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Friday, April 16, 2010
Big Ten Friday mailblog

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Just a quick note about e-mails before I get started. Feel free to write as long as you'd like, but if you want to see something posted in the mailblog, try to keep it as brief and to the point as possible. It also helps me read through things a little faster if you write shorter.

OK, now let's get started.

Sam from Minneapolis writes: Hey Adam-Would love to hear about anything Gopher related that doesn't have to do with the QB competition or Brewster's hot seat. Any other positions or matchups that you can break down for us?Thanks

Adam Rittenberg: Sam, I'll get into this more next week, but Minnesota's offensive line seems to be turning a corner this spring, which is a very good sign. From talking with center D.J. Burris, the linemen know their play the last few years hasn't been up to par, and they've really rededicated themselves to becoming better run blockers and playing as a unit. Quarterback Adam Weber told me he sees a clear difference with the line this spring, and Burris pointed to a more simplified offense under coordinator Jeff Horton as being beneficial. I was also struck by this quote from tackle Jeff Wills to the Star Tribune about former coordinator Jedd Fisch: "Last year [Fisch] preached running the ball. But we knew, deep down, he wasn't into running the ball. I think this coach [Horton], with his history, we know he's down to run the ball. He wants a physical team." Pretty candid stuff there from Wills.


Vince from San Diego writes: How about Iowa-PSU to end the season? The PSU-MSU game has not been competitive or even watchable the last two years. PSU won 6 of 8; of those six wins, four wins were by 54, 24, 31 and 28. It makes for an anticlimactic ending to the Big Ten regular season. Iowa has had their way with Minnesota and its not like their is any tangible rivalry there. The Big Ten could end with OSU-UM and PSU-Iowa for a really good last weekend of football to tide us over until the bowl season.

Adam Rittenberg: Interesting thought, Vince. Since I'm not as emotionally tied to the rivalries as Big Ten fans, I'll throw this out there for you folks to debate. Send me your responses for Tuesday's mailblog. I doubt Penn State and Michigan State would mind moving their game. I'd imagine there would be a little more resistance for Iowa and Minnesota fans, since their rivalry has much more history and goes back generations. The Iowa-Minnesota rivalry is real, but the recent games haven't been memorable. Since I've started this blog, the Iowa-Penn State rivalry has certainly grown and will continue to do so for future years. It would be a fun end-of-season game.


Jordan from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: I wanted to know your take on the eye black/taunting rules approved by the NCAA. I for one think taunting is tacky...looking at you SEC and Pac 10 (2-5 bowl record complaining about the weather and the officials, could you tell Ted Miller to suck it up)... and I must say I'm pretty impressed with the class the Big Ten players and coaches display by winning the right way. As for the eye black...not such a big deal for me, but it seems a little too much to make it a rule.

Adam Rittenberg: I don't like the taunting rules, unless it's a real blatant case. You need emotion to play college football, and 19-year-olds shouldn't have to tone it down so some geezers can feel better about watching games. Again, if it's blatant and disrespectful, throw a flag. But I hated seeing what happened to Jake Locker a few years ago against BYU. Terrible call there. As for the eye black, I don't have a strong opinion either way. These players know they get a ton of exposure, and they'll find ways to get their messages out there.


Greg from East Lansing, Mich., writes: I?ve always read your blog with a skeptical eye. You being a California native who didn?t start out covering the Big Ten, I always kind of assumed one of the Big Ten biased media had Trojan horsed his way into a Big Ten blog. But after you got a little feisty with that Oregon fan in your mail-blog, my respect for you grew. I know you?ll say that your comments on Big Ten defenses, and the bowl results, came from an objective, journalistic place?but I can?t help but feel that maybe you?re time blogging these past few years has Big Tenned you a little?

Adam Rittenberg: Wow, Greg, I'm surprised you remembered that much about my past. I try to keep my coverage as unbiased as possible, but I'm definitely a Big Ten guy now. Grew up rooting for Cal, but I've been in Big Ten country for almost 11 years now. Attended a Big Ten school and seen multiple Big Ten games on every campus. I love covering this league. I'll always defend the Big Ten when I think it's necessary, but when the league deserves some heat, I'll provide it without hesitation.


Michael from St. Louis writes: If the B10 adds another member, gets its championship game, but loses a BCS berth in the process the teams will end up splitting the same-sized pie more ways. Could expanding by 3 or more teams be a way to get the championship revenue AND keep the seemingly annual at-large BCS berth? Out of 14 teams the odds seem better that 2 will be in the top 10.

Adam Rittenberg: Good comment here, Michael. It would depend on which three teams you add. If you're adding three teams without much history of reaching BCS bowls, either with automatic berths or at-large berths, you're probably not helping. If one of those additions is Notre Dame, however, you greatly enhance your chances of an at-large berth because BCS bowls will take the Irish without hesitation as long as they're eligible (big question mark). So it has to be the right three teams. Do Rutgers, Connecticut and Pitt really enhance your chances? I'd feel better about Nebraska and Notre Dame.


Dustin from Clive, Iowa, writes: What's up with [Adrian] Clayborn not being on the Lott trophy watch list? Is it because of the misdemeanor he received for the incident with the cab driver? That would be the only thing I can think of, otherwise that is just a huge oversight by whoever chooses the watch list candidates.

Adam Rittenberg: You know, Dustin, I was thinking about this very thing while driving to Iowa City today. I don't know the ins and outs of the Lott Trophy selection, but I might give them a call to ask about Clayborn. The cab driver incident certainly could have played a role, but Clayborn has been portrayed as a model citizen and teammate by Iowa coaches and players. He's one of the Hawkeyes' team leaders, and he seems like a great guy in my interactions with him. That was a bit surprising to see him off the list.


Edward from Chicago writes:
Adam, saw you on campus at North Park today (unless it was your twin). I made a friendly wager with a close friend that my Illini will end the season with more wins than Michigan. Should I be worried?

Adam Rittenberg: Ha, that was me! My wife works at North Park, and we were out enjoying what likely will be the last 80-degree day in Chicago until July. As for your bet, it could be tough. While Michigan has a ton of issues and scrutiny right now, the Wolverines boast more talent than Illinois and should be potent on offense. Illinois really needs to surprise people on both sides of the ball, especially after all the changes. Maybe your bet will come down to the No. 6 game between the Illini and Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. That would be fun.


Kelly from Manassas writes:
One of these days you will come to grips with the fact that I know more about what is going in at Michigan than you do. 10 wins is what he needs to keep his job, and those are not my words but rather a former player and booster who I will not name.

Adam Rittenberg: Kelly, I came to grips with that a long time ago. I'd be highly surprised if Michigan fires Rich Rodriguez after a 10-2 season, and somewhat surprised if he goes after a nine-win season. Eight wins is sort of the hazy area in my mind. Would they keep him at 8-4? Depends on the NCAA stuff and who the wins came against. Anything less than eight wins, and it'd be tough to see this staff back in 2011.