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Friday, December 30, 2011
Big Ten Friday mailblog

By Adam Rittenberg

Some questions and answers before a big bowl weekend in the Big Ten. Enjoy.

Gary from Denver writes: With the B1G and Pac-12 partnership, could that mean a renewed annual rivalry between the Huskers and CU?

Adam Rittenberg: It's unlikely, Gary. The idea is to have flexibility with the matchups and have different teams facing one another. So to lock in Nebraska-Colorado wouldn't really go along with that plan. Plus, the Big Ten will want to feature Nebraska, one of its brand-name programs, against more marquee Pac-12 teams (USC, Oregon, etc.).


Bryan from Omaha writes: Has there been anyword on if the matchups in football with the pac 12 are going to be home and homes (where you would play the same team 2 years in a row) or are they going to just go random every year like the b1g/acc challenge? Because I can see with the way Delaney has set schedules that Nebraska would have to travel to USC one season and then have to travel to Oregon the next. I hope they have figured out a way to make sure the teams that were away 1 year get home games the following season.

Adam Rittenberg: Bryan, the idea is to have teams play home-and-homes, but they may or may not take place in consecutive years. One idea I heard is to have three pods of eight teams (four Big Ten, four Pac-12). The four Big Ten teams would play the four Pac-12 teams during a four-year span before rotating to a different pod. But Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany emphasized that competitive balance will be chief in determining the matchups. TV will have a decreased role in these vs. the ACC-Big Ten challenge games, so it will be interesting to see what the two league offices decide.


Michael from St. Louis writes: So far the MAC's only bowl loss was to the B1G (Western School Up North vs. Purdue). Does the strength of the MAC this year reflect well on the B1G? Or is that analysis too nuanced for the mainstream media? Does the MAC's poor performance in the last several years reflect the negative perception of the B1G during that time? Are you revising your bowl predictions for the B1G based on the MAC's bowl performances?

Adam Rittenberg: Michael, before the bowls, the games against the MAC didn't help the Big Ten, particularly with the BCS computers, where Big Ten teams received historically low ratings. Not sure if the MAC's bowl performance will help Big Ten perception that much, although Toledo, Temple and Ohio are solid teams. The MAC's struggles as a league in recent years haven't helped the Big Ten given how much the two leagues play. I covered the MAC in 2003-04 and the league had a much stronger national presence that it does now. But bowl wins always play a large role in shaping a league's perception, so this year's results are good for the MAC's rep.


Aaron from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Hey Adam. There was a certain Iowa State coach that was fired a few years back that coached under Hayden Fry and along side Ferentz. Would he be a viable D/C candidate?

Adam Rittenberg: Aaron, I highly doubt Dan McCarney would leave a head-coaching job at North Texas after only one year to become a coordinator again. North Texas went 5-7 in McCarney's first season. McCarney waited five years for another head-coaching opportunity, and I can't see him stepping away from one to come back to his alma mater. Just doesn't make much sense from his end. Iowa likely will promote Phil Parker or look for someone not serving as a head coach.


Mike from Allentown, Pa., writes: Hi Adam,With Mike Munchak denying he's even been in contact with Penn State, at what point are all these "rumors" and "inside information" just an attempt for someone to be the first person to crack the Penn State case on who the new coach is? To me, it seems like the length of the process is more to rebuild the lost trust with the fans, and also because it's the first time in almost 50 years we've needed a new coach. I'm perfectly fine with them taking their time, and if it ruins the recruiting class so be it, as long as they make a great decision on who should be coach. Just because other schools are filling their positions in 8 days, doesn't mean they're better off. I think it's now become a "I want it to be known I was the first to report the new coach" competition, and they'll name a new "flavor of the day" tomorrow just to get some recognition. Your thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Mike, you definitely hit on a problem with today's reporting environment. The race to be first causes some problems for sure, and most of us are guilty of it at one time or another. That said, I think Mike Munchak seriously considered the Penn State job and opted to remain with the Titans pretty much at the last moment. There was mutual interest and it just didn't come to fruition. I agree with much of what you say about the length of the search. Penn State shouldn't rush this hire just to save a recruiting class. Then again, the longer it goes and the more denials we see, the more angst will build among some Penn State fans. They want a coach and they want a name. It's hard to wait so long, although it's nice to see your patience with the process.


Rich from Denver writes: I have to issue with you (and other writers who make the same mistake). Dantonio has in fact posted more wins in his first five season than any other MSU coach has in their first five seasons. However, his winning percentage is only fifth-best. When citing these kinds of statistics, writers never mention winning percentage. I guess it's not as sexy or doesn't serve their purpose. But it fails to place the accomplishments in proper perspective. For those that don't know better or don't bother to look it up, this type of writing makes it look like Dantonio must be the best coach MSU has ever had. That may end up being the case. However, he does not have the best start to an MSU coaching career and I strongly urge you to make the proper distinctions in this regard. Thank you.

Adam Rittenberg: Rich, you bring up a good point. I'll try to cite winning percentage more in the future when listing statistics like this one. I don't think most fans with knowledge of college football history would consider Mark Dantonio the greatest coach in Michigan State history, but the start to his tenure has been pretty impressive. Some pretty good coaches, Duffy Daugherty among them, didn't start off this well in East Lansing.


Parker from Grand Blanc, Mich., writes: Hey Adam , Happy New Year to you!I would just like to know what you think the chances are of Denard Robinson being replaced at starting quarterback next season by Devin Gardner. I think they might try to step up their passing game next season and maybe just do the same as this year.

Adam Rittenberg: Parker, I don't see it happening. From talking with Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges last week, he thinks Robinson can be better next year and build off of what has been a nice finish to this season. The offense will change in 2013, when Robinson departs, but Borges has seen growth from "Shoelace" and the numbers at the end of this year back it up. Michigan needs to pass the ball more efficiently in 2012, and Robinson should be more comfortable with the pro-style elements of the passing attack.