Friday, September 30, 2011
Big Ten Friday mailblog
By Adam Rittenberg
Huge Big Ten weekend on tap. Enjoy it!
Alex from Bloomington, Ill., writes: As I look back at the biggest non-conference games, I think of LSU-Oregon/WVU, OU-FSU Boise-UGA. U-M-ND was good but is ND a marquee opponent? Don't get me started on Wisconsin's and Nebraska's schedule. This is why to me the SEC seems to be ahead of the B1G. What do you think? Will the B1G start to take more risks in the future? Can you think of a B1G showcase game besides ASU/ILL.
Adam Rittenberg: Alex, this is a good question, and you bring up some good points. I'd add Alabama-Penn State to your list of big nonleague games, even though it wasn't an overly competitive one. While some SEC schools play soft nonconference schedules just like their Big Ten brethren, the SEC has a few more showcase games than the Big Ten (it also helps to have national championship contenders in those games). Nonconference scheduling is an inexact science. Ohio State-Miami could have been a true marquee game, but both programs are reeling a bit right now. Games like Washington-Nebraska and Oregon State-Wisconsin could have been better, but the Beavers are a mess and Washington looks decent but not great.
When I look to the future, I see the landscape getting better. Programs like Michigan State and Northwestern have upgraded their nonconference schedules. Ohio State's model is fine, with one game per year against a usually premier major-conference opponent. Even Wisconsin, which takes a lot of heat (mostly justified) for its nonleague slates, adds Virginia Tech in 2016-17.
Chris from Columbus writes: Adam,I'm not a PSU fan nor am I invested one way or the other in Matt McGloin. But part of me feels that he doesn't get it when he talks about being annoyed with the walk-on label. If anything, he should wear it with pride. It means that he didn't start out on scholarship but EARNED his way to one and even a co-starting job at the most important position on the field. I remember a couple years ago my Buckeyes had Antonio Smith at one of the corners and he was a former walk-on. I think I respected him that much more because of the hard work and dedication he put into it to get that scholarship for his senior season. It's hard enough just being a student, I can't imagine how hard it is to do both. McGloin should wear the label with pride.
Adam Rittenberg: Chris, I hear ya, but I also understand why McGloin gets annoyed with the label. Yes, it's a fact, but it is often used in the context of portraying him as the less talented quarterback -- as the guy who really doesn't deserve to compete with Rob Bolden. Fans love recruiting rankings. They love talented players. Some Penn State fans feel Bolden should be the guy because he appears to have more upside than McGloin. The two players' statistics, however, don't show a wide gap between the two. McGloin has earned a place in this seemingly never-ending competition. McGloin is a fiery guy. It might be his best quality. So if he plays with a chip on his shoulder and this is part of it, more power to him.
Mike from Raleigh, N.C., writes: Hi Adam,Regarding Russell Wilson, I just wanted to add that a majority of NC State fans like me are very happy for Russell. It worked out good for both parties. Russell's backup at QB in Raleigh is doing okay (but our defense is horrible!) and Russell deserves the chance to shine. His talent got NC State to a bowl; but with Wisconsin's talent, this could be a magical season for Russell and the Badgers. A friend of mine who works with me at NC State is actually going to the Wisconsin-Nebraska game to see Russell play.
Adam Rittenberg: Mike, thanks for the note. It's nice to see some NC State fans are able to enjoy Wilson's success without being bitter. Wilson's departure was unfortunate, but most fans can still appreciate him as both a player and a person. Wisconsin can go a long way with Wilson at the helm. As for NC State? Last week's game was ugly, but things can improve.
Creighton from Nebraska writes: If the floor should fall through on Nebraska and the Huskers lose 4-5 conference games, how hot does Bo Pelini's seat get? And if the offense stalls against a decent defense as it has in the last 3 seasons, will Pelini finally begin to take the fall for it?
Adam Rittenberg: Creighton, while I highly, highly doubt this would happen, Pelini would be under pressure from fans and media, but not nearly as much from the folks who really matter. Tom Osborne isn't the type of guy who wants to make head-coaching changes every few years, especially for a program that had two head coaches (Osborne and Bob Devaney) between 1962-97. Bo has done a nice job so far, and while he needs to take the program one step further, things are on the right track.
Keith from San Diego writes: Adam, you kind of look like Steve Bartman.
Adam Rittenberg: Maybe I am Steve Bartman. That would really drive colleague Wayne Drehs nuts.
McSpartyLovin from Plymouth, Mich., writes: Hey AdamI wanted to ask both you and Brian this question. Keeping in mind that Mark Dantonio was the DC for OSU when they won the National Championship, who do you think is a better defensive mind, Dantonio or Heacock? Keep up the great work and Go Green/White this weekend!
Adam Rittenberg: Great question, and a very tough one to answer. I've felt for a long time that Heacock is one of the nation's more underrated coaches. His defenses have been consistently among the nation's elite. They swarm to the football, tackle extremely well and can be very opportunistic. That said, Dantonio coordinated a national championship defense -- one that ranked second nationally in points allowed (13.1 ppg) and third in rush yards allowed (77.7 ypg) -- while Heacock has, until recently, had some struggles in BCS bowls. Dantonio's Michigan State teams have had mixed results on defense, but the current squad looks strong and is rated No. 1 nationally. I'd give a slight edge to Dantonio, but both are great defensive minds.
Larianna from Northern Michigan writes: Hi Adam,I follow your blog all year, great stuff. Just one question, why no love for the B1G in your power rankings? Could you please explain why GT, TCU, heck even South Florida above Michigan? I'll agreed Denard hasn't been throwing well, but he hasn't had to either. When the pressure is on he had done nothing but come through. You could say I'm just being hopefully optimistic but who deserves it more than the wolverines? I hope they can prove to you in the next few weeks that November doesn't look too frightening after all! I'm just thankful they don't play Wisconsin (ranking in at 7, not bad, but really?). Thank you for listening, I look forward to hearing your grounding and wise comments. Thanks again (and go blue).
Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Larianna. Doubt my comments are grounding and wise, but thanks. Here's the deal with Michigan: I simply need to see more. That's not to say I won't praise the Wolverines if they keep winning. I'll be glad to do so. But Michigan hasn't played a road game. It hasn't played a Big Ten game. It hasn't played a team it lost to in recent years. There are some very promising signs, especially on defense. But I don't believe Michigan can transform into a top-15 team overnight. There likely will be some speed bumps along the way, especially when the road games begin. I might be wrong, but I've also seen Michigan tease us the past two years. Fans can go nuts right now. That's what makes them fans. But I need to see more.
Alex from Charlottesville, Va., writes: In regards to your Week 5 predictions. Bennet is 3 games ahead of you but this week you both had identical picks. You aren't going to gain any ground that way. Do you think it is too late for you to change any of your picks? More specifically the Northwestern/Illinois game. Not that Illinois is a bad pick, but Northwestern could be a good gamble. Three reasons why:1. Persa is back (might not play his best game, but his presence as a leader on the field will make a difference)2. bad loss against Army (they'll want to prove that game was a fluke)3. Northwestern is coming off a bye week giving them extra time to prepare for the Illini.
Adam Rittenberg: Alex, I thought about this when we made our predictions, but it's too late to go back now. I've got to go with who I really think will win. I nearly switched my picks on three games -- Northwestern-Illinois, Michigan State-Ohio State and Purdue-Notre Dame -- and by Saturday night, I'm sure I'll regret at least one of the decisions. Hey, the good news is if I picked against your team, you'll probably be happy on Saturday. That's the way this season is going. But yes, you'll see BB and I disagree more often in the coming weeks.