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Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Big Ten mailblog

By Adam Rittenberg

It's question-and-answer time. Please take your seats.

Charlie from Chicago writes: Adam, do you think that Devin Gardner's transition to WR gave Michigan less flexibility at QB during the Notre Dame game? It seems like last year, Gardner would have been put in at QB after Denard's third or maybe fourth consecutive interception. Moving forward, do you think Gardner is going to be more valuable as a receiver or as another QB option when Denard is in a funk?

Adam Rittenberg: Interesting question, Charlie. Anyone can see Gardner has tremendous potential as a wide receiver, seemingly more so that he did as a quarterback. But having him at a different position where he can sustain injury -- as he did late in Saturday's game -- can affect the game plan at quarterback. That said, I think this topic goes back to the uniqueness of Denard Robinson. Most quarterbacks who throw four interceptions in a half would be on clipboard duty by the third quarter. But Robinson has shown the ability to overcome multiple mistakes in games and make big plays to help his team. As bad as Robinson can be -- and he was really, really bad Saturday night -- Michigan can't be at its best offensively without No. 16 on the field because of his knack for pulling off game-changing plays. Would Michigan have benefited from pulling Denard for a series or two? Perhaps. Yet moving Gardner to quarterback takes away a weapon in the passing game. If you leave Gardner at receiver, you're going with a young, unproven signal caller in Russell Bellomy on the road against a very good Notre Dame defense. So it's a tough situation, but Michigan has so much invested in Denard -- and his big-play skills -- that he gets more leeway than most quarterbacks when it comes to mistakes.




Rich from Des Moines writes: Adam, "It's all about comfort and having a major event go off without a hitch." Isn't this code for, "we are afraid of cold weather?" If the Super Bowl in New Jersey goes well in a couple of years, will college football be less afraid to schedule a championship game in a cold weather city like Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, St Louis, Indy, Kansas City or others? BTW, average January low temp in Arlington is 35 degrees. Thanks.

Adam Rittenberg: Rich, it's code for, "We don't want this new event to have any logistical issues that could generate media criticism and national embarrassment for us." And quite honestly, I understand that sentiment. It's a new event that will generate nationwide attention and scrutiny. If there's a snowstorm and the field is awful and people get sick or hurt because of weather problems, the commissioners look bad for having the game outdoors in the cold. Playing it safe makes sense for the first few years, and the bowl sites provide the safety net because they've put on these events before. I know the BCS commissioners will be watching the Super Bowl in New Jersey to see if they could ever hold a similar event, but I really doubt we'll ever see a college football title game in Chicago or Cleveland. Indianapolis is the Midwest's best event because Indiana Sports Corporation has a proven track record of putting on major successful national sporting events. The commissioners will be put at ease with the game in Indianapolis. The same could be said for Detroit or St. Louis, but those cities haven't put on nearly as many major events as Indy has.




Johnny from Chicago writes: Adam, I was wondering what the basis was for you and Brian to drop Michigan State out of the Top 25 this week? I'll be the first to admit their performance this year, most notably on offense, has been less than stellar. However, being that you had them picked as your pre-season Rose Bowl pick and still do, what sort of explanation do you have for the drop? This Saturday will be the true test, but I like this team over Northwestern and Nebraska still and they are in your Top 25. Just was wondering where the decision came from?

Adam Rittenberg: Michigan State hasn't looked like a Top 25 team the past two weeks, Johnny. Eastern Michigan is woeful, and the Spartans should have made quick work of the Eagles on Saturday, rather than falling behind early and needing three and a half quarters to reach the end zone. They were facing a team that had surrendered 54 points to Purdue the previous week and had lost 31-14 to FCS Illinois State on Sept. 8. Sure, Michigan State won the game, but that type of performance merits a significant drop in my book. I also dropped the Spartans out of the Top 25 because their win against Boise State doesn't look that impressive. Boise State really has taken a step back this season, and shouldn't be ranked in the AP Poll any more. The good news is Michigan State will regain a spot on my ballot if it beats Ohio State this weekend. The Spartans still have several big opportunities to show how good they are this season.




Jim from Appleton, Wis., writes: Why do you think Wisconsin's ranking in the coaches is any more ridiculous than ranked 30 something in the AP? A little sports writers ego showing aye? They lost to OSU by three away and OSU thrashed UCLA at home and UCLA thrashed your ranked Rose Bowl pick Nebraska.

Adam Rittenberg: Both rankings are ridiculous, but for the coaches to keep Wisconsin in their Top 25 (no one cares about teams "also receiving votes) is more egregious. It's completely based on the past two years rather than this year. Jim, you can use the transitive property all you want to make you feel better about Wisconsin. Or, you can look at what you see on the field, as I have. I don't see a Top 25 team. Not even close. I see a team that completely lost its identity in the first three games and is trying to get it back. Wisconsin finally looked like Wisconsin at the end of the UTEP game. But the Badgers have done nothing to show they should be getting votes in either poll. Now if they go on the road and upset Nebraska on Saturday night, they'll most likely deserve to be ranked. That will be a quality road win against a good conference foe. And, by the way, my preseason Rose Bowl pick was Michigan State, not Nebraska.




