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Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Big Ten mailblog

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


Thomas from Dublin, Ohio, writes: Through reports and the one televised practice this summer, it's deduced that the defensive line of Ohio State may be the team's strength.In Saturday's jersey scrimmage, the defensive line seemed to have its way with the offense, leading to the defense keeping the Scarlet jerseys. At this point, is the defensive line so good that it's making the offensive line look bad? The offensive line seems to be having a lot of troubles and I personally cannot tell if it's OSU's defensive line that's causing these problems.


Adam Rittenberg: I'm extremely impressed with the Buckeyes' defensive line heading into the fall, but their strong play in Saturday's scrimmage shouldn't be overblown. The offensive line played without arguably its best piece, guard Justin Boren, who looks to be recovering well from a knee injury. Also, the left tackle position remains very much in flux, with Andrew Miller and J.B. Shugarts competing there. You've also got guys like Bryant Browning and Jim Cordle in different spots, so it's going to take a while for that group to jell.

Adam from Terre Haute, Ind., writes: I don't know what to make of the badgers running back situation. I know zach brown is a very good back but were talking about JOHN CLAY! He just flashed so much potenia last year. Why do you think they moved him back to back up? Is it to motivate him or to make him work harder? Because I can't see any other back starting other than JoHn Clay next season. What should I make of this?


Adam Rittenberg: It surprised me, too, but Wisconsin's decisions might have more to do with Brown's production than any regression from Clay. Brown was kind of the forgotten man last year behind P.J. Hill and Clay, but he clearly has elevated his play in camp. The coaches will play the best player, but you're right about the motivation factor for Clay. After being hyped as the team's No. 1 offensive option all summer, he's suddenly the backup. You can bet he'll be fired up for the season. Wisconsin should benefit from the variety Clay and Brown provide. They're obviously different physically and stylistically, so offensive coordinator Paul Chryst will be able to use them in different situations.

Nick from Tuscaloosa, Ala., writes: What do you think about Minnesota working in the Wildcat...or rather Wild Gopher package into their offense this season? Will it be successful in helping establish a running game?



Adam Rittenberg: Gopher fan in Bama country? Nice. Minnesota has so many athletes, especially on the offensive side, so the Wildcat package makes a lot of sense. You've got a guy like Troy Stoudermire, who was tremendous on kickoff returns last year and played some quarterback in high school. He hasn't played much wide receiver at the college level, but he's dangerous with the ball in his hands and seems like a perfect fit to run the Wildcat.

Matt from NYC writes: Adam,You and others have said the Big Ten needs to win the Rose Bowl to regain its reputation. I've also seen talk that our problems stem from the fact tha we constantly get two
teams in the BCS so all of our teams have to play up in competition. Really, I think our problems stem from USC getting screwed out of the championship game every year. Let someone else play them and the Big Ten can take on number two in the Pac 10. I think you'd see the Big Ten do just fine then. It's not like I see any SEC schools chomping at the bit to play the Trojans. Lord knows those guys will schedule anyone, where as Florida won't leave the state of Florida.



Adam Rittenberg: Good assessment, Matt. No team in the country wants to play USC in a meaningful game, and the Big Ten has seen the Trojans four times in the Rose Bowl this decade. I can't imagine the Big Ten's Rose Bowl losing streak would be what it is had the opponent been Oregon, Cal or Oregon State. Having only one BCS team would improve the league's overall bowl prospects, but the Big Ten wants its teams on the biggest stages with the biggest payouts. Two BCS victories after the 2005 season certainly helped, and the Big Ten could make a similar breakthrough this year, if the matchups fall right.


Craig from Peoria, Ill., writes: Adam:I'm a native from Peoria, IL. However, I am NOT a U of I fan in any shape or form. I developed a love for NU football during the mid 90s while I was playing football in highschool. I feel like the only guy in this area who is a NU fan. I know that NU football has been around a long time, so why is it that the citizens of Chicago do not fill Ryan Field with thousands of fans, yet the U of I can be packed on any given saturday?



Adam Rittenberg: There are several factors involved, namely the number of sporting options in Chicago. Northwestern isn't the only show in town like many Big Ten programs, and the team doesn't have that historical bond with the Chicago sports fan. Things could change with the program's decent run since 1995 and head coach Pat Fitzgerald's popularity, but not enough people in the Chicago area connect to the program. Northwestern's alumni base in Chicago pales in comparison to those of other Big Ten schools (Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin). So it's an uphill battle, but things should pick up if the team keeps winning and schedules better nonconference matchups.