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Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Big Ten mailbag

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It's Tuesday, and that means mail time. Keep 'em coming for Friday's edition.

Stephen from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Is it a co-championship or outright championship? You and others refer to Ohio State being a co-champion while I almost always hear Penn State referred to as the outright champion. My understanding was that it is only a co-championship in the Big 10 when the two teams didn't play head to head and have the same conference record, which would make PSU the outright champ. It's an argument about semantics, but does the conference have a guideline for distinguishing between outright and co-champions?

Adam Rittenberg: It is co-championship if two teams finish at the top of the standings with identical conference records, regardless of whether or not they played. For that reason, I'll continue to call Penn State and Ohio State co-champs. But as I've pointed out many times, I don't agree with the designation in a case like this season, where Penn State beat Ohio State in Columbus and clearly was the Big Ten's best team. I would rather Penn State be officially known as the Big Ten champion. That's not a knock against the Buckeyes, but if the reverse were true, Ohio State would like to be known as the sole champ. The bottom line is if there's a tie at the top, there are co-champions.


Andy from Denver writes: Adam, I have read several blogs about how Texas is going above and beyond to prepare for Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. Have you heard if OSU is doing anything different in their preparations to handle Texas.

Adam Rittenberg: The Buckeyes have switched up their preparation a bit, emphasizing more "live" hitting and scrimmage-type situations. Rory Nicol and Nader Abdallah told me last week that more practice periods are being dedicated to live hitting, and they're accentuating physical play earlier than they have in past bowl preparations. Ohio State has the longest drought of any FBS team between its regular-season finale and its bowl, so a move like this makes a lot of sense to me.


Dylan from Madison, Wis., writes: Hey Adam, love the blog. I was wondering if Don Treadwell does in fact head to Miami of Ohio will his son, Blake, decommit from MSU? He looks like he'll be a pretty solid OL wherever he goes. Thank you.

Adam Rittenberg: Miami reportedly will hire Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Haywood, so barring a surprise, Treadwell will remain at Michigan State in 2009. I'd be interested to know how much Blake Treadwell's commitment to the Spartans factored into Don's mindset when he interviewed with Miami (Ohio). Don undoubtedly wants to become a head coach, but I doubt he has a problem returning to Michigan State to help coach his son.


Brent from Westland, Mich., writes: Adam, How is the Michigan State - Wisconsin game not one of the top 5??? It had all the makings of a classic. Last second field goal. Former walk-on receiver stepping up huge on the final drive. Senior QB who is prone to poor crunch time performances leading his time down the field. Especially considering it was a game MSU would have lost the past few years. I do think it was one of the top 5 of the year!! Thanks Adam!!!

Adam Rittenberg: I strongly considered including Wisconsin-Michigan State in the top five Big Ten games of the year, but Michigan State's sloppy play for the first three quarters or so kept me from doing it. The game had a terrific ending, don't get me wrong, but it was kind of a clunker for the first three quarters. Some of the other games seemed to have a bit more drama, though the last nine minutes at Spartan Stadium were certainly entertaining.


David from Greensboro writes: I see what you are saying when you bring up what the Bowl matches could have been had Penn State been the only school to get a BCS bid, BUT because I think the Big Ten would have been favored in quite a few of those games, if not all of them, I don't think the national perception of the league would be any better by then end of the Bowl games. The only way I see that happening is for the Big Ten schools to win games that nobody is expecting them to win. I like the matchups this season because it gives every team a chance to make a statement. Now it's up to the players and coaches to go out there and get the wins.

Adam Rittenberg: You bring up an excellent point, David, and it's sort of the flip side to my argument about the Big Ten's bowl lineup. The Big Ten's poor national reputation is built solely on the recent BCS performances. The league has done well in the non-BCS bowls, particularly the Capital One (four straight victories). So if the Big Ten goes 2-5 in bowls this year with two BCS wins, I don't want to hear the league getting ripped for its overall record. The BCS is all that matters. Even though Penn State would win the Rose Bowl in the scenario I outlined, the Lions wouldn't get too much national respect for beating Oregon State twice. The current lineup certainly provides the Big Ten an opportunity to make a larger national statement, but it will be awfully tough. The more I look at the matchups, the more I don't like the chances for Big Ten teams.


John from NYC writes: The lack of a succession plan for Joe Paterno at Penn State has been a hot topic around these parts lately. Here's a wrinkle that doesn't get mentioned often enough: It's quite possible that a named successor might want to retire before Joe does. For a long time, it was understood that Jerry Sandusky would be Joe's successor. When he announced that he would retire at the end of the 1999 season, it caused a lot of confusion and doubt. When Paterno's contract expires at the end of the 2011 season, Bradley will be about the same age as Sandusky was in 1999. Bradley doesn't show any signs of slowing down, but if he were to retire before Joe, it would cause a commotion regardless, and a public designation as Joe's successor now would only aggravate that uncertainty. Given Paterno's reluctance to retire, along with the university's experience with the Sandusky situation, perhaps the university's reluctance to name a successor publicly is wise. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: Tom Bradley is only 52 or 53, so he likely won't be considering retirement in three years. You're right, Sandusky was around the same age (55) when he retired, but that's a pretty early age to hang it up. Bradley still has a lot of energy and he wants to be the head coach at Penn State. The question is whether he can hold out for another year or two, or whether Penn State will name him as Paterno's successor. But I wouldn't be too concerned about Bradley retiring before Paterno. Bradley will be a head coach somewhere before he's done. The question is: will it be at Penn State?