Friday, April 20, 2012
Big Ten Friday mailblog
By Adam Rittenberg
Workin' for the weekend.
Joe from Tucson, Ariz., writes: I liked this quote from Meyer: "If you start throwing that term around [national championships] and you lose Game 2 or Game 4, then you lose your sting," he said. "Our job is to compete for a Big Ten championship every year."It seems you gave Brady Hoke a bum rap for saying that he should think about more than the B1G championship. And even more so when you ding Nebraska for talking about it without having won a conference championship in so long.
Adam Rittenberg: Joe, that's a fair criticism of my comment about Hoke. I was intrigued by Meyer's comments as he has won two national titles and comes from the nation's most dominant conference (SEC). He said the national championship "absolutely" is a goal, but not one that is discussed like the Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl are. It seems like the league-focused approach isn't confined to the Big Ten or to Brady Hoke. Hey, I'm just looking for reasons why the Big Ten hasn't won a title in a decade. It doesn't seem like the approach is flawed. As for Nebraska, when did I ding them for talking about the title? If anything, I like hearing the confidence out of the Huskers players. But it's worth pointing out they would be skipping some steps, like winning a conference title or making a BCS bowl, if they were to reach Miami in early January.
Casey from Madison, Wis., writes: Last year was a good year for Wisconsin on the Offensive side of the ball, but having watched the games, it was nerve racking watching even non-conference teams gain yards against the defense (only to usually be stopped just before the end zone). What can you say about the defense this year? Will they be better on third and 4th downs?
Adam Rittenberg: Casey, the key is generating a more consistent pass rush from the front four and not having to rely on blitzing linebackers. Although both Chris Borland and Mike Taylor can get to the quarterback, Wisconsin will be better off if several down linemen make strides during the offseason. David Gilbert will be an interesting player to watch when he returns from his injury, and both Brendan Kelly and Beau Allen have shown flashes as effective pass-rushers. No one expects another J.J. Watt to walk through the door, but Wisconsin will be looking for more from the front four on third downs this season. The secondary also must show better discipline in end-of-game situations.
Brendan from Chicago writes: What does Indiana need to do to be relevant in this league? When we get the coach who actually wants to coach Hoosier football, he dies. When we get the #1 ranked pro quarterback prospect, he backs out. When we get an easy schedule, we blow it. I just want a light at the end of the tunnel. Is Kevin Wilson legit, or is he just going to bail on us for the pros or another big name school if he takes Indiana out of the basement and into the front yard of the B1G?
Adam Rittenberg: It's tough being a Hoosiers football fan, Brendan. I completely agree with you about Terry Hoeppner. He was the guy Indiana had been waiting for since the Bill Mallory era. So tragic. To be relevant, Indiana has to start winning more Big Ten games. The Hoosiers came close in 2009, but they repeatedly couldn't get over the hump. Wilson signed a long-term deal with IU, and his intent is to be there and get the program on solid footing. His offense will appeal to recruits, and you're already seeing some strides made there. But with Indiana, as I've stated 10,000 times, it's all about the defense, which has struggled mightily in recent memory.
Brian from Seattle: Adam,When Brian interviewed Dantonio, he asked about Michigan. When MSU makes the college football main page, the headline starts with Michigan's resurgance. But when Brian interviews Hoke, no mention of MSU whatsoever. I get that Michigan is seeped in tradition and we are basically nobody. Still -- is it too much to expect a little equality in the media? We're on the winning streak. Ask them about us!
Adam Rittenberg: Brian, two things. We don't write the headlines outside of the blog. The blog post headline was "Depth, stability have Spartans on the rise." Secondly, not every Michigan State story will mention Michigan, and not every Michigan story will mention Michigan State. We've had numerous posts about both schools with no mention of one another. But they are rivals, and many project them as the Big Ten's top two teams entering the 2012 season. There's context in this case. Michigan is naturally going to get more attention because of its tradition, history, etc. -- as you point out. But Michigan State's accomplishments shouldn't be overlooked at the national level, even though I think they largely are. Dantonio's comment is relevant because it reflects the feelings of many Michigan State fans I hear from. They hear the noise about Michigan's resurgence, Brady Hoke, Denard Robinson, etc., and they're a little miffed at the fact Michigan State has been a better program the past four years is overlooked. Michigan State's success stands on its own, but in a year where both Michigan schools could be in the preseason top 10, the topic Bennett wrote about is relevant.
Matt S. from Iowa writes: Even though the Big Ten has taken a backseat to the SEC, is the Big Ten the most important conference to college football? With the fan bases that surround the programs and the amount of prestige associated with Big Ten programs.
Adam Rittenberg: Matt, the Big Ten and SEC are the two most important leagues, without a doubt. The SEC's success combined with the year-round fervor in that part of the country about college football probably gives the league a bit of an edge in importance, but the Big Ten remains extremely relevant and always will be because of the reasons you point out and others. You've got huge alumni bases, a rich football tradition, enormous stadiums and schools located in a populated region. You also have a very successful TV network (BTN). That said, leagues can improve their prestige by winning at the highest levels, which the Big Ten has struggled to do in recent years.
Dean from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Hi Adam,If college football is on the brink of 16-team superconferences, which is more important for the Big Ten......gaining access to the northeastern television markets or adding teams from states with growing populations in the south? No BCS league has a true hold on the northeast television markets as of now. At the same time, the Big Ten is the only major conference without any geographic representation in the fast-growing sun belt states. Will that become a major issue in the coming years?
Adam Rittenberg: Interesting question, Dean. I really feel the Big Ten would be expanding reluctantly by going beyond 12, unless Notre Dame has a change of heart. My sense is the Big Ten would look to the northeast before it looks to the south, as the league still would be seeking teams that fit its culture. There are more of these in the northeast than the south, and while they might not move the needle an incredible amount, they would sit well with the Big Ten presidents and so forth. I could also see a mix of northeast schools and one or two in the Sun Belt region. But again, in terms of what the league actually wants to do, 12 makes sense.
Ross from Granbury, Texas, writes: Adam,Can you give us three names of incoming freshman that you expect to contribute right away in the Big Ten and could possibly break into the All-Big Ten teams at the end of the year? Maybe even a few names of guys under the radar? Similar to what Ricardo Allen did for Purdue.
Adam Rittenberg: In terms of true freshmen (not redshirt), defensive linemen Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington could contribute right away for Ohio State. Look out for running back Greg Garmon at Iowa. And Joe Bolden could help Michigan improve its depth at linebacker. If defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo doesn't redshirt, he could be an impact player at Northwestern.