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Friday, May 29, 2009
Big Ten Friday mailbag

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

I will be in a Big Ten state this weekend, and it's not Illinois. Can you name it? If so, I have no prizes to offer, just my salute to you.

T.J. from State College, Pa., writes: El Duderino, I?m glad you ranked the toughest places to play in the Big Ten; I enjoyed reading your explanations. I have always thought of Beaver Stadium followed by Camp Randal as the toughest places to play with Ohio Stadium in a distant third. The atmosphere at the PSU-OSU game this past fall was pathetic for a night game. Anyway, I would like to propose a quantitative way of ranking the toughest places to play. If you take each team?s last ten losses (not played on a neutral site) and count how many occurred at home, you have a pretty good indicator of the strength of a particular venue. Here is how it came out when I added them up: 1.Penn State-(2) 2.Wisconsin, Iowa-(3) 3.Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue-(4) 4.Indiana-(5) 5.Michigan, Northwestern, Minnesota-(6)

Adam Rittenberg: First off, I think the nature of the Ohio State-Penn State game -- only 19 points scored -- probably took the edge off the Ohio Stadium crowd. It's still a very tough environment for road teams. Moving on, I like your formula. It's interesting how Ohio State has struggled a bit at home in recent years, but been flat-out dominant on the road in league games. Keep in mind that Penn State and Wisconsin also didn't face Texas at home, though Penn State deserved more credit than it received for beating up on Oregon State last fall.


Jordan from Jackson, Mich., writes: Adam, I know this is a little late, but I was thinking of rivalry games on unique fields and I was wondering what you would think of these scenerios. First Notre Dame and Michigan playing at Wrigley Field. One of the most popular places and sports along with the two winningest teams in college football history. And in a few years have the Michigan Ohio State rivalry played at a home n home at Ford Field and one at Clevland Browns Stadium, just for a nice change of pace. Go Blue!

Adam Rittenberg: Love the Wrigley Field idea, Jordan, and I'm sure a lot of fans would love to see this, too. The problem is the athletic directors from those schools would never give up those home games to play at a neutral site. The Wrigley Field game between Notre Dame and Michigan would be a true throwback, but a major issue is the size of the field. Northwestern wants to play a game there in the next few years, but there are some concerns that the field footprint isn't large enough. I really couldn't see Ohio State or Michigan giving up a home game to play at a smaller NFL stadium (with less character).


Tim from Normal, Ill., writes: Adam - I don't think JoePa's being inconsistent; He's simply stating a preference (and location) for a 12th team. Doesn't mean he's started a crusade. All he did at last week's meeting was acknowledge the unlikelihood of it happening due to not being the Big Ten commish - hence the "Delany's the guy" statement. He realizes that he doesn't have the power to make the final decision b/c he's not in Delany's shoes. That's all.

Adam Rittenberg: That's a fair point, Tim, and it could very well be the case. I was just surprised that given multiple opportunities to further his case with all the coaches and athletic directors present, Joe really backed off. He seemed surprised that it created such a stir in the media, but that's definitely the strategist in him. He knows whatever he says makes news. I just thought he would keep talking about it.


David from Detroit writes: Adam, have you ever sat back and thought, "Wow, I have to cover the most-hated conference in college football. The conference people love to throw punches at because it's convenient?" In addition, sometimes people say/write things to get a reaction. Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State are maybe all in the Top 5 in fan support in the NCAA. Say bad things about those three schools to get a reaction and prove to editors/managers that I'm (the writer/host) relevant when they bombard our network with angry e-mails? Shock jock theory?

Adam Rittenberg: I know what you're getting at, David, but I think I've been pretty fair with the big three and the other eight Big Ten teams. It's definitely in vogue to hate on the Big Ten right now, and until the league starts winning BCS games again, that's probably not going to change. But I don't need to write bad things about any Big Ten team to make the league relevant. Just look at the recent revenue-sharing figures. The Big Ten is definitely relevant and will continue to be, regardless of the criticism.


Derek from Glen Gardner, N.J., writes: How good should we expect the Illinois passing game to be? They return both WR Benn and QB Williams, who have both shown a lot of potential, but their O-line looks like it will be quite inexperienced.

Adam Rittenberg: You hit on a key point there with the offensive line. It wasn't a great group last year, and the losses of Xavier Fulton and Ryan McDonald sting a bit. There's some good young talent up front, especially tackle Jeff Allen, but it's an unproven group overall. Illinois is stacked with weapons at wide receiver and running back, and no matter what you think of Juice Williams, the guy has tons of experience and can make plays. The only thing that can slow down that unit is the line.


Steve from Chicago writes: Hey Adam, I don't know why you started adding awesome movie quotes to your posts, but it is really sweet, and I suggest keeping it up.

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Steve, and the quotes will continue. If you have any movie suggestions for me, please send them in.