Let's begin ...
Mel from Cincinnati writes: Is there any chance that the Big Ten would go to a scheduling model similar to the SEC, where most teams play a non-conference game against a weaker opponent later in the schedule? Essentially the game acts as a bye. Doing that might reduce the need for bye week(s) in October - prime football weather in the midwest - and would spruce up the September schedule by playing 1-2 league games earlier. Directional State Teachers College might not looks so bad in late October if it was understood to be replacing a bye week.
Adam Rittenberg: First off, this isn't from my uncle Mel in Cincinnati, although it's always great to hear from the Queen City. Mel, this topic has been brought up in recent years. Not surprisingly, former Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema pushed for an SEC-type scheduling model. Bielema wanted to see the Big Ten play league games earlier in September and create spots for a nonleague "breather" late in the season. He made some good points about how the Big Ten should mirror the nation's dominant league in its scheduling model. Bielema obviously doesn't have to worry now as he's in the SEC at Arkansas.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and others seem open to playing league games earlier, and we'll see a few in the next few years, from Wisconsin-Purdue in Week 4 this year to Penn State-Rutgers remaining as a Week 3 contest in 2014. There are a handful of nonleague games scheduled for later in the season the next few years. The bye week isn't going away -- the double-bye the next two seasons stems from the calendar -- but the Big Ten could move closer toward this type of scheduling model, which helps teams during the grind.
Gary from Spencerville, Ohio, writes: Adam, I enjoy the blog and appreciate your coverage of B1G issues. However, sometimes you tend to wear your ESPN blinders and fail to see the B1G picture. A prime example of this is your contention that B1G fans need to simply "get over it" when we complain about playing all of the bowl games away. Everyone knows that home teams have substantial (aprox. 80%) advantage over road teams. Even you yourself admit that B1G teams are at a disadvantage. Yet, you simply state that we need to accept that, and that our teams just need to win regardless of the disadvantages. Wrong answer. Any organizational leader will tell you that when faced with that type of skewed paradigm that leadership needs to change the dynamic to something more advantageous. Delaney and the B1G Presidents do have the clout to accomplish that. Bowl games are NOT about the tourism industry. Sure, tourism profits from it, but that is not the primary purpose or driver behind the bowl games themselves. Just as fans travel to go to NFL playoff games at Chicago, Green Bay, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, etc., they will go to those same locations for NCAA football. The post season match-ups are driven by dollars from corporate sponsors and television networks. The midwest is chock full of huge corporations as potential sponsors and we already know that television networks will follow B1G football. Delaney needs to be bold. He needs to do as the SEC, Big Twelve, Pac 12, and ACC have done. They set up bowls in their conference footprint with corporate sponsors, television follows, and the money rolls in. Delaney needs to set that up for three B1G locations like Chicago, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Minneapolis, ets. Announce that our top seed teams not in the playoffs will play in them. As those bowl venues are established, Delaney could then push for inclusion as one of the playoff / CCG sites as well. Leaders set their own playing field and don't simply follow along. This must happen or the B1G will continue to fall behind in post-season wins because of the disadvantages of constantly being the road team.
Adam Rittenberg: Gary, while you make some good points here about leadership and not backing down, you're misguided about the way bowls work. The Pac-12, SEC, ACC and Big 12 didn't set up the most important bowls in their footprint. Those bowls came about independently, mostly through civic organizations. They built up their tradition and their appeal over the years. The bowl experience, in essence, has been about traveling somewhere warm as a reward of sorts for a good to great season and playing a worthy opponent from another conference. Sure, it's set up as a disadvantage to the Big Ten because of the locations, but it hasn't bothered Big Ten fans who make long trips year after year to escape the cold. You say Delany needs to start throwing his weight around with the bowls. The funny thing is Delany might be the biggest Rose Bowl advocate on the planet. The day he says he'd rather have the Big Ten champion in Chicago or Green Bay or Cleveland rather than Pasadena is the day I pull off a Nik Wallenda walk with a blindfold. It will NEVER happen. And I don't think Delany is less of a leader for appreciating the Rose Bowl and its history, as well as other marquee bowls with which the Big Ten has agreements. He's just being realistic about the nature of the bowl system.
Your plan is entirely contingent on the Big Ten building up a set of new bowls -- games with zero tradition -- by saying it only will play in them rather than games in states like California and Florida. If leagues like the SEC and Big 12 ever tied into these games, they'd do so reluctantly. They wouldn't want to be there, and neither would their fans. Try selling all of that enthusiasm to famously fickle corporate sponsors.
All that said, I completely agree with your point about the Big Ten pushing for College Football Playoff games in its footprint. The national championship game, in particular, could and should be bid out to all cities rather than held at existing bowl sites. I understand the commissioners' desire to give playoff teams the full bowl experience, but the two teams that reach the title game will treat it more like a league championship in terms of their travel. It would benefit the Big Ten to have the sport's most meaningful game in its footprint from time to time.
Gregory from Kingsport, Tenn., writes: Ok Adam, you think (Harvey] Perlman's job is safe even with all the football blunder hires he has made in the past (Pederson and Callahan) -- but what happens to Pelini when he goes another dud filled season of 10-4, and gets blown out in 2 or 3 games like he always does? Do you see new AD going after Scott Frost? And or what about Craig Bohl?
