Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Big Ten [Print without images]

Friday, October 28, 2011
Big Ten Friday mailblog

By Adam Rittenberg

A few emails before the weekend begins. Enjoy the games!

Greg from Norristown, Pa., writes: Adam, call me optimistic but I think there's a strong possibility that Penn State can win 3 of its last 4 games. The game I see them losing is Wisconsin. If the Badgers have 1 conference loss (MSU) and Penn State has 1 conference loss (Wiscy) doesn't that mean Wisconsin goes to the Championship Game? Do you think Penn State could still get into a BCS game at 10-2 with their only losses to Alabama and Wisconsin? Finally, if Penn State did win out, wouldn't a PSU v. MSU Championship Game be awesome?! We could bring back the ugliest trophy in college football, the Land Grant Trophy!

Adam Rittenberg: Ha, we all miss the Land Grant Trophy. It's a fine piece of craftsmanship. Yes, in the scenario you present, Wisconsin would go to the title game if it beats Penn State and both teams have one Big Ten loss. I think Penn State would be extremely appealing to some BCS bowl committees as an at-large selection, although it also depends on who else is out there. While Penn State lacks the dynamic offenses some bowls drool over, you have a national fan base and an iconic coach who might be working his final game. To your final point, a PSU-MSU matchup in Indy would be a defensive clash of the titans. While I'm guessing Wisconsin would drive up the TV ratings with its offense, Penn State and Michigan State would be a fun one, too.


Steve from Nebraska writes: Hey Adam--even after a year and a half, I can still be surprised by some of Taylor Martinez's decisions. Any chance his wind comments were aimed at riling up an MSU defense that has a history of disciplinary issues? My guess is we're going to need some free yards this weekend.

Adam Rittenberg: Steve, it's an interesting theory, although I think it's wishful thinking on your part. Although Martinez's comment certainly got the attention of Jerel Worthy and his fellow Spartans defenders, I don't think we'll see a flurry of yellow hankies on Saturday afternoon in Lincoln. Michigan State's defense doesn't have a history of disciplinary issues. It had an unusually high number of penalties in the Michigan game and played much more disciplined last week (no penalties). The Spartans know they won't have much margin for error on the road against T-Magic and the Huskers.


Alan from Evanston, Ill., writes: Adam, Love reading your stuff. Myself, along with my fellow Northwestern students have so far had a terribly frustrating season. We realize that our school does not have a historically successful football program and that in reality going to a bowl game should be a huge success, but should we be as disappointed as we are at how the Wildcats have played this year? While some of my compatriots envisioned a year of nine or ten wins and a possible march to the conference title game in Indy, I thought I was being rather conservative in predicting a seven win season. But to date the Cats are winless in conference play. In your opinion were our hopes warranted, and does this team have more talent than they are showing on the field?

Adam Rittenberg: Alan, one sign that a program has made strides is expectations. If Northwestern were 2-5 (0-4 Big Ten) and its fans weren't upset, it would be a major problem. That was the way things were for years in Evanston. So yes, you absolutely have the right to be upset that a senior-laden team coming off of three consecutive bowl appearances has dropped five consecutive games. The Wildcats have talent at individual spots and, for the most part, they've performed well offensively this year. But the defense has been pretty disastrous. It has been a combination of talent, scheme, communication breakdowns and lack of player development. While I didn't see Northwestern winning 9-10 games this year, I saw the Wildcats winning at least six.


Tim T. from Chicago writes: Adam, It seems that, outside of this and potentially the Big XII blog, the NU/MSU and OU/KSU games are being overlooked this week. Game Day is slated to make an appearance in Southern California where is suspect Stanford will have its way with USC and many of the football story lines have focused more on conference realignment and the upcoming LSU/Bama match-up still a week away. Why then, have these two games been relegated to below the fold news? Both games will have a significant impact on each respective team's conference championship aspirations and either boost or undercut their BCS standing.

Adam Rittenberg: Tim, this underscores how college football is all about the national championship game and little else. MSU-Nebraska is a huge game for the Big Ten, but it has no impact on the national title race. While Kansas State is undefeated, few think the Wildcats have a legitimate shot to run the table and reach the title game. Had Oklahoma won last week, setting up a game of two unbeaten teams, you'd hear a lot more about that contest. USC-Stanford is a big deal because Stanford is in the title mix, Andrew Luck is the Heisman frontrunner and USC is a program that always moves the needle nationally because of its location, its tradition and what it did the past decade under Pete Carroll.


CaliHawk from Berkeley, Calif., writes: Being from Berkely, I would expect you to do better than print flat out lies from Badger coach. They are behind three teams in Big10 alone the past three and half years. Count LSU, Alabama, Florida, Stanford, Oregon, Oklahoma and you see what I mean. Pretty sad my friend...stop the BB love its sickening.

