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

Friday, April 10, 2009
Big Ten Friday mailbag

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Some questions and answers for you on this Good Friday/Passover.

C.J. from Philly writes: Adam, help em out here. Being a fan/alum of a Big 10 Football School is akin to being in love with a great girl who comes with the baggage of having a family you cannot stand. This conference does everything in its power to keep traditions from 70 years ago in tact at the expense of progress and what its fans want: 1. Still probably the biggest roadblock to a playoff is due to the Big 10 and its insistence of holding onto the Rose Bowl. 2. Wants all of the games to end before Thanksgiving although most other D1 teams play until December. May also be the reason that Big 10 teams struggle in the BCS since they have alonger break than most teams. 3. Now, they want to stop having night games in November even though the atmosphere at these games is electrifying. Probably due to old rich alumni who do not want to be in the cold more than anything. The Progress Train for College Football wants to leave the station yet the Big 10 keeps wanting to delay it. No wonder we get such a bad rap.

Adam Rittenberg: Ha, love the analogy, C.J., and you make some excellent points. The Big Ten tends to chain itself to tradition too often, especially when it comes to scheduling flexibility. Things do get a little better starting in 2010 with the permanent bye week, but we won't see a championship game until a 12th team is added, which is highly unlikely at this point. Though the Big Ten's marketing model shouldn't be questioned by any league, it needs to be willing to give a little, especially as its national reputation continues to struggle.


John from Washington D.C. writes: Adam, I am so sick and tired of the Big11Ten administrators who whine about national prominence while tying their own hands behind their backs. First there's the no-conference-games-after-Thanksgiving rule, which is dumber than dumb. Now there is the no-night-games-in-November rule. Really? You're saying the best conference games of the year in the best and biggest stadiums in the country won't be allowed primetime exposure? That's a great way to overcome negative press and stereotypes! The worst part is that it's us, the fans, who suffer the most. We're the ones on the frontline arguing with our friends, defending our schools and our conference against the negative national perceptions, and frankly, against our teams' poor showings recently. We all know the Big11Ten is an upper-echelon conference with elite talent playing for some of the most storied and successful programs in history, but until the administrators realize that college football of the 21st century is not college football of the 1960s we're all going to pay the price of their arrogance and failures. I don't really have a question, I guess, except how can we, as fans, get our frustrations across to the Jim Delaneys that continually make decisions that only hurt the quality and integrity of the conference?

Adam Rittenberg: Again, you make some good points here, John, and the way to air your frustrations is to write this blog (shameless self promotion). The one thing I'd point out is that the Big Ten's November prime time policy isn't exactly new, and most of the league's top games that month have kicked off at 3:30 p.m. ET or even noon on some occasions. But I agree that the no-night-games policy does take away some of the drama, especially as the Big Ten adopts a permanent bye week and more teams (Penn State, Michigan State) enter the spotlight on a regular basis. If the Big Ten continues to struggle nationally and sees leagues like the Big 12 and SEC continue to get top billing with their prime-time Saturday games, the policy could be revisited. What could hurt the Big Ten -- and we saw it last year -- is when Michigan-Ohio State isn't the premier game on the last Saturday of the conference season. Does Michigan-Ohio State always move to noon if Michigan State-Penn State takes top billing? What about if Iowa-Minnesota affects the league title race? There could be some tough decisions.


Rick from Chicago writes: Adam: What's your take on Wisconsin's recruiting? It seems that Coach Bielema isn't getting the same level of talent that Barry Alvarez did. Keep up the great work. This is an awesome blog.

Adam Rittenberg: This is a common complaint I hear from Wisconsin fans about Bielema. I don't think you can fault the talent at running back, offensive line, defensive back, etc., but there's clearly been some issues with quarterback recruiting in recent years. My sense is those have been remedied a bit with a guy like Jon Budmayr, a heralded prospsect who impressed me on and off the field when I was up in Madison. I also liked Bielema's most recent recruiting haul, namely guys like Budmayr, wide receiver Kraig Appleton and running back Montee Ball. But this season will be big for Bielema because the team is almost entirely his recruits. Another subpar season would strengthen your case that Bielema isn't getting it done on the recruiting trail.


Mark from Bloomington, Ind., writes: Adam, I must admit I love all of the updates that you continue to bring each and everyday throughout the Big Ten even during the off season. However, I remember when you said you don't mind if we write to you when we disagree with you. Well, after watching four spring practices, I have to disagree with you about Mayberry. You said he still has to show you more but he played on a defense that wasn't too good last year and he still showed up every week. Not to mention he is probably the biggest (250) and fastest LB in the COUNTRY! People say he doesn't get as much hype because he plays for Indiana but I have seen a HUGE upgrade from him this year as he is just killing people out there. He is very vocal now and is really the leader on this defense. Middleton is someone who caught my eye out there at practice. Not to mention his physical attributes, I have heard from many reliable sources that Mayberry is the highest rated NFL prospect even above Middleton and Kirlew. It will be interesting to see if he is a pre season Butkus award type guy. In my eyes, he will BREAKOUT this season and be terrific. What are your thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Yes, I definitely welcome opposing opinions, so please fire away. As for Mayberry, he's undoubtedly a gifted player and might have his own p.r. firm there in Bloomington (kidding, kidding). But he needs to show up big in games, week after week. He needs the 15-tackle, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT type games that put you on the radar. Penn State's Navorro Bowman has those. Mayberry had a huge game against Central Michigan last fall, matching a school record with four sacks, but other than that he was solid, not spectacular. Now I haven't seen him this spring, so I'll take your word for it regarding his progress. As for NFL potential, we have different sources because I've heard Greg Middleton and Jammie Kirlew higher at the next level.


Eric from Parts Unknown writes: Adam as we all know, PSU needs to replace all of their receivers. How much of an impact do you think incoming freshman will have this year. A.J. Price, Shawney Kersey, and Justin Brown. From what I have read, all of them have blazing speed and would fit PSU's spread offense better. Zug and Brackett are more posession type receivers.

Adam Rittenberg: First off, I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss Graham Zug and Brett Brackett. Not saying you are, but I hear similar comments a lot. I have an idea why some fans are doing that, but I'm not going to get into that in this forum. Brackett br
ings a big body to the receiving corps, and Zug averaged 15.8 yards per catch last fall and had a big catch against Ohio State last October. As for Price, Kersey and Brown, I really liked what I saw on tape from Kersey and Brown, and Price also brings good size to the table but probably needs to bulk up a bit. But all of those guys need to step up this summer to work into the regular receiver rotation, which right now seems set at five guys.