Adam Rittenberg: Gregory, I love that a 10-4 season qualifies as a "dud" for Nebraska fans. The Bo Pelini debate is a valid one because, while averaging 9.6 wins as the Huskers' head coach, he has yet to win "the big one," going 0-3 in league championship games. It's fair to ask whether Pelini can get Nebraska to the next level, and we'll find out more this season. Athletic director Shawn Eichorst didn't hire Pelini, which always creates a unique supervisory dynamic. But I don't sense Eichorst would part ways with a guy averaging more than nine wins a year. Nebraska learned a painful lesson from parting ways with Frank Solich. I think it's more likely Pelini leaves for another job after this season than gets fired if things don't go well. If and when Nebraska searches for a new coach, Frost and Bohl are two names that would come up. Bohl has done a fantastic job at North Dakota State and has roots as a former Huskers player and assistant.
Eli from New York City writes: No disrespect to Maryland and Rutgers fans, but Penn State earned its respect by blowing through the Big Ten in '94. Nebraska earned its respect by making it to the championship game last year. If Rutgers and Maryland fans want respect, their teams can earn it on the field starting in 2014.
Adam Rittenberg: That's certainly true, Eli, but both Penn State and Nebraska came into the Big Ten with strong national reputations. Both programs had won national titles and produced iconic players and coaches. Neither Maryland nor Rutgers moves the needle the way Nebraska did in 2011 and Penn State did in 1993. So both teams certainly have something to prove in the Big Ten, especially in the East Division, but they have a longer road to league-wide respect than either Penn State or Nebraska had.
Dan from Eldridge, Iowa, writes: What are the chances of Iowa returning to 9 or 10 wins. There is scuttlebutt that if the Hawkeyes do not, Coach Ferentz might be gone. Has time passed him? His style has not appeared to have change to the wide-open scrambling type of QB offense that has done well the past few years. Is there a glimmer of hope? From what I have seen the past two years and looking at what is returning, I have my doubts.
Adam Rittenberg: Dan, those doubts are understandable, but I wouldn't count out Kirk Ferentz turning things around in Iowa City. He's a tremendous coach with a strong track record of developing players. While his conservative style of play turns off some, it's a formula that has worked for programs like Alabama (obviously better talent in Tuscaloosa, but still). Ferentz has to show improvement this year after the 4-8 clunker in 2012, but I highly doubt Iowa parts ways with him if the team fails to win nine or 10 games. Ferentz might be paid top-10 money, but Iowa's internal expectations aren't nearly that lofty. Ferentz's huge contract and hefty buyout also decrease the likelihood that Iowa dumps the coach after another subpar season. At some point, Iowa can't make it about the contract and must evaluate Ferentz based on performance, but he would have to go through another hugely disappointing season for that decision to appear on the school's radar.
Jake from Minneapolis writes: I know you are probably tired of this conversation, but I honestly think the idea of doing a Chicago bowl is feasible. Maybe I am crazy because I live in the land of ice and snow, but I think there is a precedent for a cold weather game. Look back to a couple years ago when the Metrodome roof collapsed. The Vikings-Packer game two weeks later at TCF Bank Stadium was unreal. People went nuts for outdoor cold weather football. People go nuts for the NHL's Winter Classic. It could prove to the most unique of all the bowl games. Adam as a Chicago Guy you know how beautiful that city is in the winter. Most of the fans of Wisco, Iowa, UIll, Purdue, Indiana live in rural areas and would revel in the opportunity turn the weekend into a big city weekend get-a-way. The only issue is getting another conference to commit to trying it out, but I think there really is potential there.
Adam Rittenberg: Jake, I agree a Chicago bowl is feasible and if enough people get behind the idea, it could be a fun thing. Although I don't anticipate a Midwest bowl rising to levels of the tradition-rich games in the West and South, it could work well as a mid-level game. The Pinstripe Bowl in New York seems to be increasing its profile with the Big Ten and ACC both on board. I know Pinstripe was a tough sell to the Big 12 folks, but Chicago is a little more accessible and might be a better option for a Big Ten-Big 12 matchup. You can't really make the comparison to the Bears-Vikings game or the NHL's Winter Classic because both games catered to fans who are comfortable watching sports in the cold. A Chicago bowl would appeal to a segment of Big Ten fans for a weekend getaway, but I still think it would be a very tough sell to fans of most other conferences, which would ultimately limit how big the event could become.
Tyler from Florida writes: We're in the slowest part of the offseason, still nine weeks from kickoff, so here's an appropriately bizarre question for you: Do you think UM's change from "maize" to "sun" (starting in 2008) put a curse on the program? Since switching uniforms, the team is only 34-29 overall, and 18-22 within the conference. And then there's the 4 combined wins in a five year period over their three biggest rivals to consider ...
Adam Rittenberg: This is definitely a nominee for email of the year. Yes, Tyler, ditching maize for sun undoubtedly sent Michigan into a death spiral. It had nothing to do with a coach who didn't fit, a massive system change and the inability to field a decent defense. Michigan's decision to go with adidas after years with Nike, which copyrighted maize, proved to be its pivotal moment. Remember the stories about how the winged helmet would spot Michigan 14 opponents against intimidated opponents? Well, it was actually the maize on the Wolverines' unis. When Michigan went with sun, it lost its edge. We all know Big Ten teams can't play in the sun!