Friday, May 4, 2012
Big Ten Friday mailblog
By Adam Rittenberg
Hoping you have a great weekend.
Ryan from Maryville, Mo., writes: I keep hearing various media pundits claiming that home sites for a college playoff wouldn't work. Shouldn't these people, conference presidents, commisioners, and media members be focusing more on the benefits associated with home sites? The stadium size argument is moot, the need for guaranteed ticket sales would be eliminated, travel costs for fans and teams would be less, almost every stadium now has luxury boxes, tv revenue is a non factor, and the atmosphere would be amazing. I don't get it, why not? Sure there's bound to be some minor logistical hurdles but nothing impossible.
Adam Rittenberg: You're preaching to the choir, Ryan. And you're absolutely right that the drumbeat should be louder for some of these games to take place on campus. Yes, there are some facilities that would provide challenges, including TV production (not as much space for as many cameras). That's quite significant, given the dollars TV puts up to broadcasts these events. But from the fan perspective, on-campus sites are infinitely better. And in most cases, there's plenty of room to hold the supplementary events. The media contingent would make do. We have done that for years, and finding enough room for us shouldn't be a significant factor at all. Yes, a playoff game at TCU might be a bit tough. But how often is that going to happen? Maybe once every six years? In most cases, the host venues would be more than capable of hosting these events. I was a bit surprised to hear Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman say a playoff will be "kind of a corporate event, rather than a school event," and then not advocate more for on-campus games.
The Roaming Badger from South Bend writes: Hi Adam, I've been thinking about your blog post about leveraging draft success into recruiting success. I know every team wants more superstars, but I feel the Badgers problem isn't necessarily a lack of stars, but a lack of depth. Do you think the Badgers would be better off bringing up the top of the class by spending their energy to add a couple of 5 star recruits every year or focusing on bringing up the bottom of the class and signing more 3/4 star recruits than 2 star guys?
Adam Rittenberg: This is a really good point, Badger. You can say Wisconsin's three losses stemmed from a lack of depth in areas like special teams and the secondary. Wisconsin would really be helped by adding more top-line defensive backs in the coming years, but you always want to build greater depth so there's not such a drop-off in the kicking game. The lack of depth undoubtedly shows up in the all-important third phase for UW. So my answer is both: aim for more elite prospects, but also make sure the overall depth is improving. Not sure it's a question of prioritizing one over the other. You can do both.
Steven from Colorado Springs, Colo., writes: With Urban Meyer and Ohio State running a more spread/speed oriented offense. Do you think this will change how other Big Ten teams recruit? For instance more hybrid linebackers like Nebraska recruited before this year.
Adam Rittenberg: I don't think so, Steven. There's a belief that the spread is now just coming to the Big Ten. Teams like Purdue and Northwestern have used it for more than a decade. And the majority of teams now run some version of the spread. But you still have power teams like Wisconsin, Michigan State and Iowa, and Penn State will be a pro-style offense under Bill O'Brien. Nebraska's coaches have been open about the need to recruit more linebackers in the coming years. If they felt they could keep their previous defensive structure in the Big Ten, they would. But they know they need to change it up. Big Ten defenses need speed, but they'll always need size, too. So, I don't think you'll see a fundamental shift in how teams recruit.
Greg from Norristown, Pa., writes: Hey Adam, you keep saying that MSU will most likely be the best defense in the league this year. But in your recent post about Mauti and Massaro you say PSU's front seven might be the best in the league this year. Is PSU's secondary the only thing holding it back from stealing that "best defense" title from MSU? The starters in the secondary actually look fairly good, but I totally get the lack of depth back there, especially at safety, causing people to have a lack of confidence in PSU's overall defensive potential.
Adam Rittenberg: Yes, Greg, Michigan State's strength in the secondary is the difference between those teams. The Spartans have the most dynamic lineman of the two squads in end William Gholston, but Penn State has an edge at linebacker with Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti leading the way. Michigan State's secondary, led by cornerback Johnny Adams, gives it an edge. Michigan State has recruited and developed defensive backs extremely well under head coach Mark Dantonio. Players like safety Isaiah Lewis and corner Darqueze Dennard could have big years this fall. Penn State has some nice pieces in Malcolm Willis and Stephon Morris, but the overall depth is a concern.
Fake Harry Husker writes: Adam, I challenge the vast and far reaching tentacles of the mothership at ESPN to find just ONE former or current player from Nebraska that feels that they were mistreated in any fashion by Ron Brown due to his religious views. Have any of the kids that he has coached thru the years actually been impacted in a negative manner by Ron Brown? Does Ron Brown actually discriminate on the basis of a players sexual orientation? I challenge Wojo or any pundit at ESPN to sit down and interview former or current players to find out if Ron Brown is actually a "bigot" that forced his beliefs down their throats. As with any story, there are two sides that need to be told. It is unfair and frankly untolerable that ESPN continues to only tell one side of the Ron Brown story. Take the challenge, Adam, and interview those former and current players and provide the quotes that detail the terrible bigoted ogre that is Ron Brown.
Adam Rittenberg: Harry, I don't think the issue is whether Brown discriminates against his players. From what I know, his players love him and regard him as an excellent figure in their lives. It's not about them. The question is whether Brown, as an employee of a state institution and a member of a high-profile football program, should be using his position to trumpet his views on a controversial topic as much as he does. No one cares if Brown is in the private sector and wants to voice his views. But the reason he gets all these opportunities to voice his opinion is because he's a longtime Nebraska football assistant coach, plain and simple. There's definitely a question about whether he's abusing that position.
Wes from Indianapolis writes: Do you agree with my thinking that Indiana can be a much improved team and still not win a B1G game again this season? It would appear that their "talent equal" opponents are all road games this season (NW, Illy, and Purdont, with the possible exception of Iowa) and all the "only talent equal would be those carrying the water bucket" opponents are all home games (Sparty, Bucky, and Wisky) Do you concur or have I suffered through too many bad seasons? Thank you for all your good work.
Adam Rittenberg: Wes, while another winless Big Ten campaign is possible, I think the Hoosiers break through this year. It's never easy to win on the road, but Evanston, Champaign and West Lafayette aren't the most hostile venues in the Big Ten. Indiana will put up points this year. The question, as always, is whether the Hoosiers can stop anyone on defense. If the defense takes just a few steps toward respectability, Indiana should be able to get over the hump in one or more of those games. That said, the home schedule looks challenging, especially if Iowa improves on its performance from 2011. Remember that Indiana came very close to beating Iowa in 2010 in Bloomington, and Wisconsin wasn't overly dominant in its last trip to Memorial Stadium.
Steve from Washington D.C. writes: Hey Adam, I have a proposal for the playoff system that I don't think anyone has mentioned yet. Why can't the two semifinals be played the week after the conference championships, and before the bowls are selected? That way the losers of the semifinals could still be selected for BCS bowls, and the winners would play in a real national championship game. I just think this would preserve the tradition of having every top team in a bowl, while having a true national champion selected by a playoff system. It would also preserve the B1G/Pac-12 Rose bowl if neither has a team in the national championship. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg: Steve, while this would be great, I think the push back would be conflicts with final exams. I know some schools on the quarter system have finals the second week of December, and there's no way the presidents would approve a plan that would have football teams practicing during finals week. It wouldn't be as big an issue for schools on the semester system, but because you have finals taking place anywhere between, say, Dec. 7 and Dec. 23, depending on the school, it really takes that time frame out of consideration. We can roll our eyes and say the academics excuse is merely convenient for the presidents to protect their beloved bowls, but the reality is they will never go for something where teams are practicing during finals week.