Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Big Ten [Print without images]

Friday, March 12, 2010
Big Ten mailblog

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

What's on your mind?

Alexander from Lansing, Mich., writes: If Michigan State improves its defense, do you think they have a legitimate chance to win the big ten title?

Adam Rittenberg: The defense is certainly priority No. 1 for Mark Dantonio this spring, Alexander. I don't think the Spartans are good enough up front on both sides of the ball to challenge Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa for the Big Ten title, but they're certainly in that middle pack of teams. Kirk Cousins has a lot of promise at quarterback, and I really like the young running backs. The secondary really needs to improve after a lousy 2009 performance, but Michigan State certainly should be bowl bound once again this fall.


Drew from New York writes: Love the sly dis on the Big 10 thrown in that Dallas newspaper's analysis of ND joining the conference. Well behind the SEC and Big 12? I could be convinced to give you the SEC but the Big 12. Two great teams does make up for a whole lot of mediocre. People better fill up on their hatorade in the off season, Adam. A storm of retribution is brewing in the upper mid-west, and its about to sweep the nation. '09 bowl season was just the beginning. How do you keep yourself from pulling out all your hair on a daily basis? I imagine you must read comments like this much more than the rest of us.

Adam Rittenberg: Drew, I definitely understand your frustration. It's gotten a lot easier for me after the Big Ten's strong bowl performance. The Big Ten hate certainly has decreased a bit on this blog and elsewhere. That said, the Big Ten needs to start beating the Big 12 more often on the field, particularly in bowls. I'll get to this soon in the blog, but the Big 12 has certainly gotten the best of the Big Ten in bowls the past few years. Still, I don't see a huge gap between the two leagues on the field. To suggest the Big 12 is as strong of a conference -- from a financial or operations standpoint -- as the Big Ten is just silly. The Big Ten is the richest and most well-run league in the country, hands down.


Elliott from Mountain View, Calif., writes: Hi Adam,I'm having a difficult time understanding your top-30 BT postseason rankings. In my opinion, success in college is not necessarily related to pro potential--see Tim Tebow. I do agree with much of the list based on how the players performed on the field, but I'm pretty sure that Tyrelle Pryor and John Clay have much more potential than say Darryl Clark. Staying on Clark, I think you ranked him much too high. I would argue that Ricky Stanzi--who you did not rank--had a better season and probably has more pro potential. Although you said Stanzi's high INT total turned you off, don't forget that Iowa was 10-0 in games he started and finished--despite an inconsistent running game led by freshman. Clark had a strong running game and, like Stanzi, a great defense. His poor play in the losses to Ohio State and Iowa should have moved him down the list.-I realize lists/rankings are very subjective, so there are bound to be conflicting opinions. Ultimately, pro potential and college performance are two very different things.

Adam Rittenberg: Elliott, from the start of the rankings, I made the criteria pretty clear. I looked for a balance of college performance and pro potential. You might disagree with the order based strictly on college performance, but that's only part of what I evaluated. Moving onto your next point, Daryll Clark had a better season than Stanzi. It's not really close when you look at the numbers. Clark had a much worse offensive line and a new group of receivers. And he put up much better numbers than Stanzi, with seven more touchdown passes, five fewer interceptions and nearly 600 more passing yards. I know Iowa fans love The Manzi -- and he loves America, in case you didn't know -- and Rick did a great job of leading his team to victories, but he also got bailed out by his defense way more than Clark did. Both quarterbacks didn't play well in the Iowa-Penn State game, but Stanzi got more help on D and special teams. Now you might be right about Stanzi's pro potential being better, but until he cuts down on mistakes that would have led to losses for a lot of teams, I'm not going to move him above Clark in any rankings.


Christopher from Dublin, Ohio, writes: Adam, I read that the Big Ten would have a hard time admitting Notre Dame due to not being part of the AAU. Yet Jim Delany flat out said on ESPN radio when this process began in the Fall that that wasn't going to be a factor (not being in the AAU).The AAU is based on research, however isn't Notre Dame a good enough school to overlook that criteria? Just based on college rankings (U.S. News), Notre Dame is 20th and Rutgers is 66th, while Mizzou is 102.

Adam Rittenberg: Christopher, you're absolutely right. This AAU issue keeps getting raised -- the Chicago Tribune mentions it again today -- but Delany and other Big Ten officials I've talked to say being an AAU member is not a requirement for Big Ten admission. I mean, the Big Ten already pursued Notre Dame twice to join the league, so the league clearly has no trouble admitting Notre Dame. ND is certainly a strong enough academic school to gain admission. There's no issues there at all.


Rob from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Regarding your comment that the next football coach at Michigan would be Jim Harbaugh. If you ask around Ann Arbor most would seriously doubt it. In May of 2007 as Stanford head coach, Jim Harbaugh made comments about Michigan accepting borderline students and steering them to easier courses. If you read his comments he, under the current administration, would not be considered coaching material. What he said hurt many at the instution and once you make that kind of statement you shut yourself off from being considered a true "Michigan Man."

Adam Rittenberg: Rob, Harbaugh's comments certainly would come up if Michigan pursued the former quarterback, but my guess is enough fans would be willing to forgive and forget. Especially if the Wolverines miss a bowl for the third consecutive year and the fan base continues to fracture. If Michigan has to make a change following 2010, it needs to be someone who has more familiarity with how things work in Ann Arbor. I just have a hard time believing Harbaugh wouldn't be the No. 1 target for new AD David Brandon.