days later in Ann Arbor. I understand it's just Spring and only a day on site so I'm not looking for a prediction. But how would you compare where each team is and how high their ceilings are? If you want to go ahead and predict a score, don't let me stop you ...

Adam Rittenberg: No score predictions just yet, Mike, although there's plenty of time for foolish/fearless predictions before the season kicks off. Both teams have a good chance to be better than they were in 2012. Michigan State's physical play on defense really stood out to me in practice. The Spartans boast tremendous speed and depth in the secondary, and they lay the wood on ball-carriers every chance they get. Michigan's speed also caught my eye -- it's an area the Wolverines have upgraded on both sides of the ball. I still get the sense Michigan is a year away, numbers-wise, from being back among the nation's elite. The Wolverines will have more elite players in position to contribute in 2014. Both teams have similar question marks -- running back, pass rush, wide receiver. I have little doubt Michigan State's defense will once again be among the nation's elite, but the Spartans need to threaten opponents more on offense. Michigan needs some star power to emerge on defense and a running back to complement quarterback Devin Gardner's passing skills.

Bob from Crown Point, Ind., writes: Adam...What differences do you see in how the new Purdue coaching staff is handling practice as opposed to the last four years?

Adam Rittenberg: For starters, most practices are now open to the media and public, so we can see a lot more of what's going on with the Boilers. Darrell Hazell doesn't waste time, and his practices are crisp and efficient. The team isn't out there long, but they seem to get a lot done. Overall, the atmosphere around the program is much more relaxed. Danny Hope is more high-strung/intense than Hazell, who brings a calming presence to the Mollenkopf Athletic Center. The practice itself featured a lot of special teams and ball security drills, two hallmarks of Hazell, a Jim Tressel disciple.

Brett from Madison, Wis., writes: Hey Adam, what do you think about the Badgers losing David Gilbert? Obviously, losing a veteran player with his athleticism is going to hurt, but how big of a loss do you think it is? Also, after watching the Badgers practice and talking to the coaching staff, who do you see as the guy who's going to replace him?

Adam Rittenberg: The impact of Gilbert's loss will be determined by the pass-rushers who remain, players like Brendan Kelly, Pat Muldoon and Tyler Dippel. Kelly is the one to watch as he racked up eight sacks and 11 tackles for loss the past two seasons after battling several injuries early in his career. He could be a very good fit for Gary Andersen's defense. Dippel had five sacks last season, while Muldoon added 2.5. The bummer is that Gilbert likely would have thrived in the new scheme, which features players of his size in an outside linebacker/rush end role. Wisconsin lacks proven depth in the secondary, which could be a problem area if the pass rush isn't strong. The Badgers haven't had a difference-maker up front since J.J. Watt, so the defensive end spot will be very interesting to watch from now until Aug. 31.

Russ from Roanoke, Va., writes: How does Maryland's history and bowl records /wins compare with the other Big 10 schools? I know they were once coached by Bear Bryant, but where are they in terms of bowl game wins & national championships pecking order?

Adam Rittenberg: Maryland football will enter its 121st season this fall. The Terrapins boast nine ACC championships (seven outright, two shared, last title in 2001) and an 11-11-2 record in bowl games (last appearance: 2010 Military Bowl). Bryant coached the Terrapins for just one season, in 1945, going 6-2-1 before taking the Kentucky job. He clashed with Harry Byrd, the school's president and former football coach (Maryland's stadium is named after Byrd).

Mike from Allentown, Pa., writes: Hey Adam,I know a lot of us PSU fans are asking about what penalties (if any) Auburn or Rutgers might have dropped on them. How about the reverse? What if Penn State never issued an internal investigation? Would the NCAA have even done something? Miami seems to be questioning, with good reason, everything the NCAA has brought against them. Is that just the difference between a school president that has years of experience, as opposed to someone just thrown into the fire? It's tough to feel as had we not launched our internal investigation, we would be sanction free (at least for now).

Adam Rittenberg: Mike, there's no doubt the NCAA would have conducted its own investigation into Penn State if the school didn't do its own probe. It's fair to wonder if the NCAA investigation would have run into the same problems as the Miami probe, but I have a hard time thinking no action would have been taken, judging by NCAA president Mark Emmert's response to the Freeh Report. I really think the only way Penn State would be sanction-free is if the NCAA investigation was sidetracked. A better question is whether Penn State would have received reduced sanctions if it went through the normal NCAA infractions process. Former NCAA investigator Ameen Najjar criticized Penn State president Rodney Erickson for not pushing back more against the NCAA sanctions, writing in an email that the NCAA had no right to impose sanctions. Maybe he's right, but the impact of the Penn State scandal prompted the NCAA to act in some way. The impact also prompted the university to conduct its own investigation. After the P.R. hit Penn State took, the university was under a lot of pressure to do some type of internal probe.

FFXLion from Washington D.C. writes: I don't have a football question for you, but just a comment. I saw that you finished very well in our blog hoops pool. In fact, you finished tied with my 8th grade son for 14th place. Given his prowess at picking winners, I have to congratulate you on quite an accomplishment. PS: I didn't do as well.

Adam Rittenberg: I'm usually in your boat, FFX, when it comes to my bracket. Louisville winning it all definitely helped me, and I had a good first two days. But that Georgetown pick -- man, oh man. Maybe your son can pick the games for me in the fall. I'm looking forward to another dinner at St. Elmo's on Bennett's dime.