Adam Rittenberg: Cali, you're right, I should have corrected Bielema later in the post, but I was relaying what he said he told to his team. The only thing that matters is if the Badgers believe their coach and come out and respond well at Wisconsin. He can use whatever stats he wants -- right or wrong -- as long as he gets the desired result. We'll see whether the Badgers can avoid a hangover Saturday night in Columbus.


D.D. from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Hi Adam. Okay, I was listening to one of the radio casts, and at one point you and Brian were discussing about whether the Big Ten will get two Big Ten teams into BCS games this year. You used Michigan State and Wisconsin as an example because there could be a possible rematch for the Big Ten Championship game. And that there's a good chance the loser might get shut out of a BCS bowl. I believe you were incorrect with the MSU losing scenario. If MSU wins out, they are 11-1 going into the Big Ten Championship, and if they lose they would be 11-2, not 10-2. And assuming Wisconsin and MSU win out, they would both have 11 wins. So one team will be 12-1 and the other will be 11-2. I'm guessing an 11-2 Big Ten team still won't matter considering what could happen to the Pac-12 and Big 12? Also, another question... Say MSU does lose the Big Ten Championship. That makes them 11-2. But then Michigan wins out as well, they'll be 11-1... I'm guessing there's a chance that Michigan could sneak into the BCS over MSU and other AQ teams (like what happened to Mizzou and Kansas in'07)?

Adam Rittenberg: D.D., thanks for correcting us. The Big Ten title game loser would be 11-2, not 10-2. Now I don't think the number of wins would affect a potential at-large berth as much as the number of losses. If a 10-2 or 11-2 Big Ten team is competing against an 11-1 Oklahoma State or an 12-1 Stanford, which team gets the at-large berth? As for your other scenario, history shows us that the loser of a conference title game has a tough time grabbing an at-large berth and could be passed up (Kansas-Missouri is a perfect example). Can you imagine the outcry in Spartan Country if Michigan got picked ahead of MSU, not just because of MSU's win this year but after what happened last year? Yikes.


Tom from PA writes: Adam,If PSU and Nebraska are both 8-1 and probably somewhere within the top 15, do you see the game being an 8 PM start? It's TBD now so hoping PSU gets at least one night game at home, especially the awesome exposure a whiteout gives the b1g on a national stage. It's also a classic rivalry game that goes back years. Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Tom, it's not going to happen, unfortunately. The Big Ten doesn't schedule primetime games in November. And while the rule isn't totally set in stone, teams would have to apply to move the game to prime time. It's a process. So while it would be great to see Nebraska-Penn State under the lights, the league's policy will likely make that a 3:30 p.m. ET kick in Happy Valley.


Jason Z. from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Hey Adam, In your article about Denard and the past few collapses at U-M you said the "spartans outclassed the wolverines." I am sure you watched the game and to use that wording is pretty inappropriate. Sure they played better but I would watch your wording on something like that. The personal fouls speak for themselves.

Scott from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Adam, in your recent post "Denard: U-M collapses a thing of the past", you wrote:" Although the game had its share of controversy, the outcome was definitive: The Spartans outclassed the Wolverines."Outclassed is actually the one thing the Spartans didn't do. Classy teams don't get the kind and number of personal fouls MSU did. My hat goes off to MSU for their play. They definitely outplayed Michigan and deserved the win. But they also definitely didn't outclass anyone that day.

Adam Rittenberg: Sorry, guys, you need to consult the dictionary on this one. Outclassed is defined as: "To surpass decisively, so as to appear of a higher class." Another definition I found reads: "To defeat easily." Michigan State satisfied these definitions in the game against Michigan. Wolverines fans can keep whining about the personal fouls -- yes, I agreed with the Big Ten's suspension of William Gholston -- but certain Michigan players weren't exactly perfect citizens in that game, either. It's time to drop it and move on.


Scott from New Jersey writes: Adam,Why are we so quick to write off Luke Fickell? He has taking a hand that lost 9 starters on Defense, and had its 3 top offensive players suspended and a fourth one leave completely. He has had other suspensions from the Tressel era to 3 other players and all he has done is continued to recruit, and all projections are showing he should put together a great class in the midst of all the turmoil, and has his team in thick of the big ten title race with pretty much all freshman and sophomores. I know he is green and made some clock management mistakes, but I think he improves each game. With a full offseason and ability to maybe shape his own staff, my question to you is why shouldn't he be retained for a multi year deal?

Adam Rittenberg: Scott, you bring up several great points here. Fickell inherited a really messy situation at Ohio State. Then again, he isn't without blame for some of the shortcomings this season. The writing off of Fickell doesn't shock me as Ohio State fans aren't used to losing and want a fresh start from the Tressel era with a new regime and a potential savior coach. I hope Ohio State gives Fickell a real chance in these final five games and evaluates him after a full season before making a decision on the future. While I wouldn't blame Ohio State for going a different direction and bringing in a more experienced coach, Fickell deserves a chance, too. I have no doubt he will be an excellent head coach. If Ohio State lets him go, will the school ever have another chance to bring him back?