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Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Big Ten mailbag

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Anthony from Blue Bell, Pa., writes: Adam, we heard about JoePa wanting Big Ten schedule to expand into early December, but Big Ten commish does not want to make this happen. How in the world did Illinois get away with having 2 byes weeks and final game being played December 5th, 2 weeks after every other Big Ten School??? Maybe it's about time the schools follow Illinois lead and schedule their games later in the season, if the Big Ten will not help... Your thoughts? Is this a big advantage for Illinois over other Big Ten Schools? Is this something we will see more of in the future? OR Has this happen in the past, and my memory is going??? Thanks, Ant

Adam Rittenberg: Great question, Anthony, and it is something we could see more of in the future. One way Big Ten teams can finish their seasons on the same day as those from other BCS conferences is by adding a second bye week. The Big Ten will add a permanent bye week starting in 2010, so it will be up to the individual schools to mix in another open week with their nonconference games. Some teams could be deterred by having to play a home game in December, like Illinois will against Fresno State. You might see more teams follow Wisconsin's lead and schedule a warm-weather road game on the first weekend of December. 


John from Parts Unknown writes: Adam, recently the Big Ten has been getting 2 teams into BCS games each year for the past couple years. Do you think a 10-2 record can get Iowa into one of those BCS games?

Adam Rittenberg: We're talking BCS at-large berths here, and a lot will depend on what happens in the other BCS conferences. Iowa would have a better chance than some other Big Ten teams (i.e., Penn State) of earning a berth at 10-2. It would mean the Hawkeyes proved themselves on the road, earning at least a 2-2 split against Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State and Wisconsin away from Kinnick Stadium. Add in one of the best traveling fan bases in the country, and Iowa would be appealing to bowl reps. What could hurt the Hawkeyes and their Big Ten brethren is the league's national reputation. Unless the Big Ten notches some strong non-league wins, bowl reps could be (could be, not should be) less likely to want another Big Ten at-large. 


William from Parts Unknown writes: I realize many considering last year would think this is an odd question but over the last few years (Since AD Bill Martin's tenure), I have tried to find future opponents that Wolverines might be playing (usually during the off season when starved for football news) to no avail. I have even writted a note to the AD and a few journalist that cover Michigan sports. So I'm just asking you the same thing. With other schools one can find projected future opponents but for Michigan outside playing that school from Indiana every year there is nothing and so each year Michigan under Martin seems to be scrambling to find an opponent with the results being less than exciting. While a little down this may seem a strategy but if you are to be a winner you need to play winners. So Adam, I'm asking does Michigan really wait to the last minute or do they just play it close to the chest and it is not published?

Adam Rittenberg: It has puzzled me, too, William. Most Big Ten teams, including Ohio State and Penn State, have released the names of several future opponents. But Michigan does keep things very quiet for the most part, other than the Notre Dame series. You hear about some potential opponents -- UMass has come up lately -- but Michigan seems less inclined than most programs to finalize games three and four years down the line. I would say it's a combination of waiting longer to finalize games and keeping things quiet.


Steve from Parts Unknown writes: Adam, I am a Mizzou grad and I would go one step further. Add Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska to the Big 10 and create an outstanding 14 team conference. They could create two seven-team divisions with playoffs and some very interesting rivalries. These three schools would fit better academically, athletically and culturally with the Big 10 versus the Texas / Oklahoma conference that is the Big 12. I would be happy to expand on this idea if you are interested.

Adam Rittenberg: Given the Big Ten's reluctance to expand, I highly doubt the league would consider adding more than one team. All three of those teams have deep roots in the Big 12, and just because Texas and Oklahoma have dominated in football during this decade, the division alignment allows Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas to compete for BCS berths. Of the three, Missouri seems the least tied to the Big 12. Mizzou also makes the most sense geographically.


Dustin from Washington writes: How many wins do you think Michigan will have this year. What do you think about coach Rods first full recurting class?What about next years class with 4 150 guys all ready given a verba?

Adam Rittenberg: I put Michigan between 6-8 wins this year, most likely seven or eight. Really liked what Rich Rodriguez did with the 2010 recruiting class. A lot of athletes, a lot of good skill guys. Michigan's 2010 recruiting also is off to an excellent start, especially with the addition of Devin Gardner.