Your questions, my answers ...
Dave from Nashville writes: Am I the only one that thinks this "parity-based scheduling" (Jim) Delany mentioned is a terrible idea for the B1G? The B1G is already suffering from image problems, and the goal seems to be to put teams in the college football playoff to win NCs. And now the B1G is going to purposefully make their 'top' teams (i.e. the ones most likely to succeed on a high level) beat each other up in the conference schedulewhile giving mid/low tier teams a pass? Isn't that going to reduce the odds that one of the power programs makes it to the college football playoff or high level bowl games, and also increases the oddsa mid-tier B1G team sneaks into a high level bowl game with an artificially inflated record to which they are probably outmatched? If it happens by luck, then so be it; that kind of thing ends up evening out over the years. But to artificially create a situation where your headline, and most powerful, programs are more likely to have losses that would knock them out of the college football playoff? That's absurd. You don't see the SEC making sure Bama, LSU, A&M all play UF, UGA, and Scar all the time. Sounds like another win for the SEC. And don't give me 'strength of schedule' stuff. I'll believe an undefeated OSU, UM, PSU or UNL will get left out of the playoff on basis of an easy schedule when I see it. Is it all for some notion of having 'better' games?
Adam Rittenberg: Dave, I totally hear you, and you make some good points about the potential problems with parity-based scheduling. The Big Ten has to keep the College Football Playoff in mind with all of its division/scheduling moves, as the continued drought without a national championship hurts the league's rep more than anything else. That said, this sport remains all about television and providing the most attractive matchups to your television providers. The Big Ten wants to create as much attention for both divisions as possible and recognizes that having Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State all in the East creates the potential for the West to be overlooked. While having Nebraska play OSU/PSU/Michigan more often than not might not help the Big Ten's quest for a crystal football, it's a major win for TV and for the league's immediate brand (ratings, interest levels, etc.). The SEC has an advantage in that more of its teams have the ability to contend for a championship in a given year. For years, I've written about the Big Ten's lack of true national title contenders. Therefore, the league has to be mindful not only of the playoff but of featuring its best product as much as possible. That's the idea behind this.
K from Iowa writes: I think one of the "quiet" winners in the B1G's division realignment is Iowa. Hawkeye fans are known to travel and out of all 14 schools, they are the most centrally located in terms of its proximity to each of its six West Division rivals. Purdue is Iowa's farthest West opponent at about 330 miles. No other B1G school's farthest divisional opponent is that close--e.g., at 750 miles, Rutgers is more than twice as far from Indiana. Because Iowa produces so little homegrown talent, the Hawkeyes have always been forced to recruit other states so I don't know that the lack of exposure in the East Division's states will hurt them as much as their West opponents' proximity to Iowa City and the Hawkeyes' increased visibility in the West Division's states may help them.
Adam Rittenberg: K, I agree on all of your points except the last one. It definitely benefits Iowa and its fans to play annual games against Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Illinois. Although the Purdue series was mocked when it became a protected crossover, it's not a bad game for the Hawkeyes to play and for Iowa fans to attend. The proximity component definitely is a win for Iowa, along with having a seemingly easier path to the Big Ten championship. As far as recruiting, it'll be interesting to see if the West Division teams are hurt by having a smaller presence in the East Coast. Iowa has had past success recruiting states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Connecticut. The staff has ties to those areas, and they could be fertile for the program. So that could be a potential (not guaranteed) drawback to being in the West.
Jeff from Madison, Wis., writes: Hey Adam, I'm just curious what you think the league might do if the new division alignment proves to be competitively unbalanced? Also, I think the fact that a Big Ten Championship game exists can help to mitigate one division's power. As Wisconsin proved this season, it only takes one really good game to win the championship and punch your ticket to the Rose Bowl.
Adam Rittenberg: Jeff, that's absolutely right, and a few championship game wins by the West could obscure a fairly obvious imbalance during the regular season. As commissioner Delany pointed out both in interviews with myself and with the Big Ten Network, it ultimately comes down to that one game. I don't think the Big Ten wants to keep shuffling its divisions every few seasons, so unless there's further expansion, which seems less likely at this very moment, I'd anticipate the league letting things play out for at least five years if not 10. It would be a surprise to see the league react dramatically to 2-3 seasons of lopsided results and make a change.
