Friday, August 10, 2012
Big Ten Friday mailblog
By Adam Rittenberg
Thanks for your emails and Twitter questions (we'll keep using Twitter for mailblog questions going forward).
Brian will be driving the blog bus next week, so my next mailblog comes your way Aug. 21.
Let's do it ...
Justin from NYC writes: Hi Adam, Hope all is well in the Midwest, or wherever it is you're based out of, my question is 2 parts. First, Going off a question that was asked in yesterday's mailbag, do you think we will ever see Jim Delany reconsider his stance on a 9-game conference schedule? It seems absurd to me that teams will have to wait 4 years to play an out of division non-protected game with teams in their own conference. Secondly, If we were to move to a 9-game conference schedule, how do you think this would effect bye weeks and overall schedule timing? As a Buckeyes fan I feel that playing the Michigan game on Thanksgiving weekend is terrible for the students who have to travel back and forth from home and hurts the pre-game week festivities.
Adam Rittenberg: Things are great here in Chicago, Justin. Regarding the nine-game conference schedule, it's not Delany's call. It's the athletic directors who make that decision. Delany supported the move to nine games last August, and he has often talked about the importance of conference teams playing one another more, not less. But in the past year, momentum has slowed among the ADs to go to a nine-game league schedule. While some ADs like Michigan State's Mark Hollis never supported the idea, others also joined the movement to stay at eight. The league's coaches, not surprisingly, want to keep the eight-game league slate. Although the longer lulls between two Big Ten teams playing each other are an issue, the bigger concern among ADs was having unbalanced schedules (five Big Ten home games, four Big Ten road games) and the problems that creates when deciding a league champion. The eight-game schedule also helps the Big Ten's chances of reaching the national title game.
Regarding your second question, unless the season started earlier across college football, the Ohio State-Michigan game would remain on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to accommodate championship Saturday the following week. It doesn't have to do with bye weeks or number of league games, but when the season actually starts.
Brian from Atlanta writes: Adam, I'd like to propose a follow-up to your players poll. Without revealing any personal info, did you notice any interesting correlations to the answers? Were skill position players more likely to answer the same way than teammates, etc. Did linemen and skill players see eye to eye, etc.
Adam Rittenberg: Brian, I didn't see too many huge differences between skill players and linemen for most of the questions. The linemen seemed more willing to identify dirty players, and typically named linemen on the other side of the ball. At least one of the "would leave Penn State" votes came from a star player with legitimate NFL skills. I think if we'd surveyed more freshmen and sophomores, we would have gotten more saying they'd leave Penn State. But overall, there weren't too many strong correlations.
@DoWorkLaRoy (via Twitter) writes: what highly ranked team are we most likely to look back on in December and say, "Wow, we really screwed that one up..."?
Adam Rittenberg: Michigan and Wisconsin are the likeliest candidates. While I understand why Michigan is the Big Ten's highest-ranked team entering the season, the Wolverines schedule is among the nation's toughest. As I've stated many times, the Wolverines easily could be a better team than 2011 with an inferior record (i.e. 9-3) this season. It's just very hard to get through a slate featuring Alabama (neutral), Notre Dame (road), Nebraska (road), Michigan State (home) and Ohio State (road), especially when the team has question marks on both lines. Wisconsin also could take a step back this fall. Danny O'Brien isn't Russell Wilson, and the offense likely won't maintain its incredible pace from the past two seasons. The more I look at Wisconsin's defense from 2011, I see a very average unit with good numbers because it wasn't on the field that much. If the Badgers don't find an elite pass-rusher and improve in the secondary, they'll have some problems.
Buckingham U. Badger from Madison, Wis., writes: It seems as though the Badgers haven't had someone really step-up and take hold of the second receiver slot. Obviously [Jared] Abbrederis and [Jacob] Pederson will be the top targets, but two targets is hardly enough. Can you envision a scenario in which the Badgers move James White into that slot role, sort of like Percy Harvin did at Florida? Especially given that Montee [Ball] will receive the majority of the carries and Melvin Gordon seems poised to take over as the feature back.
Adam Rittenberg: While I think White can be used in different ways this season, I don't see him as a No. 2 receiver. He can be a nice change-of-pace guy, but Wisconsin would really benefit if someone else stepped forward during camp. Jeff Duckworth made some big plays in the Big Ten title game, and Manasseh Garner, Marquis Mason and Chase Hammond are three intriguing players, all with good size. If one or two of those guys takes a step during camp and can complement Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin's offense will be that much better. I agree that White needs to have a more expanded role, but he just doesn't strike me as a No. 2 receiver.
