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Friday, June 12, 2009
Big Ten Friday mailblog

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Looks like our scheduling series has had the desired effect.

Justin from Iowa writes: Adam,I've heard a lot of people suggest Iowa will split their away schedule 2/2. Iowa is a historically slow starter that gets better as the season progresses. If they avoid any pitfalls and start their OOC schedule 4-0, followed up by a win at Penn State to kick off big 10 play, how do you see this prediction perhaps changing?

Adam Rittenberg: The pattern definitely held true last year as Iowa played its best football down the stretch. The Penn State game means everything for Iowa. Win in Happy Valley, and suddenly the league road schedule doesn't seem so daunting. My prediction could change a bit if Iowa prevails at Penn State, but the Hawkeyes get no breathers on the road this fall.


Will from Cleveland writes: Dear Adam,I actually have two very different questions I'd love for you to answer. What does non-conference schedules mean anymore? Because its always taking the backseat by the end of the year bowl games. Like last year the Pac10 was spanked across the country for the most part of the beginning of the season. But now every time I'm on a blog fans act like it means nothing we went 5-0 in the bowls but does who you play in bowl games ever matter?Secondly Adam I want to know how can the PSU fans talk so much smack, and their team last year did nothing against good teams? Sure they're highlight was against my Buckeyes but we were terrible according to our own standards. We have so much to look forward to other than Laurinitis, and Jenkins (sorry Adam but the Wideouts I hated worst starting tandem of Tressel era). But it seems they've lost so much more, and they act like its the exact opposite explain the theories for me please ADAM?

Adam Rittenberg: As to your first question, you're right about bowl performance. It seems to mean everything these days, while the regular season fades to the background. But nonconference scheduling can shape how a team or a league is viewed nationally, and it could help or hurt in the all-important polls. Take Penn State this fall. There's no way the Nittany Lions make any jump in the polls until the Iowa game. They would need everyone else to lose in order to move up.

Moving on, Penn State definitely deserves credit for beating Ohio State in Columbus, no matter how "down" the Buckeyes might have been. I think you're being a little hard on Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline, but neither man had the season many thought they would. Penn State also knocked off Oregon State, albeit early, and thumped Wisconsin in Madison. Both Penn State and Ohio State lost a lot from last year, but the confidence from Penn State fans stems from the fact that the program is on the upswing since 2005 after some lean years.


George from Madison, Wis., writes: The big ten has been getting bashed alot lately for their non conference scheduling and i agree with it. but my question is when is Wisconsin gonna stop padding the schedule? they are the worst of them all, three out of the last five seasons including this one Wisconsin hasnt had one bcs conference team on their schedule. ever since Barry Alvarez came to Wisconsin the non conference schedule turned to cupcakes. is this gonna end? im a season ticket holder and quite frankly im tired of paying to see teams like the Citadel and Wofford.

Adam Rittenberg: Wisconsin fans are upset with the soft scheduling, and quite frankly I don't blame them. The Badgers really had established themselves as the Big Ten's No. 3 powerhouse for quite awhile, but they seem to have lost the grip on that title as Penn State moves up. One way to regain some national respect is to play some more nationally known teams. I liked the willingness to travel to Fresno State last year, but it wouldn't kill the program to add a BCS team or two to the slate. I'm glad to see Arizona State and Oregon State coming on the schedule in the near future. And it'd be nice to see the Notre Dame series happen.


Dan from New York writes: It seems to me that Michigan keeps getting the short end of the stick when it comes to the scheduling debate. Yes they play a lot of mediocre to bad teams. But, two years ago they played a terrific Oregon team that had Heisman candidate Dixon on it and last year Sugar Bowl champ Utah. In addition to Notre Dame every year. So, in past two years thats 2 tough non-conference games. Sure Oregon and Utah aren't marquee names like Florida State, or Tennessee, but in those years Utah and Oregon were better than most teams. So why won't the wolverines get credit for scheduling tough games, although the teams don't have marquee names? Playing last years Utah team is obviously a better matchup than last years Bama team.

Adam Rittenberg: You bring up some good points, Dan, and Michigan deserves props for playing Oregon and Utah. Notre Dame's recent decline also hurts the Wolverines when outsiders view the schedule. But c'mon, it's Michigan, a true national name, the game's all-time winningest program. People expect more from Michigan, namely national games against national powerhouses. The Notre Dame series is nice, but Notre Dame no longer falls into that category. I don't mind Utah or Oregon one bit, but when you have Notre Dame as your only BCS opponent, as is the case this year, you're going to get some heat. It would be really nice to see Michigan schedule a big-name opponent for the 2010 opener in the renovated Big House.


Adam from Pittsburgh writes: So would it be safe to say that Terrell Pryor is scaring QB recruits away from OSU? I mean Pryor has all but locked up the spot for the next 3 years (if he doesn't go pro as a junior). We are 0 for 4 on QBs in two years and anyone incoming now might not start until their senior year. I see Hendrix on the radar, but hopefully Justin Zwick-itis doesn't set in on the home-stater! Any thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: This is a very interesting debate, Adam. Obviously, no player is going to replace Pryor for at least two more years. Some recruits also might be curious as to how Ohio State's offense will change with Pryor taking snaps, as opposed to the scheme used during most of coach Jim Tressel's tenure. On the flip side, Pryor could be gone after the 2010 season, so if a guy redshirts in 2010, he'll have all four years of eligibility left. The overlap with Pryor shouldn't be too big of a factor, but something is turning away quarterbacks from Columbus. Maybe it's the fact that Ohio State has struggled to produce a strong NFL quarterback under Tressel. Still, I'd be surprised if Andrew Hendrix doesn't come aboard for 2010.