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Friday, June 24, 2011
Big Ten Friday mailblog

By Adam Rittenberg

One final mail call before the weekend.

Beau from Quad Cities, Iowa, writes: To get respect the B1G needs to win major Bowl games. The B-12 seems to think they lost out on some BCS games due to their CCG. I contend that the B-12 made a major mistake in not taking a TCU/BYU and getting to 11. Round Robins are great, but they will not give a Conference many dual BCS teams IMO. So my question to you is do you feel that the B1G will begin to lose out on BCS games now that there is a 12 team Pac and with the chance that in certain years OU and Texas could in theory snatch them away?

Adam Rittenberg: Beau, you bring up a number of different points here. I agree that a round-robin schedule hurts a league's chances to get multiple BCS entries. The Pac-10/12 was a good example of this in past seasons. A conference championship game also could prevent a second team from earning a BCS bowl slot in some seasons. Will Oklahoma and Texas start to take BCS bowl slots away from the Big Ten? Maybe, but it depends on the season and what is happening within the Big Ten and elsewhere. I know this: BCS bowls love to invite Big Ten teams because of the large traveling fan bases and the national interest generated. I still think BCS bowls will take Penn State or Nebraska ahead of, say, Oklahoma State or Oregon State.


Mark from Atlanta writes: Adam,For the first ever Big Ten Championship game, what would be better for the conference: Michigan and Ohio State meeting for the second straight week, or non-traditional powers such as Wisconsin and Michigan State meeting in the championship?There are pros and cons for each, but what's your opinion?

Adam Rittenberg: There's no doubt Michigan-Ohio State would move the needle nationally more than Wisconsin-Michigan State. Casual football fans who might otherwise not watch the Big Ten championship would tune in to see Michigan and Ohio State, despite the rematch factor. It would be a huge event for the league. The Big Ten benefits from a Michigan State-Wisconsin championship because it puts another league member in the Rose Bowl or another BCS game. It also suggests the Big Ten is deeper than just the traditional powers. As I've written many times, the Big Ten must have more teams competing at a national level to truly catch the SEC. Ohio State has been the only consistent championship contender in recent years. So if this scenario vaults Michigan State and Wisconsin into that category, it helps the league as a whole.


Scott from Barron, Wis., writes: Best Tight Ends:Hello? Jacob Pedersen? He will probably lead the league in catches this year.

Scott from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Adam,I reviewed your tight-end rankings and because I witnessed Dion Sims at the spring game, I believe that he will be at the top of the list come end of the season (insofar as his receiving skills go). Every-time he touched the ball he dominated, and his second gear after the catch is phenomenal for his size. I'm not counting Brian Lithicum out of the starting job, but expect Sims to be a star this year.

Adam Rittenberg: Scotts, you both could be right. Pedersen did some nice things last year, and Sims has a ton of potential and could be a star for Michigan State. Sims really impressed a lot of folks as a freshman in 2009 before the unfortunate situation last year. I like Pedersen, but I really, really liked Jake Byrne after watching him practice in April. Byrne consistently got open in the middle of the field and showed good hands. He has been known as a blocking tight end, but I see him evolving into a more complete player. It'll be interesting to see Byrne and Pedersen compete together this fall.


Husker Nation from Everywhere, Earth, writes: Adam,In your summer school for Nebraska you said the Huskers were at a disadvantage because of all the new teams they'll have to go up against. We, Husker Nation, don't understand your reasoning behind that. Michigan, Ohio State, Minnesota, and Indiana all have new coaches. Add Nebraska to that mix and that's 5 of 12 New teams the rest of the B1G have to prepare for. With our experience in the Big 12 of facing many different styles of teams would that not put Nebraska at an advantage?

Adam Rittenberg: Husker, while Nebraska could provide some preparation headaches for its future Big Ten opponents, your facts aren't totally correct. The Huskers don't face Indiana this season, and if they did, they'd probably have an easier time preparing because of Kevin Wilson's Big 12 background at Oklahoma and the fact a former Huskers assistant, Mike Ekeler, is Indiana's co-defensive coordinator. As for Ohio State, while the Buckeyes have a new head coach, he's not new to the players and neither are the assistants. Ohio State is going to run the same schemes it used during Jim Tressel's tenure, so Nebraska will prepare accordingly. Both Michigan and Minnesota have new coaches, but the other Big Ten teams are more familiar with their personnel than Nebraska. I'm not saying the Huskers have an impossible task with preparation, but you can't dismiss it.


Drew from Milwaukee writes: Adam - love the position rankings. This was one of my favorite things the last few years heading into the season, especially so I can get to know some of the units and individual talents on other B1G squads. My question is, how would you weight the importance of different units. Historically in the B1G where do you have to be rock solid in order to win? My money would be on running back, line play, consistent QB and mistake free special teams, but would love to see what you think.

Adam Rittenberg: Drew, I'd tend to agree with your assessment. Running backs and strong line play always have been huge in the Big Ten. You've seen defensive tackle become an increasingly important position in the NFL, and it also has been the case in the Big Ten. Although the linebacker position might not be as important in college football as it once was, the Big Ten's best teams typically have at least one extremely productive linebacker. Good point on special teams as well -- it's huge in the Big Ten, especially when the weather gets cold.


Tonjua Jones from Oro Valley, Ariz., writes: This has to be the first time a Northwestern WR has been recognized coming into the season. In addition, the entire receiving corp. is highlighted as one of the strongest in the conference. What are your thoughts on the role Kevin Johns played in establishing the passing offense at Northwestern? Also, what do you think about his new role at Indiana and the weapons he will utilize to bolster the IU passing attack?

Adam Rittenberg: This wouldn't happen to be the same Tonjua Jones who played receiver for Northwestern a few years ago, would it? If so, good to hear from you. As you know, Kevin Johns is an outstanding receivers coach, as he consistently took lightly recruited players at Northwestern and made them extremely productive. He became increasingly important in recent years as the Wildcats' run game backslid and the offense revolved around the pass and the receivers. Johns is an excellent pickup for Indiana, which has had little trouble producing standout receivers of its own (James Hardy, Tandon Doss, etc.). Johns has some nice weapons to work with this fall in Damarlo Belcher, Duwyce Wilson and Kofi Hughes.