Jay from Colorado writes: "At some point, it stops becoming about restoring legacies or wins or blasting the NCAA or the university president or the board of trustees. At some point, the focus and energy needs to shift toward what's happening now and what will happen in the future. "Why don't you let the PSU community do that without providing a judgmental timeline...determined by the media. Despite what you may think, you don't know what kind of effect this has had on the community. Graduating from PSU for meteorology was a life goal and source of pride for me. Cheering for an icon was a privilege. Just because the reporters are not there anymore, espousing their narrative, does not mean the pain has healed and that we need to move on because you think we have to. On the contrary, the PSU community has repeatedly been dealt blow after blow. We are trying to assess and assimilate all that has happened in less than a year. Nobody knew, outside of the select few, anything about what was happening. So it is an understatement to say PSU was rocked by this. And if you expect us to work through it in the speed of the twitter-verse that we now live in, it is you that has lost touch.We are dealing with it...and 'it' has a lot of layers (child abuse and victims, failing of our leaders, media bombardment, failing of the BoT, firing Paterno, a riot, Paterno's death, the Sandusky trial, the Freeh report, and seeming blind acceptance of the Freeh report despite not interviewing key witnesses. So sorry if we are reeling...and would like due process and objectivity...even though that doesn't meet your or ESPN's timeline for how things should go. Stick to the football side of this...please don't moralize about our reaction as this ongoing saga continuously unfolds before our eyes.
Adam Rittenberg: I never wrote Penn Staters didn't deserve time to process all that has happened. React how you want to react. My comment is directed more toward those who clearly aren't helping the situation. What's the point of appealing the NCAA sanctions, which aren't subject to appeal? To show that you're not weak? To show that you're standing up to evil? I understand those folks are hurt by what happened, but they're not making the situation any easier, especially for Bill O'Brien and the current team. Of course, Penn State has been rocked by this, and it will take a very long time to get through what has gone on there. But to keep blaming the media or the Freeh report investigators or the board or whatever, doesn't seem to serve a purpose at this stage. Neither does throwing out the term "due process" without understanding that the NCAA viewed the Freeh report as a self-report from Penn State. There's little need for an infractions hearing at that point.
Some very bad things happened in State College. No one can refute that. The perception of the school has been harmed, and is further harmed by these appeals. Doesn't it matter how this looks to the outside world? Again, quietly processing all that has happened is completely fine. Doing so while supporting O'Brien and the current team seems like the best approach.
@AdoubleD (via Twitter) writes: What are your impressions of MSU's defense that stands out above all others?
Adam Rittenberg: Michigan State's defense has the best combination of talent and depth in the Big Ten. There's no obvious weakness on the unit, and even the defensive tackle position should be fine with Anthony Rashad White, Tyler Hoover and others. I love the way the Spartans have recruited on the defensive side, bringing in a lot of top-shelf athletes to East Lansing. They're not overly reliant on one or two stars, and they can go two or three deep at almost every position. Barring a wave of injuries, Michigan State should have a top 5 defense this season.
Patrick from Alexandria, Va., writes: Two comments on the "poll" results you have been posting. First, I think this is a terrible idea. Seriously, you are asking a bunch of kids which coach on other teams they'd least like to play for? Which opposing players are "dirty"? I know you guys like to get a little "edgy" but this is insulting. Second, you can't really ask for "anonymous" answers face-to-face; that's one reason why so many players did not respond to the negative questions. If you wanted to assure them of anonymity you should have used a simple on-line polling software (e.g., PollMonkey). That also would have allowed you to take a representative sample of players, giving you more valid and reliable results, rather than answers from a small, non-random group of interviewees. If you don't want to take the time how to do this right, then just stick to reporting and stay away from polling.
Adam Rittenberg: Patrick, some fair points here. It was our first go-round, and we certainly can improve our polling methods going forward. Maybe we'll poll Big Ten blog readers to get better questions next time, although I thought they worked out pretty well for the most part. Still, I don't know why you're "insulted" by a poll question, and as far as the edginess, deal with it. It's a blog. It's going to be opinionated and edgy. If you want to read about the loveliest things about each team and each program, all the rainbows and unicorns of the Big Ten, this isn't the place for that. I've made that clear a few thousand times. There are plenty of fanboy blogs out there for you to feel warm and fuzzy. But we'll make a better effort on the methods for polling next time around. We'll need cooperation from the schools, which isn't always easy, but we'll definitely give it a shot.