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Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Big Ten mailblog

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

It's been a while since we did one of these. You know how to reach me.

Let's get started.

Saul from Westerville, Ohio, writes: Ok, someone please explain to me why Jim Harbaugh would rather stay at Stanford/go to he NFL over Michigan. Its his alma mater, one of the greatest football programs there is, can pay quite a bit of cash, and more. He'd be embraced by the fans, and wouldn't have to worry about getting kicked out for one poor season like in the NFL. I mean, years ago he was begging for a job in the Big Ten, and now its less appealing than Stanford? Sounds like a bad joke made to depress us even more.

Adam Rittenberg: You make a strong case, Saul, but I don't know if Harbaugh's attachment to his alma mater was ever strong enough to eclipse other factors involved. Most ultra competitive people want to compete at the highest level, and the NFL affords Harbaugh the opportunity to do so. The situation with the 49ers would allow he and his family to remain in the same location, which is a big factor. I totally agree that there's less stability in the NFL, but those who succeed at the highest level are always sought after even after they struggle. I also wonder about the task of restoring Michigan to elite status. Some people are motivated by it, but others might be concerned about where the program is headed.


Vince from San Diego writes: Adam, I watched Oklahoma beat UConn the other day and couldn't stop thinking, "This actually counts as a BCS win?" My beloved Buckeyes are HATED by minions of college fans for losing to the eventual champion twice and to Texas in the last seconds of the Fiesta Bowl. Meanwhile OU is 3-5 including the 2011 win, Florida State is 1-5 and VT 1-4. So why hate the Buckeyes? Is it the vest?

Adam Rittenberg: I've always wondered about this same topic, Vince. Why does Ohio State get ripped while Oklahoma seemingly gets the pass in the media? Credit the Sooners for handling their business against Connecticut, but their BCS bowl struggles aren't too different from Ohio State's, and it seems like the Buckeyes didn't get a ton of credit for beating Oregon in the 2010 Rose Bowl. Then again, people tend to get tired of seeing the same team in big games year after year, and Ohio State has made more BCS bowl appearances than any other squad. The national title game performances still sting, but Ohio State has played better in its past two BCS games. Tonight's contest will be huge.


Travis from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Adam, I'll be very interested to see your conference Power Rankings after the Ohio State game is played. Should make for some interesting reading. Where does MSU finish? Only 2 losses but 2 very, very bad beatdown by Iowa and Alabama. Iowa beats a very solid Missouri team ranked 12th in the country, but finds ways to lose to teams like Minny etc...

Adam Rittenberg: Check the blog early next week for post-bowl power rankings, Travis. It'll be hard to leave Michigan State out of the top three, but the Spartans' performance was both shocking and sobering. Alabama is an outstanding team that finally put things together for the bowls, but Michigan State should have been able to compete a lot better. The Spartans fell apart against Iowa largely because of their own mistakes, but they just seemed completely overmatched against Alabama from the get-go. Very disappointing result for that program and for the Big Ten. Iowa deserves credit for winning its bowl game, but the Hawkeyes clearly weren't the team most of us thought heading into the season.


Cayley from Jefferson City, Mo., writes: "Rob Bolden's departure a blow for PSU" Really Adam? And here I thought you were a Big Ten follower! Everybody who is knows that the best QB at Penn State's Blue-White game last spring was Paul Jones, and anybody at all familiar with Paterno-speak knows Joe is higher on Jones than any other QB on the roster. Isn't this JoePa's dream scenario? McGloin takes his place as the serviceable backup he is, and nobody else is taking serious reps away from Jones. Isn't that what you would want?

Adam Rittenberg: Well, Cayley, it sounds like you have it all figured out. Let's start driving the Paul Jones bandwagon based on a performance in the spring game against backup defenders on a unit that didn't turn out to be all that good in the season. C'mon. Jones certainly has some talent and likely will push Matt McGloin for the starting job in spring ball, but Penn State clearly would have benefited from Bolden staying. At least Bolden has taken snaps in games and experienced tough road environments in Alabama and Iowa. While I could see Jones winning the job with a strong spring and summer, Penn State wanted more than one QB with game experience entering the fall.


Thomas from Gadsden, Ala., writes: Am I the only person on the planet who noticed that the Badgers kept their work horse in the stable until the last drive? Was he hurt? Was he being punished? My God, He hits the field, get approx 65 yards in 5 carries with 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter. What would have happened had he got 30 carries instead of 11? But more perplexing is that none of the talking heads have mentioned his glaring absence from the line-up!What say you? Please respond, but more importantly, get me an answer. Why wasn't Clay being played?

Adam Rittenberg: Thomas, while I feel Wisconsin should have been more committed to running between the tackles, Montee Ball was doing just fine as Wisconsin's featured back. The Badgers could have used John Clay a bit more, but Clay's conditioning is a factor you must consider. He hadn't received a full carries load since Oct. 23 against Iowa and has been recovering from a knee sprain. So his ability to stay on the field for long stretches was limited. The bigger issue is why Wisconsin didn't run more between the tackles with Ball or even James White. But regarding Clay, I really think you can point to conditioning/layoff.


Jeffrey from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Hey Adam. Right now the Big Ten is getting slammed for bad OOC scheduling. So I decided to take a look into it:Ohio State: Miami was the best of the best when scheduled in '03.Michigan: UConn won Big East. (Which isn't much of a prize.)Iowa: Arizona had high hopes for this season, didn't do much.Minnesota: USC dominated the world when scheduled. Got hit with sanctions.Illinois: Almost beat Mizzou, and Mizzou was dang good this year, and when they were scheduled.Penn State: Alabama was supposed to win a title, still pretty good though.Do you notice a pattern? Almost all the big names would have been good or decent when they were scheduled, but this season most weren't very good. It seems as though everything the Big Ten schedules turns to crap. Is this a Big Ten curse?Also, everyone says how the Pac-10 had 6 teams scheduled that are currently in the top 25; if these teams had been decent, so would the Big Ten!

Adam Rittenberg: Jeffrey, this is some good research, and your point here is very valid. The tricky part of nonconference scheduling is that these contracts are finalized so far in advance. Some games that look tough aren't, while others that look like cupcakes could become much tougher. I'd prefer to see schedules hammered out closer to the dates of games, but this is the system we live with right now. I would say that in talking with commissioner Jim Delany on Sunday, he didn't seem thrilled with the Big Ten's nonconference slate this year. We are seeing teams "upgrade" their future schedules -- Michigan State and Michigan both facing Alabama, etc. -- but as you point out, we won't know how good those games are until they roll around.


Justin from NE Iowa writes: Adam,With the Dismissal of Adam Robinson, I was wondering if you or anyone had looked at the Running Back Turnover at Iowa in the last 2-3 years. What is causing all of this? Is it just bad luck, coaches not doing homework, the climate in Iowa City? Who would have thought that what was thought would be Iowa's strength coming in this year would turn out to be such a problem...?

Adam Rittenberg: Hard to say, Justin. The injuries to Jewel Hampton were simply bad luck, as Hampton showed his value as a freshman in 2008. I think it's a string of unfortunate events, but it's amazing to think that Hampton, Brandon Wegher and now Adam Robinson all are gone from the program. Robinson's case is the most unfortunate because he really performed well on the field and showed impressive toughness and fortitude. I really liked watching Robinson, and Iowa will miss his presence in 2011. Marcus Coker's breakthrough performance in the bowls certainly makes Robinson's departure a little easier for fans to handle, but the Hawkeyes really need some other young players to step up and solidify the depth.