Pat from Pittsburgh writes: Hey Adam,After watching the first four weeks of big ten football i think that a huge case could be made that Matt Mcgloin is the best quarterback in the big ten. I know that Braxton Miller also looked strong, but week 4 he really seemed to struggle and Robinson is not a true quaterback after watching pick after pick in the notre game. I also noticed that before the season you did not even rank Mcgloin inside your top 10 best qb's of the big ten i think that this had to be a huge shot to Mcgloin that he took personally. As he now is leading the big in touchdowns with 9 and is ahead of Matt Barkley in passing yards this season.Who would you say looks like the best qb thus far?

Adam Rittenberg: Braxton Miller has been the Big Ten's best offensive player through the first four weeks. Although his passing numbers might not match McGloin's or Taylor Martinez's, he has been the most dynamic player on the field, made the most number of big plays and come up big in the fourth quarter the past two weeks. That said, McGloin is having a really good season and clearly is thriving in Bill O'Brien's offense. Knowing Matt, he's a fiery guy, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if he used our quarterback rankings as motivation. But he didn't deserve to be in there the way he struggled last season in a woeful PSU offense. McGloin deserves a lot of credit for his work during the offseason, and he looks so much more comfortable in the pocket in O'Brien's system. I'd say Miller looks like the best Big Ten QB to date, but both McGloin and Martinez aren't far behind.




Tom from Wildcat territory writes: Don't know if you have covered this, but how is it that the 'Cats have to play 5 teams on their schedule (4 in the B1G) coming off their bye week? We open conference play with IN, MN, and NE all having an extra week to prepare, and then have to face Michigan State after a rest. In what may shape up to be an opportunistic "big" season, what impact do you think that may have? There is certainly something to be set for momentum and consistency of routine, but would seem to be a disadvantage.

Adam Rittenberg: Tom, I think it's just an odd coincidence more than anything else. There wasn't anything malicious from the Big Ten, although Northwestern's situation is prompting a change from the league beginning in 2015 where a team won't face more than two teams coming off of open weeks. Long-term data shows that having an extra week to prepare doesn't provide a major advantage. It certainly helps with getting injured players healthy, but it doesn't equate to wins (in many cases, it's just the opposite). So if Northwestern struggles against Indiana, Minnesota, etc., I don't think it can or should point to the open weeks as excuses. Most coaches would prefer an open week in the middle of the season or a little toward the end. Northwestern's open week falls at a fairly good time, although a week or two earlier might be better.




Mark from Surprise, Ariz., writes:Adam, as a hawkeye fan I am disappointed. I expect more from this team. As its suppose to be a down year, I was expecting an 8-4 or even a 7-5 season. But I honestly dont see iowa even making a bowl game this year. I have always liked Ferentz, hes a stand up guy. But college football is changing, and Ferentz seems to stubborn to change with it. If Ferentz fails to make a bowl game, long with his recent mediocre seasons, do you see any chance of Iowa letting him go? I think I seen that his buyout is $21 million dollars. I imagine were stuck with him no matter how poorly this team plays. As much as I respect the guy, hes gotta adapt to todays game and leave the 90's smash mouth, fundamentals on the back burner. The top teams in the big ten have 2 dimensional quarterbacks. Miller, Robinson, and Martinez. I think its time for him to go. His coaching style belongs in the NFL

Adam Rittenberg: Mark, while I completely understand your frustration and the expectations for more out of Iowa and its well-paid coach, you don't actually believe fundamental play works against Iowa, do you? Every good football team must be sound fundamentally, whether it's at the college or pro level. In fact, one of Iowa's problems in my view is a lack of fundamentals and discipline (example: last week's onside kick). The Hawkeyes aren't talented enough to overcome fundamental lapses. As for the style of play, you can win with this style at the college level (Ferentz has). Look at Alabama. Having a mobile quarterback certainly helps, and James Vandenberg has had a disappointing start to his senior year. I think it's fair to criticize the play-calling and ask for more creativity, but Iowa's program values are still what breeds success in football. And I'd really be shocked if Iowa parted ways with Ferentz, who athletic director Gary Barta has strongly supported at every turn. Let's see how the season plays out, but there's too much money on the table and too much support for Ferentz to see any type of change in Iowa City.




Kevin from Alexandria writes: No Adam, had the dopes on the Penn State board not bowed to the evils of public pressure and hired Freeh to write the Fact Freeh report, there would have been no investigation (NCAA required probably cause to launch one which is absolutely didn't have) and there would have been no sanctions because Penn State did NOTHING wrong. Please do us all a favor and quit your job. We are sick and tired of hearing the same old lies and nonsense from immoral, unethical cowards such as you and your sidekick. Get your facts straight for once or get out of town liar.

Adam Rittenberg: Sorry, Kevin, not quitting. This is my town, and I'm the mayor. You don't need to live here, though. You'd probably be a happier guy elsewhere.