Kevin from Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: "The ABC/ESPN prime-time slate features most of the Big Ten teams projected to contend for a championship -- except one. Nebraska". Uh, hello, am I to assume by this that Michigan State is not projected to contend for the championship?
Adam Rittenberg: Kevin, that's a mistake on my part. Michigan State is in the mix to contend for a championship, primarily because of its defense. The Spartans have more question marks than the other title contenders because the offense is so unsettled coming off of a very poor showing in 2012. But Michigan State doesn't need its offense to be Oregon or Texas A&M. An average offense combined with a nationally elite defense -- which I fully expect from the Spartans -- could get MSU to a Legends Division title.
Ed from Las Vegas writes: In response to the article "Big Ten's worst NFL draft? It's possible" the story sights the B1G's diminished reputation and underwhelming talent as the primary reasons for a poor draft showing. I disagree. NFL teams don't like players from spread offenses. Those offenses don't translate well to the pro game and thus makes evaluating players from those spread schools difficult. Also, spread offenses are adept at isolating defensive players again making it difficult to evaluate a player and possibly retarding a defensive player's development leaving them under-prepared for the NFL. Please, disagree. I have a slew of supporting arguments, but think I'm getting too wordy.
Adam Rittenberg: Ed, although the rise in run-based spread offenses around the Big Ten could be linked to the league's decreased output of NFL quarterbacks, I don't think it can explain the gradual drop in elite talent. Look at programs like Oregon, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, West Virginia and the Florida teams that Urban Meyer coached. They don't have trouble producing NFL talent despite running primarily a spread offense. Plenty of wide receivers from spread offenses make it to the NFL -- but few from the Big Ten. Plenty of cornerbacks who face spread offenses on a regular basis end up as high NFL draft picks -- but few from the Big Ten. It's also important to note that one of the Big Ten's most successful NFL quarterbacks, former Purdue star Drew Brees, played in a spread system with the Boilermakers. I just don't think you can chalk up the drop in draftees to the popularity of the spread around the Big Ten. It's too simplistic.
Ry from Greensburg, Pa., writes: How does ABC/ESPN consider 5 PM a prime-time game? Prime-time on the East Coast is between 7 and 9 PM. A 5 PM kickoff is only good for the fans that drive home after the game and the bars that will see a jubilant or depressed crowd. I am not a fan of these games and I would rather see a 3:30 PM kickoff than a 5 PM kickoff. I just do not understand how 5 PM is a "cool" time for a marquee match-up. I think 5 PM should be for games that are to "hold you over" for the big time games... ie: when the 3:30 PM game is at halftime, one can watch the 5 PM game and when the 3:30 PM game ends, one can watch the end of the 5 PM game until the 7:30 PM or 8 PM games start. It is an awkward time and I am not sure how it is a "Prime-Time" reward time slot.
Adam Rittenberg: Ry, maybe it's the former newspaper beat writer in me (late deadlines are torture), but I disagree about the 5 p.m. kickoffs. I'm not sure exactly when a game becomes prime time in the eyes of TV, but 5 p.m. is usually the start of the prime-time window. I wouldn't have had any issue with the Michigan-Penn State game kicking off at 8 p.m., but I still think the game has a big-time feel to it at 5 p.m. Sometimes 8 p.m. kickoffs can get lost in the shuffle depending on what's happening around the country, but a 5 p.m. game is staggered enough that it will get its own little window, especially in the second half before the 8 p.m. games really get going. The Big Ten has been so set in its ways in terms of start times -- noon ET, 3:30 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. ET -- not just for the regular season but for bowl games. Shaking it up with a 5 p.m. start is fine in my book, and I don't think it's a demotion. Also, it seems a lot easier for more fans (older folks, folks with families) to get to a 5 p.m. game in a fairly remote location like State College than an 8 p.m. game, when they'll be returning home at a very late hour.
Andrew from Omaha writes: Even with limited game experience, I had no doubt a team would take a mid-to-late round chance on a dude with a 69.0 yds/carry average. Jack Hoffman's absence from the draft was shocking. Any word on a free agent deal for the playmaker?
Adam Rittenberg: I agree wholeheartedly, Andrew, although Jack did get a face-to-face with one of the Chiefs -- the Commander-in-chief, that is -- two days after the draft. The kid had a pretty good month, I'd say. And when the 2027 draft rolls around, I'll expect to hear his name called.