Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Big Ten mailblog
By Adam Rittenberg
Happy Tuesday from the home of Fat Tuesday.
Jeff from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Adam, One thing I never hear sportscasters or sports writers talk about when bashing the B1G for their bowl losses is the fact that the B1G is underdogs in almost every one year in and out. the B1G is fortunate to have great tie ins with the Rose, Cap 1 and Outback bowls but as a result, the B1G has been playing some great teams like the Pete Carrol led Trojans and teams from the SEC. The B1G is not as good as the SEC and some of the best teams don't beat some of the best teams from other conferences BUT the Pac 12, Big 12, Big East aren't any better either! They would not come out 7-0 with the B1G's bowl schedule, why does no one ever mention this? I will be the first to say that the B1G needs to get better but when you look at the B1G bowl opponents versus some of the other conferences, particularly the Pac 12 and Big 12, you might find all of the criticism directed at the B1G is not warranted.
Adam Rittenberg: All good points, Jeff, but the refrain gets a little tiring. I don't know if viewers or readers constantly want to hear about how tough the Big Ten's bowl lineup has become. I've pointed it out repeatedly, but when you have five games on New Year's Day and you end up going 1-9 the past two seasons, you set yourself up for criticism. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has done a lot of good things for the league, many of which fans don't appreciate. But it's more than fair to question the Big Ten's bowl lineup, in terms of difficulty, location and even date. Later this week, I'll explore some suggestions on how the Big Ten can improve its bowl fortunes. One is a no-brainer: more games against its new partner, the Pac-12.
Vicente from Dearborn Heights, Mich., writes: Okay, how should we take this comment from Bo Pelini after their loss to South Carolina:?I?ll say it straight out, our football team feels we are better, even after the game, feels we were the better football team than them, you have to earn it. You give them credit.? - The State NewspaperNo offense to Nebraska, but they got hammered. This is not the way he should be representing the Big Ten in his first season. Could this be misconstrued by everyone in showing some degree of classlessness on his team or even the Big Ten for that matter?
Adam Rittenberg: It's definitely a comment made out of frustration, Vicente, and Bo has always been a guy who doesn't hide his emotions. Nebraska did look like the better team for the first half but couldn't get out of its own way with major mistakes. I have no issue with Pelini believing his team is better, but to say so after the Huskers collapsed in the second half doesn't come off great. For the most part, Pelini has given a lot of credit to Nebraska's opponents, particularly those within the Big Ten, and even after losses. I think his quote is the culmination of a very frustrating afternoon in Orlando.
Greg from South Bend, Ind., writes: Is it just me or did the lack of elite QB's hurt the B1G during the bowls? Only Wilson looked above average. Cousins threw 3 picks and everyone else looked below average. Do you think the lack of year round 7 on 7 in B1G states hurts?
Adam Rittenberg: Quarterback play actually has been better in the Big Ten the past two seasons, but you're right about the struggles in the bowls. Northwestern's Dan Persa and Iowa's James Vandenberg both didn't look sharp in bowl losses, and the same goes for Nebraska's Taylor Martinez. Penn State's situation was a mess, but the Lions didn't have their starter. Cousins had some throws he'd like to have back, but he still stepped up at the end of regulation against a very good Georgia defense. But overall, the point is valid. Does the Big Ten have enough difference-making quarterbacks? We'll find out in 2012, as several teams will be looking for new leadership under center.
Max from Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., writes: Adam I have a better suggestion for you. Rather than having Jim Delany send a gift basket to MSU, why don't you suggest that he stop treating MSU like the "red headed stepchild". For the second year in a row MSU has been left out of the BCS mix. Last year OSU was allowed to wait until after the season to forfeit games for using known ineligible players. What a joke, who got punished in that situation? Right MSU. This year the Big Ten's best team, MSU, was again left out of the BCS. What has to happen for MSU to get a fair shake?
Adam Rittenberg: Max, I understand your frustration, and last year's selections certainly weren't fair to Michigan State in hindsight. While I agree the Spartans were more deserving of a BCS bowl than Michigan, you have to remember Michigan State wasn't eligible for BCS at-large selection as it finished outside of the top 14 in the final BCS standings. It's really interesting to think how Michigan State would have fared against Oregon in the Rose Bowl. I still believe Wisconsin had the better shot at defeating the Ducks because of its offense, although Michigan State wouldn't have allowed as many major breakdowns as the Badgers did. The key for Michigan State, and you're already starting to see this, is stronger nonconference scheduling, which increases a team's national profile. If MSU starts beating the likes of Boise State, Alabama and West Virginia in the coming years, its BCS at-large chances should improve. Also, the Spartans must avoid clunker performances like the one at Nebraska. MSU would have finished in the top 14 even with a loss in the Big Ten title game had it beaten Nebraska. Ultimately, if Michigan State wants to remove any doubt, it simply needs to win a Big Ten championship. Nearly did it this year.
Kristian from Toledo, Ohio, writes: Adam, there is no beating around the bush or making excuses when it comes to the Big Ten in Bowl games. The record is horrendous. This year has got to be one of the worst years for bowl records. The Big Ten has one remaining hope in Michigan tomorrow night. TWO wins this year, one against a MAC school, which Big Ten schools use as warm ups early in the season and the other in a head coach(less) school in UCLA. When will the big ten step up and start winning?
Adam Rittenberg: Kristian, there are several keys for the Big Ten to improve its bowl performance. The national recruiting must get a bit better, and the Big Ten needs more elite athletes on the defensive side, particularly in the secondary. I also think the bowl matchups need to change. Mix in a little more Pac-12 and ACC. People only look at the final record, and you don't get a break for who you play and where you've played them, as we've seen. As Greg mentioned, the quarterback play must continue to improve around the league. There are more athletic QBs around the conference now than there were five years ago, but who will take the steps to become elite? Should be interesting.
Kirk Ferentz from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: After two disappointing seasons, tell me one good thing that I should be looking forward to heading into next season (other than Coker and Vandy returning)?
Adam Rittenberg: Kirk, always a pleasure. I think linebacker play is an area where Iowa could see some significant improvement in 2012. Christian Kirksey could emerge into a very good player, and James Morris also returns with two years of experience under his belt. The defensive line is a major area of concern, but Iowa should be a bit better in the defensive midsection if Kirksey, Morris, Anthony Hitchens and others make strides. Offseason development will be huge for the entire Hawkeyes D.
Jon from Atlanta writes: Is Michigan back if it beats Virginia Tech on Tuesday night?Heck NO! They have beaten no one this year, and there bowl game is a joke.Cmon Adam get serious.
Adam Rittenberg: Jon, if you actually read the column, you'd see I wrote that we should not declare Michigan is back if it wins tonight. But Michigan is taking steps toward regaining elite status. The real test for Michigan undoubtedly comes next season, when it plays Alabama in a neutral-site opener and Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State on the road, not to mention Michigan State at home. The Wolverines' schedule gets much tougher in 2012.