Big Ten Tuesday mailblog

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Jeremy from Columbus writes: With regards to the future Big Ten schedules (2016 and beyond), will we go to a system of staggered crossover games? Since we went to divisions, we've played two non-protected crossover teams one year, then the same teams at opposite sites the next, leading to the same opponents two years in a row. With the three crossover schedule coming with nine conference games, are all three crossovers going to swap simultaneously, or can they implement a staggered system? We would have to in order to play all seven teams in the other division every four years, which I believe was a major goal for the ADs to allow every player to play against every other Big Ten team once. Alternatively, any chance of not playing direct home-and-homes with the crossover teams? For example, hosting a team one year, skipping them the next, then visiting them the third year? I personally would prefer this system in order to play the widest variety of teams.

Adam Rittenberg: Jeremy, I reached out to Big Ten scheduling czar Mark Rudner to get some clarity on your question. The main thing to remember, as you point out, is the league-wide directive to have each Big Ten team play every other conference member at least once every four years. That will happen in the post-2016 scheduling model. To meet that goal, the crossovers after 2016 will be staggered, so you won't always see the same teams in consecutive seasons. You also won't always see direct home-and-homes with crossover opponents. Eventually every game will be, in a sense, returned, but it won't be as "clean" as the current setup. The goal remains to avoid these long breaks without certain matchups.

Ethan from Prague writes: Adam, I am a PSU fan living in Prague so thank you for your blog so i can keep track of my team. I know the quarterback race is down to two: Ferguson and Hackenberg. For me, I think even if Hackenberg edges Ferguson slightly in preseason camp, I would rather have him redshirt just to save his eligibility. For PSU right now I think the long-run is more important than this season and having Hackenberg learn O'Brien's offense while not wasting a year of eligiblity could get many offensive recruits excited to come to PSU because they can play with him while competing for two bowl games. I also think O'Brien will be there for as long as Hackenberg is playing, so 5 years minimum with O'Brien would be better than any alternative. Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Ethan, first off, thanks for reading us all the way from Prague. I've always wanted to visit. I understand your perspective here, and if Steven Bench had stuck around in Happy Valley, it might make sense for Penn State to consider redshirting Hackenberg if he and Ferguson are about even in preseason camp. But without Bench, Penn State doesn't have much else behind Ferguson if Hackenberg doesn't play. Penn State could start Ferguson with the hope he can last the entire season and perform at a relatively decent level, but if not, the team can't tank the season just to save a year of eligibility for Hackenberg. While it's never ideal for a quarterback to play as a true freshman, there could be tremendous value for Hackenberg, a mature kid with a high ceiling.

Keep in mind, too, that Penn State will surround its new quarterback with some good weapons. The offense has a chance to be good again and that, more than anything else, will help recruiting. I think you're overvaluing Hackenberg's effect on Penn State's recruiting and on O'Brien staying or leaving. Penn State still can recruit top offensive players even if Hackenberg doesn't play, and O'Brien likely will base his future on which NFL teams come calling and how comfortable he feels in State College.

Matt from Michigan writes: Hey Adam, there's been some confusion on whether or no Jake Ryan can medically redshirt this upcoming season. Some say that because he redshirted for non-medical reasons his freshman year that he could not redshirt again. Could you verify this? Thanks.

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, Ryan wouldn't get a second redshirt season but a sixth year of eligibility, which would come after he's exhausted the years given to each player coming into college. It would be similar to the Devin Gardner situation, except Gardner didn't redshirt as a freshman in 2010, but had his season limited by injury. If Ryan's injury is severe enough to cost him the entire 2013 season, he could return as a fifth-year senior in 2014 and then apply for a sixth year in 2015. He would need to show medical proof that he couldn't return for a good chunk of 2013. This all likely is moot as Michigan coach Brady Hoke has said repeatedly that Ryan will return this fall, but if he has a setback in his recovery, I could see him going the sixth-year route.

Michael from Los Feliz writes: Hey Adam, As a Gopher fan I am outraged over the twenty fourteen and fifteen schedules. Minnesota is finally building what looks like a solid program under new leadership at all the big positions: football coaching staff, University President, and AD. However, apparently Jim Delany wants to see the Gophers continue to struggle. It is totally unfair to saddle Minnesota with cross division games against Ohio State AND Michigan, the two best programs in the conference. You can force Minnesota to play one of those schools, but both is totally unfair. It's especially brutal because Wisconsin and Iowa look to be taking a step back on the field, yet Iowa gets Maryland/Indiana and Wisconsin gets Rutgers/Maryland. This is gerrymandering and I am livid. Don't you think the Gophers got screwed by JD?

