Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Big Ten mailblog
By Adam Rittenberg
The season might be over, but the mail never stops.
Let's do this.
Mike from Phoenix writes: As a Badger fan I was waiting to see your final power rankings of the year because I had a feeling that you might make MSU number 1. I just don't get it. It's the same way the coaches poll has MSU and Michigan ahead of Wisconsin. That's a joke.Look at the teams everyone played in the bowl season. MSU barely beat Georgia who is not the 2nd best team in the SEC even though they went to the title game. They are the 4th best team in that league. Michigan looked bad, and played one of the easiest teams in BCS history. Wisconsin would have destroyed both Georgia and Va. Tech, but you are penalizing them for going blow for blow with the most talented offensive team in the country. They were a fumble away from possibly winning.
Adam Rittenberg: Brian and I had a spirited debate about Wisconsin vs. Michigan State for No. 1. You can make good cases for both teams, but you can't base it solely on the bowl competition. Would Wisconsin have rolled Georgia? Maybe, maybe not. Georgia has a much better defense than Oregon and would have moved the ball against a Wisconsin defense that wasn't nearly as good as its stats indicated. Wisconsin also was extremely fortunate to beat Michigan State in the Big Ten title game, which the Spartans dominated for stretches. The two teams are evenly matched, as their two games this season showed. And I believe Michigan State ended the season playing better football than Wisconsin. I also tend to value teams with good to great defenses above those that rely on their offense. Michigan State is certainly superior to Wisconsin on defense.
Tim from Iowa writes: While it might get you some back lash, I'd like your opinion on this.....me and several friends have the opinion that if 2 B10 teams(esp in our champ game) played like LSU-Bama, the B10 would once again be ripped for 3 yards/cloud of dust 1950's football. I watched parts ofthe game last night, then the final 8min. what I saw was one great def, 2 bad quaterbacks, a very repeative ineffective O from LSU, and Iowa/B10 style ball control from Bama. then Saban being proclaimed the next "Bear".
Adam Rittenberg: Tim, you're right to a degree, although there was less SEC love about the national title game than there was about the 9-6 contest. The SEC in a sense has earned the right to have ugly games because teams from other leagues simply haven't stacked up against the SEC's best. The common belief is that while Oklahoma State would have scored against Alabama, the Tide still would have rolled the Cowboys by 20-30 points. But I agree the SEC is the only league that can "get away" with games like last night's. Most people would much rather see games like the Rose Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl. Alabama is a great football team with one of the best defenses I've ever seen. But LSU's offense would be mediocre to bad in most leagues, not just the SEC.
Ryan from Pittsburgh writes: Adam,What are your thoughts on the new Penn State staff? I have to admit I'm somewhat surprised. For years I thought that PSU would turn the corner if they could only get a younger fresher staff in place to energize recruiting. This new staff that O'Brien has coming in is not young at all, so I doubt they're great recruiters. Plus any Auburn fan will tell you that Roof was fired. Mack Brown fired McWhorter last year. Am I overreacting?
Adam Rittenberg: You bring up a good point, Ryan. A lot of veteran assistants are joining Bill O'Brien in State College. Keeping Larry Johnson is huge and a somewhat obvious move. He's one of the Big Ten's top recruiters, and he'll maintain Penn State's presence in the Maryland/DC area. His age isn't a factor in that regard. Ted Roof is the hire that has some Penn State fans upset. I agree he doesn't have the best track record, but the overall defensive staff with both Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden still looks solid to me. Charles London is a younger guy (mid-30s), but he's definitely the junior member right now. It'll be interesting to see who O'Brien hires to fill out the staff. Some more youth would be nice.
Jeff from Omaha, writes: Adam? Why am I so awesome?
Adam Rittenberg: Ask myself the same thing every morning.
Sam from Kalamazoo, Mich., writes: Adam, can you please explain your rationale for naming MSU as an early favorite to win the B1G in 2012 over, say, Michigan? The Wolverines return two 1,000 yard rushers in Denard and Fitz Toussaint, 3 starting receivers, and a top-5 recruiting class loaded with 4 and 5 star DLs, LBs, and OLs. Molk, Van Bergen, and Martin will be sorely missed, but I'm not sure it makes sense that MSU is so ramped for success after losing 6 All-Big Ten players and playing in the Big House. Can you even name next year's replacement for mighty Kirk Cousins off the top of your head?
