Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Big Ten mailblog
By Adam Rittenberg
You have questions, so let's get to 'em ...
Adam from La Crosse, Wis., writes: Hey Adam. Just wondering if you have any idea why a good number of people are up in arms about the alternate jerseys. I for one am a fan. It is a one game deal, and it is cool to see a different look. Some of the these people sound like the 55 year old worker who is upset that they updated his/her Microsoft Office 2000 with Office 2010. I love tradition as much as the next guy but times change. It is the "thing to do" now having alternate jerseys. Get on board or get left behind. Can you enlighten these people?
Adam Rittenberg: Any change is always greeted with a degree of grumbling. Changing something as tradition-rich and iconic as, say, Nebraska's uniforms is bound to increase the angst. A good portion of college football fans, mostly older folks, like what they like and don't want to see it altered. I think you have a good perspective on this. It's only one game, and the alternate-jersey thing is happening everywhere. The other important thing is that recruits typically love the different jerseys. If a team can attract some recruits by changing it up for one game, why not? Like you said, these aren't permanent switches. It might be a bit painful to watch the Giant Ws face the Giant Ns in Lincoln on Sept. 29, but it'll be back to normal the next week.
Shareef from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Adam, I had a comment in response to your piece about Illinois trying to "reclaim" the state. I would argue that until either Northwestern or Illinois fans can actually outnumber their opponents' fans at home games, neither has a claim to the State of Illinois. I would also argue that the State belongs to neither team, but instead belongs to Notre Dame. I think that's certainly true of Chicago. There's a reason Notre Dame is featured on ESPNChicago -- they know Notre Dame still dominates the Chicago market, followed by several Big Ten schools. What are your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: Shareef, some good points here. I think Illinois' brand still resonates the most around the state. As for Chicago, it's a pro town and always will be a pro town. The Notre Dame connection to Chicago is interesting. There are a good number of Notre Dame fans, but the program rarely generates much attention on sports talk radio and TV. I follow it pretty closely as a Chicago resident, and Northwestern and Illinois seem to generate as much or more discussion in the media than Notre Dame does. I have no doubt things were different during the 1980s and early 1990s, but aside from the two-year stretch under Charlie Weis in 2005-06, Notre Dame isn't really relevant in the Chicago market unless something bad happens there (i.e. Declan Sullivan). Chicago ultimately is a pro sports town, and no college team will be able to "claim" it long-term unless it starts contending for championships every year. Northwestern certainly has made some inroads in Chicago, and Illinois should have a better presence as well. The Notre Dame name still resonates to a degree, but more nationally than in Chicago.
Grant from Detroit writes: Hi Adam -- I have a question about Fitz Toussaint's suspension. Do you think he will be allowed to play the Alabama game? I think in this post-Sandusky-scandal era, schools will need to be increasingly public on how they handle punishments, especially those with legal implications. If UM doesn't hold him out for their biggest game, they have a better chance of winning, but enforce the idea that winning is more important than the moral responsibility to the safety of the public (protecting pedestrians from a drunk driver). So what do you think? Will Hoke have the guts to make him sit, or will the importance of winning take precedent (yet again) in college football? If your suspicion is the latter, then what, if anything, has the college world learned from the PSU scandal?
Adam Rittenberg: Grant, while I agree schools have to be careful with any off-field incidents, the Sandusky scandal and the Toussaint situation aren't remotely close to one another. Unfortunately, drunken-driving incidents involving players happen quite a bit, and different programs handle them differently. I'd like to see coaches take a hard-line stance against these types of incidents. To me, getting arrested for drunken driving is much more dangerous than being found with a bit of weed. My sense is that unless Toussaint's legal situation changes (reduced/dropped charges, etc.), he will be suspended for the season opener. Brady Hoke has been pretty firm on discipline so far at Michigan, and this type of arrest certainly would warrant a suspension elsewhere. The fact Toussaint is a standout player will increase the scrutiny on Hoke's decision, and I do expect some kind of playing-time suspension for the Bama game. But it's hard to discuss this case in relation to the Sandusky situation.
Travis from St. Louis writes: I can't help but wonder if this upcoming MSU team is going to be the 2010 Iowa Hawkeyes who returned an NFL caliber defense but under-achieved in every way or the 2009 Iowa Hawkeyes, dominant defense, below average offense but won the Orange Bowl. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg: Travis, interesting comparison. Michigan State seems to have more challenges than the 2010 Hawkeyes, because the Spartans lose their veteran quarterback (Kirk Cousins), while Iowa still had The Manzi. I think the two defenses are a little different. Michigan State's is younger and a bit more athletic than the unit Iowa brought back in 2010. I think complacency hurt the Hawkeyes a bit that year, and their inability to finish games really was shocking. While Michigan State has to guard against a letdown as well, I don't expect the Spartans to run out of gas in games the way the Hawkeyes did. The bigger challenges are on offense. Remember, Ricky Stanzi had a pretty good year in 2010 (3,004 pass yards, 25 TDs, 6 INTs). It's probably unrealistic to expect Andrew Maxwell to match those numbers. I think Michigan State will be closer to the 2009 Hawkeyes than the 2010 version, a team led by their defense and an offense that can run the ball.
Thomas from Omaha writes: Recent Penn State events have their program in a tailspin. With multi-year sanctions, it could be a while before they recover. My question is; "Could they benefit from a walk-on program similar to Nebraska's?" Many of whom have the loyalty and eventually earn scholarships. PSU could keep their coffers full and may even develop a few diamonds in the ruff. I'm sure Pennsylvania is full of athletes that might not get the chance under normal conditions. I believe T.O. would even offer advice.
Adam Rittenberg: Thomas, I don't think it's even a question of whether Penn State must enhance its walk-on program in the coming years. It's really hard to survive with only 65 scholarship players unless you have several talented walk-ons each year. Nebraska certainly is a model for Penn State to follow, and I'm sure Tom Osborne would be willing to give advice if asked by PSU folks. You're right that Pennsylvania is full of high school football players. The key is getting guys who are willing to walk on -- rather than possibly taking scholarships elsewhere -- and help the program through a challenging time.
Steve from Montana writes: The transfer window for Penn State football players to transfer anywhere and be eligible to play right away is for the 2012 & 2013 seasons. With 9 players taking advantage of this transfer window this year, do you see a players that find themselves on the wrong end of a position battle transferring before next season? And another question, if a scholarship player transfers, does that open up a scholarship for an incoming players. Or is the scholarship gone due to sanctions?
Adam Rittenberg: Steve, I'd expect to see more Penn State transfers either during or after the 2012 season. Almost every program has transfers every year, so the question will be whether or not Penn State has more than normal because of the sanctions. As far as the scholarship situation, here's all you have to remember: Penn State has to be down to 65 scholarships by the start of the 2014 season. The school can only give out 15 scholarships per year in recruiting beginning in February, but the key is just to get down to that 65 limit in two seasons.
Nate from Madison, Wis., writes: Curiosity question after the Big Ten Player's poll came out: do you and Brian read comments from articles you have written? Just wanted to know if you guys liked to check what the internet has to say or if you just steer clear.
Adam Rittenberg: Nate, I'll check out the comments from time to time, but there's not much intelligent discussion in there. I'd rather see what you have to say on mailbags and chats.