Adam Rittenberg: No, I don't. This might absolutely shock the conspiracy-theorist contingent of Big Ten blog readers, but Jim Delany has almost nothing to do with league schedules. Mark Rudner and his staff handle the schedule, and, after the league-wide scheduling principles (i.e. no more than two straight road games) are met, a computer generates the schedule and then the ADs sign off on it. Minnesota AD Norwood Teague agreed to the schedule, just like his Big Ten colleagues did. Is it a tough crossover schedule for 2014 and 2015? Sure. But Minnesota still is in what most believe to be the more favorable division (West). The Gophers won't have to deal with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State every year. Besides, aren't you happy that the Jug rivalry will continue in 2014? That has to be some sort of consolation.

Jon from Bangladesh writes: I've read a few articles that mope about the change of demographics and pool of talented players increasing in the South. No doubt as a Husker fan one has to accept that things aren't quite what they used to be. However I just had a thought today. What if the talent base in the South continued to increase? Assuming no new big Southern colleges are being founded, no move to Canadian style 13 players or more, and talented players not wanting to play third string, could a pattern like this actually begin to saturate the South, overflow a bit towards bigger colleges further North, and perhaps actually even the recruiting playing field a bit?

Adam Rittenberg: Jon, thanks for reading us from so far away. I've thought about the same thing: if demographic trends continue the way they are, more quality players should be looking for opportunities in far-flung leagues like the Big Ten. The counter argument is that SEC schools still will be getting the very top players from their surrounding areas and therefore will remain a cut above the Big Ten and the rest. If the SEC can pick and choose and not have to look far for national championship-type talent, it will continue to win those crystal footballs. That said, Big Ten schools must continue -- and, in some cases, ramp up -- their recruiting efforts in the South and Southeast. There's just too much talent in those regions to ignore and expect to compete at the highest level.

Stephen from Chicago writes: I am an Indiana Hoosier fan and was excited when Nebraska joined the Big Ten. I was looking forward to making the trek out to Lincoln and meet the supposed nicest fans in the country. As luck would have it, Nebraska ended up in the other division as Indiana and we were the one team that missed them the first four years in the conference. With Maryland and Rutgers joining the Big Ten, we were once again in the opposite division as Nebraska. Not only that, we were the only team with a protect cross over; meaning until the Big Ten goes to 9-game schedules, IU will only play one other team from the west each season. As I opened the 2014 schedule hoping for the 1 in 6 chance to find Nebraska, Nope we have Iowa. Am I ever going to see Nebraska play Indiana?

Adam Rittenberg: Stephen, this is a good point to raise, and it's obviously an unfortunate component of a scheduling model that keeps changing. Although having no Indiana-Nebraska game for Nebraska's first four seasons as a Big Ten member isn't ideal, it's not as bad as having a six-year break in the Illinois-Iowa series, which is currently going on and thankfully will end in 2014. The answer is yes, you'll see Nebraska soon enough, most likely in the 2016 schedule. After 2016, Indiana won't go four years without playing the Huskers. Things will begin to settle down from a scheduling standpoint. Look on the bright side: because of the quirky schedule, IU gets back-to-back home games against archrival Purdue this fall and next.

Kase from Dallas writes: Adam, as Nebraska alumni I'm a very disappointed in the 2014 (and 2015) schedule. No Penn State, No Ohio State, No Michigan. My biggest excitement about joining the B1G was getting to play these power programs. But it looks like this won't happen until at least 2016 when the B1G goes to a parity scheduling system. Home games against Illinois, Rutgers, Purdue & Minnesota are not exciting. Do you think the B1G is taking the Husker fans for granted? I doubt many other B1G programs would have sellout homes games with these opponents. Looking at 2015, I'm sure these schools will love the thousands of Nebraska fans that will likely travel to these away games. When making the schedule did the B1G take into account the "fans"?

Adam Rittenberg: I don't think the Big Ten bases its schedule on whether Nebraska can continue its sellout streak, if that's what you're asking. Certain home schedules will be more appealing than others, but until parity-based scheduling kicks in, Big Ten schedules aren't designed with the quality of opponent in mind. It's fairly random after the core principles agreed upon by all the ADs are met. The good news for Nebraska fans is after 2016, you'll see Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State in Lincoln more often than other East division teams. Although Nebraska fans aren't pleased with the 2014 home schedule, I'd be stunned if many stayed away. This is the same program that drew more than 60,000 for the spring game in April.