Adam Rittenberg: Sure, Sam. Andrew Maxwell. Michigan State has been grooming him the past two seasons. Will he be as good as Cousins? That's a tall order, but he's not coming out of nowhere. Michigan State is my pick because of its defense. While Jerel Worthy is a big loss, the Spartans return a ton of elite athletes in all three levels, players like Will Gholston, Denicos Allen, Johnny Adams and Darqueze Dennard. The Spartans have more difference-makers on defense than Michigan will in 2011, at least in my view. I also believe MSU will be a more effective running team than it was this season because of an experienced line and a strong lead back in Le'Veon Bell. I certainly could see Michigan winning the division, but the Wolverines have a much tougher schedule in 2012 and could have a better team with a worse record (much like MSU this season versus 2010).
Ben from Fargo, N.D., writes: One of the big stories in 2012 will be a surprising improvement in Minnesota's defensive line play. Ask Jerry Kill about Thieren Cockran. He's coach Kill's secret weapon.
Adam Rittenberg: Will do, Ben. Thanks for the note. Minnesota's defensive line play has struggled since Willie VanDeSteeg departed following the 2008 season. Gophers have ranked and 78th, 120th and 86th nationally in sacks in the past three seasons. It's an area of focus throughout the offseason as Minnesota loses linebacker Gary Tinsley and standout safety Kim Royston. Cockran, a redshirt freshman defensive end from Florida, is among those who needs to step up in 2012.
Matt from Burbank, Calif., writes: Hi Adam,Regarding Northwestern next year, do you think Kain Colter gets the starting QB job? I've been of the opinion that he is more dangerous in a utility role as he was used these season, but on the other hand he's proven he can win and be effective as the top guy. Additionally, do you think there's any hope for this defense?Thanks for a great season, can't wait till next year! Bowl win or bust!
Adam Rittenberg: Matt, I think Colter will be the starter for 2012, but he has to make some important strides as a passer during the offseason. Northwestern's offense is predicated on short passing and accuracy. The Wildcats convert a lot of third downs, and Colter has to be able to make the throws Dan Persa, Mike Kafka and C.J. Bacher have made in recent years. He's the best athlete Northwestern ever has had at quarterback, and he's a perfect fit for the spread -- as long as he gets better as a passer. If there's little to no progress, Northwestern will have to use another quarterback, likely Trevor Siemian, to spark the passing game. Offensive coordinator Mick McCall has developed quarterbacks well at Northwestern, and Colter is his next big project.
Kevin from New Orleans writes: It's been a tough couple weeks to be a Badger. Lost the Rose Bowl, lost 3 straight in hoops, lost 5 coaches. First let me say, if Bielama has Barry's confidence and support, then he has mine. Have you heard anything? Are the Badgers getting some really good coaches? I doubt we'll get anybody that can match the talent we are losing, but maybe we get an upgrade on the recruiting. 4 of the 5 coaches that left were not good recruiters. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Adam Rittenberg: Kevin, while it's tough right now, I think Wisconsin fans should have faith in Bret Bielema to make some good hires. As you note, Joe Rudolph is the only major loss from a recruiting standpoint. Bielema has made good choices in the past, such as defensive coordinator Dave Doeren (now head coach at Northern Illinois), Dave Huxtable (did a great job with UW linebackers in only year) and Chris Ash (has upgraded secondary, now defensive coordinator). It'll be interesting to see where he turns to replace Paul Chryst and Bob Bostad, but a lot of good coaches will want to come to Madison after seeing what Wisconsin has done the past few years. So I would look at Bielema's hiring track record and feel confident.
Lance from Arlington writes: "While Penn State has produced some solid college quarterbacks -- most recently Daryll Clark, the 2009 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year"While your opinion is correct in general, saying Daryll Clark was solid does him an injustice. DC (along with Drew Brees) was the best QB the Big Ten has had since Kerry Collins and Michael Robinson is right there. Simply put, Penn State has produced three of the top five QB's to have competed in the Big Ten since their arrival. You will no doubt disagree since you hate Penn State but you are wrong.
Adam Rittenberg: Lance, I don't hate Penn State. I hate every school according to you folks. Let's get that cleared up. I was a big Daryll Clark fan during his career, but your argument doesn't hold up. Troy Smith won a Heisman Trophy in 2006. He played between Brees and Clark. Iowa's Brad Banks won the Davey O'Brien award in 2002. He played between Brees and Clark. While Clark led the Big Ten in pass efficiency in conference games in 2009 (136.6), it's the lowest rating for a Big Ten leader since at least 1980. His season rating that year (142.6) didn't lead the league (Terrelle Pryor did) and ranks behind all of the league leaders since 1980. Again, not hating on Daryll, who has a really nice career in State College, as did Michael Robinson. But there have been better Big Ten quarterbacks since Kerry Collins, including Wisconsin's Russell Wilson this year.