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Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Big Ten mailblog

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

As Bill Raftery would say, send it in!

Josh from Minnesota writes: Adam, your blog keeps me going through organic chemistry class. Thanks! So I have an issue with the non-conference schedule's of teams you put ahead of the Gophers in your power rankings last year and this spring. I would love to see the Gophs go 9-3 via blasting Akron, Temple, etc. 63-0 the first few weeks like Iowa and Wisconsin do, but I would much more like to see the Gophers play USC, Cal, UNC, Texas, etc. Can we get some respect for playing quality opponents?!

Adam Rittenberg: It's somewhat unfortunate, Josh, but there's no RPI in college football, and nonconference schedules hardly ever matter for teams. I think it's great what Tim Brewster and Joel Maturi are doing at Minnesota by scheduling teams like USC, Texas and Cal. It's certainly a departure from the Glen Mason era, as Mase scheduled for 7-5 (3-5 Big Ten) seemingly every year. I look at Minnesota's schedule this year -- especially the home slate with USC, Ohio State, Penn State and Iowa -- and think 6-6 or 7-5 would be pretty decent given the competition. But Minnesota fans are sick and tied of 6-6 or 7-5. The bottom line is actually winning those games, which Brewster hasn't done in his tenure. He needs to win trophy games, November games or games against elite nonconference foes like USC. Beefing up the schedule is great, but you only get respect if you win those games.


Kasey from Chicago writes: I noticed you have ILLINOIS ranked at number 10 in your latest power rankings. I have to admit that is a little disheartening for an Illini fan, but does Illinois like it? Illinois has a history of either under-achieving or over-achieving. Like in '03 or '07 when they weren't supposed to make it nearly as far as they did, or in the last two seasons when nearly everybody thought they would at least make it to a bowl game. My question is, do the Illini want to come in the under dog? I think Illinois can possibly lead the Big Ten in rushing yards, and upset one of the big three.

Adam Rittenberg: Illinois certainly is embracing the underdog, Kasey, and there is some history to the Illini doing better when expectations are low. Several Big Ten teams follow this pattern of exceeding expectations when they're low and falling short when they're high. Illinois will have its struggles at quarterback, but as you point out, there's a lot to love about the run game with Mikel LeShoure and Jason Ford. I'm not sold on the defense, but Vic Koenning was a great hire and should have a positive impact.


Mike from New York writes: Hey Adam,I need a little clarification on ND. It sounds like they turned down an offer by the B10 a decade ago, but you wrote that if a school is going to join the B10, it needs to ask to join first, and then the B10 will vote on it. Are these rules different than they were before, or did ND ask to join, get voted in, and then snubbed the B10 at the last minute?

Adam Rittenberg: Mike, you're right in that candidates first must apply for admission to the Big Ten before a vote can take place. But the Big Ten will formally discuss admission with any candidate before letting things get to the application process. Notre Dame ultimately didn't decide to apply, and so no vote was taken. But I'm sure the Big Ten made it clear to the Irish that if they applied, they would be admitted, as long as all parties agreed upon the terms. So Notre Dame turned down an offer to apply, not an offer for admission (because technically, these don't exist).


Matt from Farmington Hills, Mich., writes: Adam, I am trying to figure out where your unequivocal support of Michigan State football comes from. The Spartans finished last season with 6 wins. Among the teams they lost to: Central Michigan, Notre Dame, and Minnesota. No doubt, the team has some solid returners from last season. And, there are some good incoming freshman players who may see the field... but T-4 with Penn State in the BT Power Rankings? Starting the season 4-0? Explain to me how this team is so much different from last year's.

Adam Rittenberg: I realize that buying into Michigan State is a risky proposition, given the Spartans' history. But Michigan State probably loses fewer truly valuable seniors than any team in the Big Ten. Wide receiver Blair White and offensive linemen Joel Nitchman and Rocco Cironi had value, but other than that, I don't see many huge departures. Penn State, on the other hand, loses three valuable linebackers, a first-team All-Big Ten quarterback in Daryll Clark and the Big Ten's co-Defensive Player of the Year in Jared Odrick. Back to the Spartans, they totally shot themselves in the foot against Central Michigan, fell victim to inexperience against Notre Dame and lost one of the most bizarre games I've ever seen at Minnesota. No excuses, but it wasn't like they were torched by those teams. Michigan State has a much more stable situation on offense than Penn State, although the Lions will have a stronger defense. As for starting the season 4-0? Who will beat Michigan State in that stretch? A rebuilding Notre Dame team that must visit East Lansing? I'd be surprised if the Spartans weren't 4-0.


Chris from Arlington, Va., writes: Hey Adam,Love the blog, check it everyday. Could you put a list together of all the Big10 undrafted Free agents? I'm a PSU fan and I'd like to say that I'm casting my vote for [Matt] McGloin right now. I dont' think they need someone to win games for them, just to distribute to the WRs and Royster/Green/Redd(if they don't redshirt him.) I feel that if they can get him under control and not "trust his arm" so much, that he can be solid until Paul Jones or Robert Boldin get their feet under them. As for Newsome, just use him as a wildcat threat...What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: Chris, I'm still waiting for all the official lists of free-agent signings to come out before posting a master list with Big Ten players. But thanks for reminding me. Penn State certainly could survive with a game manager at quarterback if it can run the ball effectively with Evan Royster and company. I'm not sure McGloin can be that guy and still avoid costly interceptions. He certainly made some questionable throws in the spring game, although that's only one scrimmage. Honestly, I don't think any of us can cast our votes right now. We need to see more from McGloin, Newsome, Jones and maybe even Robert Bolden in fall camp. Let's be patient with that position.


Will from St. Paul, Minn., writes: I understand, do not agree with, but understand why you put the Gopher's at number 9 on your power rankings. I was a little confused with your opening though. Did you mean to say that there is a huge gap between the bottom teams in the conference compared to the middle like the gap between top and middle? If so, you truly believe that Northwestern, Purdue, and Michigan are a clear level above Minnesota, how?

Adam Rittenberg: I think there's a gap, but not a huge one. Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana all have some major question marks on defense, and both the Gophers and Illini are coming off of miserable performances on offense in 2009. Is Michigan way ahead of those teams? No, especially from a defensive standpoint, but the Wolverines will score a lot of points this fall, I'm fairly certain of that. I can't say the same about Minnesota or Illinois. And I have major doubts that Indiana will be able to stop anyone, because the Hoosiers haven't done so for more than a decade. Northwestern is a solid middle-of-the-pack team, and Purdue ended 2009 strong and, despite the injuries, leaves me with fewer questions than Minnesota, Illinois or Indiana. Can Minnesota rise to the middle of the Big Ten? Absolutely, but I need to see more.