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Friday, April 30, 2010
Big Ten Friday mailblog


Enjoy the weekend.

Pete from Cincinnati writes: Adam, is it really accurate to say that Ferentz/Iowa "has consistently done more with less" than OSU? Iowa has two shared conference titles under Ferentz and has been to two BCS bowls, winning one. Tressel/OSU has six conference championships, three outright, and has been to seven BCS bowls, winning four including a national championship. Yes, OSU typically recruits a lot better. Given that, isn't it much more accurate to say that OSU "does more with more" and Iowa "does pretty good but not as much with less"?

Adam Rittenberg: First off, I never phrased it like he's done more with less than Ohio State specifically. Ferentz has done more with less given where Iowa's recruiting classes have ranked during his tenure. Now it's definitely accurate to say Ohio State consistently does more with more. That's what the great powerhouse programs do. But the doing-more-with-more argument usually doesn't help when it comes to Coach of the Year voting. I'm not saying that it's right, but most voters look for coaches whose teams overachieved or overcame a lot of adversity, like Iowa did in 2009.


Eddie from Milwaukee writes: Adam, so after your visit to Champaign with the coaches and some of the players, what are your feelings on Illinois next season? Do you sill think they'll be in the cellar or can they turn it around?

Adam Rittenberg: I still haven't made up my mind on Illinois, Eddie, but I can say unequivocally that the new coordinators have been good additions to this program. There wasn't enough accountability before, and Paul Petrino and Vic Koenning have brought a more demanding approach to the practice field. That said, Illinois has a real uphill climb in 2010. The inexperience at quarterback concerns me, and the offensive line could have some issues creating time for Nathan Scheelhaase. There's talent on defense, but the Illini have to stay healthy and keep players like Martez Wilson, Clay Nurse and Tavon Wilson on the field. It's obviously a pivotal year, and Illinois has to find a way to make a bowl.


Brian from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Adam, I have a two-part question involving the Buckeye backfield. 1) You were non-commital concerning either halfback, that is Saine or Herron, and their performance during the Spring Game; who do you feel has the edge going into the fall to be the number one starter? 2) What did you think of Pickerington product Zach Boren and 40+ yard receiving day during the Spring Game?

Adam Rittenberg: 1) Brandon Saine has the edge, in my opinion. He did enough toward the end of the 2009 season and brings a good combination of speed, size and pass-catching ability to the backfield. Dan Herron still should get plenty of touches, but Saine is the closest thing Ohio State has to a featured guy right now. 2) It was encouraging to see not only Boren, but tight end Jake Stoneburner getting more involved in the passing game. If Terrelle Pryor builds off of the Rose Bowl performance, Ohio State should be willing to get more players involved as receivers. Boren and Stoneburner are proving themselves in that regard.


Eric from Chicago writes: Adam, much of the expansion talk has focused on teams from the Big East (Rutgers, Syracuse) and Big 12 (Mizzou, Nebraska, Texas). Very little has been said about Maryland and Virginia, two schools that meet the academic and athletic criteria, and bring significant TV market size. If the BTN can't break into the New York market, the mid-Atlantic is a nice consolation prize. Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Eric, I'm sure the Big Ten is considering all options, which include Maryland and Virginia. Both teams have been rumored candidates, but as is the case with most expansion rumors, nothing concrete has come out yet. The general feeling is that both Maryland and Virginia are happy in the ACC and wouldn't be as interested in switching leagues. Then again, money talks, and as you point out, both schools fit what the Big Ten wants from an academic standpoint. Virginia is one of the top three or four public schools in the country, and Maryland has the same US News ranking as Ohio State. Both Maryland and Virginia are AAU members, which helps their cause.


Adam from Baltimore writes: Hey Adam, just a quick query. I'm so happy that Van Pelt and Pingel are entering the MSU Ring of Fame considering how great both were as players, but also how great Van Pelt was known as a human being. But I have to wonder, looking at Pingel's stats, how did he not get at least consideration for the Heisman, if not win it, especially in MSU's Orange Bowl season? Was it because MSU wasn't a part of the Big Ten? Tom Harmon of UM won it just a few years later with what I believe are similar numbers, and yet the trophy was won by two Yale players. They may have had a good program back then, but Pingel did EVERYTHING for MSU. Davey O'Brien is the only one who was legitimate. I'm just wondering why the snub of Pingel.

Adam Rittenberg: The Heisman always has been somewhat political, Adam, so I'm sure your theory holds a bit of water. No one was going to beat out Davey O'Brien in 1938, but John Pingel's performance in 1937 certainly should have put him on the radar. Then again, 1937 Heisman winner Clint Frank has been described by some as the greatest Yale back of all time, and one of the greatest college players of all time. Frank also won the Maxwell Award in 1937. I wasn't around back then, so I don't know the particulars, but I would guess in those days, it would be a bit harder to get national recognition at Michigan State than Yale.


Chris from Kansas City, Mo., writes: Adam, what are your feeling on the recent report of the 4X4 plan? In this plan you would see the big ten take Missouri/Nebraska/Syracuse/Pittsburgh/Rutgers. Then put all 16 teams into four, four-team divisions?

Adam Rittenberg: The division argument has gained some traction among fans and media members, but I haven't heard much about it from legitimate Big Ten sources. This format likely would require two weeks of playoffs to determine a league champion, unless they had a way of selecting the top two division winners to meet in one championship game. Two weeks of playoffs seems pretty tricky scheduling-wise, especially for a league that saw plenty of resistance to moving the regular season after Thanksgiving. It would be important to create competitive balance within the divisions, and as I've said all along, geography shouldn't be the overriding factor in creating divisions. If putting Penn State with some new schools from the East makes sense, great. But if it screws up the competitive balance in the other three divisions, I'd rather see Penn State in the same division with an Iowa or a Wisconsin.