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Thursday, June 30, 2011
Big Ten mailblog

By Adam Rittenberg

Another mailblog coming up Friday, so be sure and send your questions to Brian.

Let's get started ...

Caleb from Ashland, Neb., writes: Last week, Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller answered a question about why he thought the SEC has been so dominant and so hard to knock off it's perch. He talked about the culture of football in the SEC and how football is the most important thing to most of the fan bases in the conference. I am not sure I agree with this opinion as the Big Ten has a very storied football history and places like Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan has very, very dedicated fan bases and I would also label most schools in the B1G as football schools. So I would like to ask you the same question, why do you think the SEC has been the most dominant conference of the BCS era?

Adam Rittenberg: Caleb, I agree that football is king throughout much of the Big Ten and particularly for the fan bases you list. I would, however, agree with Ted that the obsession factor is greater in the SEC. Many SEC schools are in areas with no major pro sports teams. Their fan bases include everyone, not just alumni or folks with connections to the schools. Die-hard fans are the same everywhere, but the year-round focus on football throughout the entire conference -- not just in certain places -- seems to be greater in the SEC. Now does that make SEC football better? Maybe, but I think the recent population shifts and the number of elite recruits in the South and Southeast have had more to do with it. SEC teams have more to choose from in their backyards than their Big Ten counterparts. You don't have as many programs like Iowa and Wisconsin that boast successful track records on the field but face unique challenges in recruiting because of their locations.


Zach from Southgate, Mich., writes: Adam, I'm curious to know if other OSU fans are as conflicted as I am about the coming year. On one hand, I'd love to see the Buckeyes go 12-1, stick it in everyone's craw, and play in the Rose Bowl as Big 10 champs. But that would draw so much negative attention nationally! Maybe a subdued 8-4/9-3 season would be better to keep us out of the spotlight? But what if this is our last chance at BCS postseason glory for a couple of years if the NCAA cracks down with bowl bans? You can see why I'm torn!

Adam Rittenberg: Zach, I could be wrong, but I don't think many Buckeyes fans are torn about this. Fans should want to see their teams succeed at the highest level, especially in the fact of adversity. Ohio State is going to be a huge national story whether it goes 7-5 or 11-1. People want to see how the Buckeyes will respond to all the controversy, how young coach Luke Fickell handles himself and so forth. There's also the unknowns about potential NCAA penalties and who ultimately coaches the team in 2012 and beyond. But as a fan, you should want continued success because the spotlight will be there no matter what.


Andrew from DC writes: Regarding your choice for the top 5 offensive tackles in the league, I'm not going to criticize your choices, but I would bet a dollar (or a few of them) that Taylor Lewan is on that list at the end of the season. Kid is a beast with a year of experience under his belt now. As long as he can cut back on penalties, I see him finishing the season as one of the top 3 OTs in the B1G.

Adam Rittenberg: Lewan is an intriguing prospect. He's clearly talented and has the potential to be very good this season, but as you note, he has to show greater discipline and consistency. I probably would have included a few Big Ten tackles before Lewan -- Purdue's Dennis Kelly just missed the top 5 -- but the Michigan redshirt sophomore is a player to watch.


Scott from Orlando writes: Adam, I incredibly shocked that I'm yet to see any discussion on this topic, and if I've overlooked it, please point me in the right direction. With Tyrelle Pryor's departure from OSU, what are the implications on their Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas? Now that he has left the program and reneged on his promise to return next year with a five game suspension, he was obviously an ineligible player, right? Is Ohio State going to have to give up their only BCS bowl victory over an SEC school? Is the NCAA going to come down harder on them since they allowed Tressel such lenience in handing out punishments instead of them??

Adam Rittenberg: Scott, it depends if the NCAA finds Pryor had committed violations beyond the memorabilia sales to Edward Rife. The NCAA knew about those before the Sugar Bowl and still allowed Pryor and his teammates to play. The recent investigation into Pryor and his use of cars could produce additional violations that might ultimately result in Ohio State vacating the Sugar Bowl win. But Pryor's "ineligibility" in relation to the original memorabilia sales violations was already known and didn't affect his status for the bowl. It's more likely the NCAA comes down hard on Tressel/Ohio State for Tressel's cover-up than any punishments he or the team handed out to players. Tressel not coming forward with information about the initial violations is the big issue.


Adam from Gilbert, Ariz., writes: Adam, How exactly does Wilson make Wisconsin better? He was decent, but nothing special in the weak ACC. He doesn't exactly fit Wisconsin's style of play and wasn't even wanted by NC State. I think his experience will help a little, but overall, i don't think it brings them any more wins...

Adam Rittenberg: Adam, Wilson did some pretty special things at NC State, and while the ACC might not win BCS bowls, there are some pretty good teams with NFL talent throughout that league. If you watched Wilson play, you'd see a quarterback who can make all the throws, who can extend plays and make things happen both inside and outside the pocket. And it wasn't that NC State didn't want him any more. Tom O'Brien just wanted him to commit to football this spring. Time will tell how Wilson fits in at Wisconsin, but he undoubtedly makes the Badgers a better team.