Big Ten Friday mailblog

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John from Austin, Texas, writes: You seem to be downplaying the Penn St.-Nebraska rivalry. I agree with many that not playing this game every year is a loss for the Big Ten. You noted that Penn St must have a bigger rivalry with Ohio St. Well, Nebraska is two years in, so everyone has more tradition etc. The Key is Penn St-Nebraska has the basis (some bad blood, some key games, tradition programs) to be a great rivalry. The other problem is, both teams really need their own rivalry (not sharing someone elses).It has great potential. Could it flub? Sure, but it has just has more potential than Nebraska-Iowa; and even Michigan St-Penn St (mainly because MSU has a hang up over Michigan).

Adam Rittenberg: John, some good points here, especially about both teams needing a rival. Maybe the rivalry would have grown as the years went by, but it couldn't continue annually because the Big Ten based its division alignment on geography and eliminated crossover games -- a wise choice, in my view, because it creates better overall schedule rotations. The only preserved crossover is Purdue-Indiana, an in-state rivalry that goes back decades and decades. I don't think Penn State-Nebraska merited a protected crossover in the new alignment. Keep in mind the teams still will play quite often because of parity-based scheduling. I know both fan bases are a little disappointed, but I also think both squads have rivalry potential with teams in their division (Penn State with Michigan and Ohio State; Nebraska with Wisconsin and Iowa).

Joe from Ohio writes: Will Michigan State have another 6- to 7-win season? Will they win more games than last year? Or less?

Adam Rittenberg: I think they'll win more, Joe. The question marks on offense are valid and Michigan State has no shortage of holes to fill on that side of the ball. But the defense once again will be among the nation's elite, and it will keep the Spartans in every game this season. The offensive line is the key group in my mind. If Michigan State gets substantial improvement up front, it should help everyone, from the running backs to the quarterbacks to the receivers. Michigan State doesn't need to score 30 points per game to win a lot this season. But the offense can't stall out so often in the red zone, and there needs to be greater consistency in the passing game. When I look at the schedule, though, I see a team that wins eight or nine games. It's imperative for Michigan State to start off strong -- the Spartans need at least a split in their consecutive road games against Notre Dame and Iowa -- before things get tough in November.

D.J. from Seymour, Wis., writes: I was just wondering what you think Coach A. will do with incoming freshman Corey Clement if it would be a bad idea to redshirt him as they have said they want three good backs. Do you think he is capable of coming in this fall and beating out Jeff Lewis for that third spot?

Adam Rittenberg: Clement certainly is capable, but Wisconsin might not need him this season. Lewis would be at least a backup on most Big Ten teams, and if Vonte Jackson can stay healthy after consecutive ACL tears, Wisconsin likely won't need much from a guy like Clement. The Badgers typically don't redshirt their top running backs -- John Clay redshirted in 2007 because of some lingering academic issues -- but they might want to go down that road with Clement because there seems to be more than enough with James White, Melvin Gordon and Lewis/Jackson. Either way, Clement will have to make a big impression early in preseason camp to be in the mix for carries.

Adam from Okemos, Mich., writes: What are your thoughts on Luke Fickell? Last year's defense is below average by OSU's standards (23pts/359yds given up). The amount of 60+yards plays given up by OSU is probably greater than the combined 2005-2010 years of Jim Heacock. With new starters on defense, something tells me that Luke Fickell is not the type of DC that you can expect to field a top 10 defense with new starters.

Adam Rittenberg: Adam, I think those are fair criticisms, although Ohio State's defense played a lot better at the end of the season in wins against Illinois (170 yards allowed, 22 points), Wisconsin (360 yards allowed, 14 points) and Michigan (279 yards allowed, 21 points). This is a big year for Fickell as the leader of a defense that must replace all four line starters as well as two starting linebackers. You're right about the explosion plays -- Ohio State allowed more of them than in past seasons -- and it's an area the defense must address before the 2013 campaign kicks off. But does Ohio State really need a top-10 defense to win a national championship? Keep in mind those great Jim Heacock defenses often were offset by underachieving offenses under Jim Tressel. This year's Ohio State offense could be among the nation's best, so as long as the defense is solid, the Buckeyes should be in position to win most of their games.

Caleb from Pataskala, Ohio, writes: Adam,Can you envision a scenario where Rutgers gets replaced as the 14th member (not sure by whom...)? Or has the B1G gone too far down that road to rethink it despite all the mistakes and horrible press RU has made since the announcement? If they are too deep in the process with Rutgers, here's hoping the lay low out of the news for the next year.

Adam Rittenberg: Caleb, I can't see the Big Ten turning its back on Rutgers at this point. The league made it clear the last expansion was about demographics and entering new markets, and while Rutgers' campus has been rocked by these scandals, the campus itself hasn't moved and remains in a very appealing area for the Big Ten. Plus, even if the Big Ten dumped Rutgers and could handle all the legal issues that would follow such a move, who does the league add as a 14th member? Connecticut just doesn't fit because of the Big Ten's academic demands, and it doesn't really put the league in a major market like Rutgers does. While the Big Ten could look West again -- Missouri, maybe Kansas -- it made it clear it wants to be in two regions (Midwest and East Coast). So no, I don't see any backing out now. And yes, the Big Ten would love for the Rutgers maelstrom to go away.

Mike from Mt. Auburn, Iowa, writes: Adam, in your recent article about the B1G in the draft, you mentioned that Iowa has not had any 1st round draft pics from 2010-2013. As a devoted Hawk fan, I must correct you. Adrian Clayborn was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 20th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Adam Rittenberg: Mike, the post referenced where players played their high school ball, not their college ball. Clayborn grew up in St. Louis, so he counts for Missouri, not Iowa.