Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Big Ten mailblog
By Adam Rittenberg
What's on your mind today?
Luke from Cincinnati writes: Ohio State always pays its debts. No conference team has beaten Ohio State twice in a row since Wisconsin in 2003-2004. Revenge played a big factor in the Buckeye's win against Wisconsin last year, even though the team went 6-7 for the year. Do you think this is the year the Ohio State loses to the same conference team to back? How much of a factor does revenge normally play into most games? The Buckeyes seem to thrive on it.
Adam Rittenberg: Very interesting topic, Luke. There's a better chance Ohio State's run without consecutive losses to the same Big Ten squad ends this year, simply because the Buckeyes had five league losses in 2011. Remember, they lost a total of five Big Ten contests between 2005-2010, so there weren't many opportunities for the streak to end. Of the five league games Ohio State lost last fall, the Buckeyes must travel to both Michigan State and Penn State. The Michigan State game will be very tough, and you'd have to think the Spartans have the best chance to end Ohio State's run. Penn State could be tricky as well, as the game falls in November. Michigan should be Ohio State's toughest home test, followed by Nebraska. Purdue has given the Buckeyes fits in West Lafayette, but the Boilers will have a tough time winning in C-Bus. As far as revenge, it plays a role, particularly in rivalry games like Michigan. Ohio State certainly wants to avenge the Nebraska loss after blowing such a big lead in Lincoln last season.
Alden from Chicago writes: Adam, as a Spartan who attended both Michigan State-Wisconsin meetings in 2011 I am very disappointed with the schedule announcement in that the schools have a 4-year break from 2013-16. Living in Chicago around many Wisconsin fans I've felt a great rivalry budding here. The October and the B1G Championship games were absolutely two of the best football games I've seen and I've developed a genuine distaste for the Badgers. With both teams on top of their divisions there's still a good chance of meeting in the Championship game at least couple times during the break, which would continue adding ill will between the schools. I?m afraid though that without a regular season meeting the rivalry could sputter in the coming years and that would be a shame. What are your thoughts on this?
Adam Rittenberg: I agree it's a shame, Alden. Same goes for a four-year break with Ohio State and Nebraska, and Wisconsin and Iowa not playing yet again in 2015 and 2016. These are some of the downsides of having division play, 12 teams and protected crossover games. Each team is going to have a four-year gap with another squad -- just the way it is. Wisconsin's situation is a bit unique in that it loses geographical rivals by being in the Leaders division. The Wisconsin-Iowa series doesn't take place every year. Wisconsin doesn't play Michigan State or Michigan every year. The only protected game is Minnesota, which is a historic rivalry but one that lacks the significance of recent Wisconsin games with both Michigan State and Iowa.
Whit from the Czech Republic writes: This is probably a very naive hope, but is there any chance the Big Ten divisions will eventually be realigned into an East/West geographical split? I saw your posting of the schedules, and I was very disappointed to see that MSU will not play Wisconsin for four years, and same with Nebraska and OSU. In my view, if the divisions went to geography, the "protected crossovers" could be scrapped (since all traditional rivalries, I think, would be intact) and teams from opposite divisions could play each other at least five times out of every ten years. While that wouldn't assure yearly matchups between MSU/Wisconsin and OSU/Nebraska, it would at least assure that every four-year football player would get two chances against each opponent from the other division.
Adam Rittenberg: Whit, you're definitely not alone in this belief. The Big Ten split the divisions based on competitive balance and had branding very much in mind when it assigned Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State. The protected crossover component was included because you can't have Ohio State and Michigan in opposite divisions without having them play each year. If Ohio State and Michigan were in the same division, could the Big Ten get rid of protected crossovers entirely? It's very possible. And that would reduce the gaps when teams play one another. It's something the league certainly could reassess down the road, but I don't see any changes on the horizon.
Touchdown! Davis from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Adam, cool ditty you wrote looking at future schedules and crossover games. So, good sir, what's your over/under on Nebraska winning 9.5 regular season games in 2012? As a fan, I'm assuming Nebraska will run the table and win the National Championship vs. Oklahoma in the most amazing National Title game ever (can you imagine a Nebraska v. Oklahoma title game, with all the past tradition and story lines?). Objectively, I'm hoping we go 10-2 in the regular season. Quick schedule breakdown... Non Conference: I think Southern Miss is a decent/good team but we win by 20+. The UCLA game might be a crap shoot, although I think we ultimately win regardless (and I'm excited to watch a game played in the Rose Bowl). Conference: Vs. Wisconsin, @ Ohio State, Vs. Michigan, @ Michigan State. I think if Nebraska loses two games, it's among these teams. I don't believe we'll lose to Northwestern again, even though it's a road game and I respect their team. Nebraska Vs. Michigan is my game of the year. It maybe has been said before, but I believe the ultimate conference champion this year is coming from the Legends division, and it's between Michigan, Michigan State, and Nebraska. I'm really interested to watch Ohio State this year with Meyer, etc. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: I agree with you that the Big Ten champ comes out of the Legends division. Michigan State, Michigan and Nebraska are obviously the top contenders there. Nebraska has to defend its home turf to reach 10 wins this season, and I agree that the Michigan game is huge. But if Nebraska really wants to make a statement in the Big Ten, it absolutely has to record a signature road win. The two big opportunities are at Ohio State and at Michigan State. Nebraska needs to win one of those games for this season to be deemed a success. If Nebraska goes 10-2 with losses in East Lansing and Columbus, is the season a step forward? Maybe a little step, but Nebraska will only announce itself as a potential Big Ten power when it wins a huge game on the road. The Penn State win was nice, but Penn State had an inflated record, and obviously there were unique circumstances surrounding that game.
