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Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Big Ten mailblog, Part I

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

I've been falling behind on the mail -- blame the Big Ten news cycle -- and will try to catch up the rest of this week. More mailblogs coming Thursday and Friday.

Here's how you can reach me.

One programming note: I'll be chatting about all things Big Ten football at 4 p.m. ET Thursday. Join me.

Tyler from Columbus, Ohio, writes: I'm having some issues understanding why Hoke is being compared to Jim Tressel in the media. Tressel was an Ohio native who spent his whole career coaching in Ohio, as well as winning 4 national championships at Youngstown State. Hoke is an Ohio native who apparently became a Michigan fan to annoy his friends enough to run him out of the state to get a job in Ann Arbor. He has had little consistent success as a coach, and I am baffled as well as offended that he is being so immediately compared to one of the greatest coaches to ever enter the 'Shoe. Can you explain it, please?

Adam Rittenberg: I totally agree with you about the Hoke-Tressel comparison, but I think you're being a bit harsh on Hoke (to be expected as an Ohio State fan). Tressel came to Ohio State with terrific credentials, regardless of the level where he coached. Hoke had a good season at SDSU and a good season at Ball State, but his accomplishments to this point don't come close to Tressel's before he came to Ohio State. Now we've just seen Gene Chizik win a national title at Auburn after really struggling at Iowa State, so coaches have the ability to improve programs in a hurry. It'll be interesting to see if Hoke restores Michigan to elite status.


Miles from Madison, Wis., writes: Hey Adam, Why are the Badgers playing an away game versus Michigan State next year? Two years in a row? I'm guessing it has something to do with the conference realignment but what gives? Seems a bit unfair I was looking forward to a payback game at Camp Randall next Fall.

Adam Rittenberg: The realignment changes the scheduling structure a bit, but the Big Ten also has things set on a two-year cycle where the no-plays rotate. This has resulted in teams playing at the same site two years in a row. One example I can remember is Iowa and Northwestern playing at Kinnick Stadium in consecutive seasons (2008-09). The good news is Wisconsin will host Michigan State in 2012 even though the teams are in opposite divisions.


Andrew from Atlanta writes: If RichRod isn't offered a coaching position soon, why not grab him up as the offensive coordinator for Michigan? Even if it's only a temporary gig before teams come calling again, it would help keep a potent offense with even greater potential for 2011 on track and ready to go! Even a remote possibility?

Adam Rittenberg: Andrew, thanks for bringing some laughter to my day. As much fun as this would be to cover, it's not happening, my friend.


John from Gilbert, Ariz., writes: Adam, any news on who will be the new DC or additions to the staff at Wisconsin?

Adam Rittenberg: Nothing official yet, but I heard late last week that Wisconsin is still committed to promoting from within to replace Dave Doeren as defensive coordinator. D-line coach Charlie Partridge and secondary coach Chris Ash are the primary candidates, and they could end up sharing the title as co-coordinators. Although Partridge has been at Wisconsin longer, Ash did an excellent job with the secondary in his first season.


Jon from Sioux City, Iowa, writes: Adam-I read what we learned in the Big Ten bowl games, and you were almost right about everything. The only thing I have to say I disagree with the "mini-upsets". In Iowa's case, I could understand an upset, however, wouldn't their win show they have depth? I mean, a lot of younger players stepped up in that game, such as Coker, Hyde, and Morris. And I guess I really wouldn't call the Illinois game an "upset". They kind of blew Baylor out of the water. What's even more perplexing is that in early 2011 power rankings, you placed Wisconsin at number 2 because of depth.

Adam Rittenberg: Jon, the upset label is applied before games are played, not afterward, and both Iowa and Illinois entered their bowls as underdogs. Iowa had stumbled badly down the stretch of the regular season and was facing the No. 12 team in Missouri. Illinois came in 6-6 and faced Baylor in Baylor's home state. My comment had nothing to do with Iowa's depth, but sure, the Hawkeyes showed some in that game and raised hope for 2011. While Wisconsin loses several outstanding individuals, the Badgers still have depth at positions like running back, offensive line, receiver and linebacker that will pay off.


Illini Mike from Chicago writes: Between loosing to Penn St, loosing three juniors, and loosing additional income to a lame duck tax increase; it has not been a good week for Illinois fans. I don't think the loss of Corey, Martez and Mikel will be as bad as some will think. I think Ford can be another running back that "comes out of nowhere" (aka not a five star prospect that commits to OSU or UM) to suprise people. I think Vic Koennign will continue to surprise on defense and develop talent. Mercilus (best last name for a punishing DT) can adequately fill Liuget's shoes. Who do you think can step up at middle linebacker next season?

Adam Rittenberg: Jason Ford is a different type of back than Leshoure, but he boasts experience and a powerful running style that should work in Paul Petrino's offense. Defensive tackle Corey Liuget is unquestionably the biggest loss of the three. Nothing against Whitney Mercilus, but it's unrealistic to expect him or anyone to replicate what Liuget did. It will be up to Vic Koenning to find some replacements on defense, as the unit struggled in the second half of Big Ten play. Ian Thomas likely will take over the lead role at linebacker in 2011.


Zachary from New York writes: You said "most coaches only end up at Michigan after building an impressive legacy elsewhere." I think that is demonstrably false. Rodriguez fits that bill, but no one else does. Crisler had a decent record at Minny and Princeton, but not great. Bo isn't remembered for what he did at Miami and was greeted with headlines of "Bo Who?" when he was hired. Yost coached only three years total prior to Michigan. Moeller was a disaster at Illinois. Kipke coached one year at MSU. Okay George Little coached a lot before his one year at Michigan. Does anyone remember Little for anything other than his work as Wisconsin AD after he left Michigan? The rest (Carr, Oosterbaan, Elliott, Wiemann, and all the 19th century guys) were never head coaches prior to leading Michigan and Moeller of course hadn't been a head coach for roughly a decade.

Adam Rittenberg: Wrong, Zachary. I wrote, "Most coaches only land a job like Michigan after building an impressive legacy elsewhere." I'm placing Michigan in the elite category of programs that often attract coaches with impressive legacies at other schools. I get the Bo thing and the Lloyd thing. And Hoke very well could work out well. All I'm saying is Michigan didn't have to go this route. There were other coaches with more impressive résumés than Hoke available. There might not have been a better fit available.


Chuck from Bloomington, Ind., writes: Based on who Indiana has hired so far as their coaches, how there doesn't seem to be many people leaving the team, and also based on how their recruiting class seems relativity intact, I can see Indiana easily becoming bowl eligible next season. That's not to say things are going to be easy, but from what I've been seeing here in how the coaching change has worked, we couldn't be in a better position! Coach Wilson and what staff he has hired already seems adamant about creating a team based on what we have, not on what scheme he wants to play. Do you think Indiana can become bowl eligible next year, or am I just full of wishful thinking and hopeless dreams?

Adam Rittenberg: Like you, I've been very impressed with the staff Kevin Wilson is putting together. Brent Pease would have been a nice offensive coordinator, but I'm confident Wilson will find a good replacement. The coaching will help, but I still look at the personnel and see a team that doesn't win more than five games. I could be wrong, but the talent level on defense still must be upgraded significantly, and Indiana will really miss Ben Chappell at quarterback. But things are heading in the right direction.