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Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Big Ten mailblog


Don't forget to send in those questions and comments to new Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett and yours truly.

Chris from Columbus writes: Adam,I just read your and Brian's debate about the title game site and I guess there are some things I don't quite understand. I admit that I've only ever passed through either Chicago or Indy on my way somewhere else, but how can anybody compare to Chicago as far as mystique and experience in the Midwest. Yet, when you wrote your piece you said, "...while I'm not sure Chicago can offer the same type of top billing." I don't understand this at all. It's Chicago, That Toddlin' Town, The Windy City, The Second City. It has the Navy Pier, the Miracle Mile and Rush Street. How can Indy possibly compare and put on a better event? They just renovated Soldier Field a couple years ago, so it can't be that outdated. What gives?

Adam Rittenberg: Chris, totally agree about Chicago's mystique. My point is that because of all the great things you list about Chicago, combined with it having more sporting options than Indianapolis, it's harder for the city to make the Big Ten championship its true main event. I've been to Indy for the Final Four, early NCAA tournament rounds and the Big Ten hoops tournament, and those events truly dominate the city and especially the downtown area while they're going on. Chicago always will have more entertainment options, which makes it a little harder to market the Big Ten championship as the only show in town.


Travis from St. Louis writes: Adam-With respects to the Big Tenā??s most irreplaceable coach, my first thought was Kirk Ferentz, but it has to be Pat Fitzgerald. Northwestern is truly in a unique position compared with the rest of the Big Ten. Itā??s a private university, has the smallest enrollment (Iā??m guessing), and is a borderline Ivy League school. No other football coach in the Big Ten has to contend with those challenges. Fitzgerald has to recruit differently than say Michigan, Wisconsin, OSU etc. He has to find players that meet the academic standards. I would be willing to bet walk-ons play an interesting role on his team as well. I think being an alum also helps him understand what it takes to effectively run the program. Bottom line, heā??s coaching with an arm tied behind his back and is succeeding. Your thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Some really good points here, Travis. Ferentz certainly is a great option. Fitzgerald is one of those coaches so linked to his program that any departure to another job would really sting. It's why Northwestern has been so aggressive in trying to keep him for the long term. The Wildcats don't get as much coverage as most Big Ten teams, but people around the country recognize Fitz. He has embraced the challenges of working for an institution unlike the others in the Big Ten and recruiting to a place that hasn't had much success until recent years. While Fitzgerald still must show he can win bowl games and compete for Big Ten championships, he's incredibly valuable to Northwestern.


Jack from Albuquerque writes: I am sending this to Brian, also but I was curious what is your take on Michigan already securing perhaps 60% of their committments for 2012? I can't remember a team having secured so many committments this early before. How does Michigan compare to schools in other conferences? This is exciting, but isn't Michigan running some risks, who knows what will happen during the senior year for a lot of these players, and doesn't this limit some of the other big time players Michigan would like to recruit?

Adam Rittenberg: Jack, here's the Big Ten recruiting scorecard I did last week. While there have been a few changes since then, Michigan remains well ahead of the other Big Ten teams in 2012 verbal commits. Are the Wolverines being overly aggressive? I don't think so, but time will tell on some of these players. I think Michigan has a clear vision for what it wants, particularly on defense, and the staff has found the players who fit the vision. Anything can happen to prospects during their senior seasons, but you have to trust the coaches in their early evaluation that these players are the right ones. That said, I'd like to see Michigan save a few scholarships for recruits not quite ready to commit.


Edward from Geneva, Ill., writes: Does the SEC graduate exception ban mean that Russell Wilson cannot play for Auburn?

Adam Rittenberg: The ban doesn't go into effect until October, so Wilson would be able to transfer to Auburn and have a chance to play immediately. He still would need to gain approval from the NCAA no matter where he goes, but this new policy wouldn't apply to him.


Eric from Collins, Ohio, writes: Adam, I hate these polls you (or ESPN) creates just to fill space in your blog. If you can't have every coach in the poll, don't do them. Everyone is passionate about their football team (And I am a PSU alum) and should not be forced into a box. And by the way, your wretched comments about someone else taking Penn State higher is just plain ludicrous because we currently have a coach and it brings nothing of substance to the football conversation to surmise "What if Joe Paterno wasn't the coach." Joe Paterno is good for college football, so stop trying to create a story (You covered up OSU's mess, why?) with Paterno.

Adam Rittenberg: Eric, a few things. The polls can only accommodate five choices, and in my view, Paterno didn't emerge as one of the clear top-5 regarding this question. I'm sorry you don't like the polls but you're in the minority, and the voting reflects this. I never said JoePa is bad for college football; he's great for the game and always will be. But this is a blog and opining about what happens to Penn State after Paterno seems pretty relevant to me. It's one of the most-asked questions since this blog started. The guy is 84 years old. If you disagree that no one could elevate Penn State's program to another level, that's fine. But many folks, including many Penn State fans, think another coach would provide a boost. And those people still love JoePa.


Dan from Iowa: Adam,Tell me I'm not the only person a little weary of the predicted OSU trouble the new coach at OSU will have and how tough his situation is??? While OSU will be without some stars, the guy still has a ton of talent to work with. OSU rarely struggles to get 9 wins a season, meaning they are guaranteed 9 with the remaining 3 victories coming in tight contest. So, essentially I think this guy has somewhat of a freebie where he either overachieves b/c everybody thinks OSU will slide back or he is given such tough job and barely gets 7 victories b/c half the team was suspended... either way, this is not a bad gig whatsoever for Fickel. BTW... his name reminds me of the Ace Ventura character Ray Finkel. Will we see a "Laces out" scenario happen in Columbus?


Adam Rittenberg: I'm in Psychoville and Finkel's the mayor! ... While you're right about Ohio State being a good bet to win at least nine games a season, the Buckeyes have never faced a challenge quite like this one. They'll be playing without at least four offensive starters for the first five games, and if additional player penalties are handed down, depth becomes a real issue. So I don't think you can guarantee nine wins for Luke Fickell, although he will inherit the typical top-flight talent Ohio State always has. Fickell will be judged largely on how Ohio State handles adversity this fall. Will the Buckeyes crumble if they lose a game? Will there be off-field or academic issues? If Fickell can keep the program on track and continue to win, he could have a real shot at the permanent job. But his task isn't easy.


Dave from San Diego writes: Adam,With how much Mark Dantonio recruits in Ohio, do you think that Michigan State will be able to steal more good players from Buckeye country, given their recent fall from grace?

Adam Rittenberg: An opportunity has emerged for Dantonio and other coaches who recruit a lot in Ohio. I'd say Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State could benefit the most from a recruiting standpoint if Ohio State takes a step or two backward. Almost every Big Ten school spends some time recruiting in Ohio, but whether the top-level recruits shy away from the Buckeyes remains to be seen. Colleague Tom Luginbill thinks Ohio State should continue to recruit well locally despite the scandal -- all eight verbal commits for 2012 are in-state players -- but the Buckeyes could have a tougher time recruiting nationally.