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Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Big Ten mailblog

By Adam Rittenberg

Mail time.

Alex from Jackson, Mich., writes: I've seen this a couple times on this blog, and for some reason it irritates me.Why would Spartans fans be happy that Michigan won this weekend? Sure, it guaranteed our spot in the title game and takes pressure off of the Northwestern game. But here's the thing. As a Spartan from birth, I don't want to see Michigan in a BCS bowl game at all. If we don't get there, I certainly don't want them there. I'd rather them lose to Nebraska and us earn it on the road in Evanston, than see the Wolverines in our BCS game (Of course, this assumes we lose in the title game, which is NOT a foregone conclusion).

Adam Rittenberg: Alex, I see your point about not wanting Michigan to get an at-large spot ahead of Michigan State, but Nebraska would be in a similar position if it had beaten Michigan. Michigan State's problem is its nonconference loss to Notre Dame. The Spartans are in a position to either win the Big Ten title game and earn an automatic BCS berth, or end the regular season with three or four losses if they lose the title game. Even at 10-3, I doubt Michigan State gets an at-large berth. So if you'd rather see Nebraska instead of Michigan in position to earn an at-large berth, I totally get it. But Michigan State is in a position to either earn the automatic berth or miss the BCS bowls.


Lance from Greensboro, N.C., writes: Is it just me, or does Urban Meyer/Ohio State have culture clash written all over it? We've already seen what can happen when good coaches don't "fit" with the university. Examples are Callahan at Nebraska and Rodriguez at Michigan. If Meyer does go to tOSU, it seems to me that Penn State may have dodged a bullet.For all his undoubted success, somehow dominant defense and powerful ground game just don't seem to go with Meyer.

Adam Rittenberg: Lance, while I agree it'd be different to see a full-blown spread offense at Ohio State, it's time for a culture change in Columbus on the offensive side of the ball. Jim Tressel did some nice things as the primary playcaller, but his teams won with defense and special teams more often than not. The offensive staff has been so-so to below average, and Meyer would make significant upgrades there. I think the bigger potential issue for Ohio State is whether the program could handle a coach with rock-star status. Although Tressel became an iconic figure in Columbus, he didn't arrive that way, coming from Youngstown State. Meyer would be the story at The Ohio State University, and it'll be interesting to see how that would play at the school and in Columbus. But from an offensive perspective, Ohio State needs a change and Meyer would bring one. What's happening now simply isn't working.


Pete from Boston writes: I keep hearing everyone say the next Penn State head coach needs to be someone from the outside, with no ties to the program whatsoever and I can't say I disagree. Even so, it's a real shame that both Tom Bradley and Larry Johnson Sr probably won't be around next year. It also gets me thinking, how many current NCAA/NFL coaches out there were players or assistants at Penn State under JoePa? It has to be a lot right? Are we shrinking the talent pool just to save face?

Adam Rittenberg: Pete, while I agree with you about Scrap and Johnson, who both are excellent coaches, Penn State can't hire someone off of the current staff after what has happened there. Penn State has to take a hard look at whether it can hire anyone with ties to the program, even those who haven't been in State College for many years. Is Al Golden too far removed? Is Greg Schiano? You're right in that quite a few coaches have ties to Joe Paterno and Penn State. The scandal there certainly has reduced the talent pool, as elite coaches who might have been interested before will be reluctant. But the big question is whether Penn State hires a total outsider or brings in someone who knows the school, which could be a p.r. risk.


Brian from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., writes: hey adam, i'd really like your opinion on this. Bo pelini is probably going to start catching some heat this off-season from nebraska fans just because we can't seem to get over the hump back to greatness. My question is, I keep wondering if the nebraska D is struggling because we don't have the right personnel yet for the Big 10. Bo changed his defensive scheme to compensate for this and it just doesn't seem to be working out. I would think Bo and Carl Pelini would like to go back to a Peso defense but they just don't have the right type of athlete to run it. Do you think this would explain why our defense has been lacking this season?

Adam Rittenberg: Brian, I agree that Nebraska needs to adjust its defensive personnel to better fit the Big Ten, especially in the front seven. While the secondary has had its ups and downs, I trust the Pelini bros. to get things right in most seasons. Nebraska doesn't have enough Big Ten-quality linebackers right now, and it shows when Lavonte David isn't being superman out there. I fully expect Nebraska to address these issues through recruiting and bring in players that not only fit the defensive philosophy, but the conference as well.


Ben from Madison, Wis., writes: Adam, I know you and Brian mention Montee Ball a ton in your posts, but I feel like this young man still does not get enough pub around the nation. He is 2 yards shy of leading the nation in rushing yards, leads the nation in touchdowns, and has a serious shot at Barry Sanders' touchdown record. Do you... 1) see him stepping into the Heisman race? or at least get invited to NY? 2) leave for the NFL after this year? 3) if so, where do you see him getting drafted?

Adam Rittenberg: Ben, I agree "MoneyBall" isn't getting his due nationally. People noticed what he did in his last two games, and his touchdown mark is moving the needle a bit, but the problem for Ball -- and Wisconsin, for that matter -- is that the two road losses really soured a lot of people on the Badgers. Even if Wisconsin goes on to win the Big Ten, some will view the Badgers as a disappointing team for not capitalizing on a schedule that seemed set up for them to go to the national title game. It's not fair to Ball, who has been really good in every game aside from Ohio State. I'm a Heisman voter and Ball almost certainly will be on my ballot, but I'd be a little surprised if he gets an invite to New York (hope I'm wrong). I'd be stunned if he doesn't leave for the NFL after the season -- as a running back, you have to go when you have the chance. As for Ball's draft position, I'd have to talk to some more folks, but I'd be surprised if he didn't go in the first two rounds.


Tim from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Adam,You mentioned that 6-6 Purdue or Ohio State could be selected ahead of 7-5 or 8-4 Iowa in your bowl projections and chat wrap. I was under the impression that bowls had to choose a 7+ win team if there were any available before they could select a 6 win team. I remember something like that hurting the Hawkeyes in 2007 when they missed out at 6-6. Has this been changed, or am I just way off base?

Adam Rittenberg: Tim, I checked with the Big Ten for the post earlier today, and the rule you mention no longer applies. It was changed a few years back. The only two bowls that can't take a 6-6 team ahead of an 8-4 team are the Capital One and Outback bowls.  The Insight and Gator bowls are only bound to take the Big Ten title-game loser, depending on the season, if the team is still available. But after that, the bowls have license to select any eligible Big Ten team. So the 2007 rules no longer apply.


Justin from Omaha, Neb., writes: Adam:We in Husker Nation would greatly appreciate if you would stop picking our players for your fantasy team. It seems to be a kiss of death. We in Husker Nation thank you in advance.

Adam Rittenberg: It's so depressing, Justin. Every single time I add a player, he struggles. And when I drop a player, he puts up big points. Can't say I'll honor your request this week, as Rex Burkhead looks like a pretty good pickup. And Rex helped me a lot for much of the season until his struggles last week in the Big House.


John from Parts Unknown writes: Why is it that the past 3 seasons Nebraska kickers have received no awards? Alex Henry???? Brett Maher??? Soon to be 2 long time NFL kickers.

Adam Rittenberg: John, I don't get it, either. Henery was the nation's best all-around specialist in 2010, and Maher is one of the best, if not the best, this season. Maher certainly has exceeded my expectations, converting 17 of 20 field goal attempts and all 40 of his extra point tries. He also leads the Big Ten and ranks seventh nationally in punting average (45.5 ypp). If that's not enough to be a finalist for the Groza or Guy awards, I don't know what you need to do. It's a shame.