Alex from Shanghai writes: Hey Adam, greetings from China! Kind of disappointed that I can't get my lunch links until the middle of the night over here, but what can you do? For Michigan fans, it traditionally goes without saying that the OSU game is the most important game on the schedule, no exceptions. But do you see a different situation this coming year? It can, and perhaps even should be argued that the Michigan State game is more important. Michigan fans such as myself would love nothing more than to shut Mark Dantonio up and get that 4-year losing streak off our backs. This is also coupled with the fact that this game could very well determine the Legends Division title, and that its Michigan's only home game of any national relevance as of today. As much as it pains me to say, I think the MSU game, at least for the 2012 season, is more important than the OSU game. What are your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: Alex, thanks for the note! We'll see about posting a midnight edition of lunch links, so you could get them at the right time (I'll make Bennett do it). In terms of reaching the Big Ten title, the Michigan State game certainly could be more significant for Michigan. It's a division game, which is critical, and it's also a division home game. Both division champions in 2011 -- Wisconsin and Michigan State -- were undefeated at home and obviously won their division home contests. I think this pattern will continue in the coming seasons. The Ohio State game always will be huge for Michigan. While it was great for the Wolverines to end the losing streak, they'll get more mileage from a win in Columbus against what will be a better Ohio State team, not to mention a squad playing its last game of the season because of the bowl ban. But Michigan could be in the position Michigan State was last year, having locked up the division title before the final Saturday of regular-season play. The bottom line is both games should matter a lot for Michigan, but in terms of reaching Indianapolis, the MSU game is absolutely critical.
Hunter from Jackson, Mich., writes: I noticed your comment about November night games, and i couldnt agree more. Do you think it would ever be possible for the Big Ten to allow November games under the lights? And to push a non-conference game to the end of the season? I would personally love to see SEC teams like Alabama or LSU that are used to playing in that heat to march into Camp Randall, Spartan Stadium, Happy Valley etc. in below freezing temps. It would have a huge impact on the game.
Adam Rittenberg: Hunter, I think the Big Ten eventually will change its policy when there's significant turnover in the athletic director ranks. Most of the old guard seems to be lukewarm on night games, and Purdue's Morgan Burke actually turned down a night game against Michigan this year. But the popularity of night football around the country, coupled with the fact it looks so good on TV, should eventually lead to a change in policy. Sure, the weather is a concern, but they play November night games in every other conference, including the MAC and the Big East. The Big Ten's view is archaic, and it should change. As far as moving up a league game to September, the momentum for this seems to have slowed significantly following the Pac-12 scheduling agreement. Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema and former Illinois coach Ron Zook seemed to favor a schedule that more closely resembled those in the SEC, but the Big Ten schedules between now and 2016 have only four league contests -- two in 2013, two in 2014 -- played during the month of September.
Matt from Minnesota writes: Adam -- When I heard the anouncement of the Big12 SEC bowl, my first thought was the playoff was dead. Doesn't this really setup the plus one model. The winner or the Pac12/B1G will play the Big12/SEC winner for the NC. It makes since. I pushes out the Big East, ACC and the independents. It keeps the Rose Bowl. It allow the four main conference to Bid out the NC Game and split the revenue. Don't you think this would work?
Adam Rittenberg: Matt, I guess it's possible, and The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette's Scott Dochterman wrote about this very topic today. I still don't know if pushing out Notre Dame or the ACC ends up happening, as there would be some significant pushback from those squads. As Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman recently told me, he and others in his position still favor the plus-one over a four-team playoff within the bowls. But it seems like the presidents could be swayed to accept a true four-team playoff. I also don't know if a league like the SEC, which has had so many top-5 teams, would advocate for a plus-one instead of a four-team playoff where it could have multiple entries. The SEC and Big 12 definitely made a power move with this bowl game, but I don't see it translating directly to a plus-one.
John from Charlotte, N.C., writes: Adam, While definitely not important to on field performance, I love a good pre-game field entrance. It gets the crowd fired up for the game and seemingly the home team ready for the kickoff. How would you rank the B1G's teams field entrance or pregame routines? Thanks, and keep up the good work.
Adam Rittenberg: Big fan of pregame entrances, too, John. I always love Iowa's entrance to "Back in Black," followed by "The Swarm." In my mind, former Hawkeyes D-lineman Adrian Clayborn will always be at the front of the line. I've only seen Nebraska's "Tunnel Walk" take place once in person, but it's quickly becoming one of my favorites. Michigan's entrance with the banner touching is classic college football.