Friday, November 2, 2012
Big Ten Friday mailblog
By Adam Rittenberg
Hoping you enjoy Week 10 ...
Jason from Kansas City, Mo., writes: Adam, I keep reading people all week saying that Michigan would have beat Nebraska if Denard Robinson didn't get hurt. It seems people aren't giving the Huskers their due. I don't remember Michigan lighting it up while he was in there. Furthermore, who's to say Robinson doesn't throw 3 interceptions (which he has been prone to do, see Notre Dame game this year) if he plays the whole game. And while we're playing the what-if game, what if Rex Burkhead had played in that game? Those field goals Nebraska scored could have well been touchdowns with Burkhead in there. So, can't we just give the Huskers their due for beating Michigan?
Adam Rittenberg: Jason, Nebraska won the game and deserves credit. Injuries happen in football, and both teams deal with them. It's part of the game, and Nebraska prevailed. That's all that matters. There are obviously a lot of ifs here, and no one really knows how it would have played out. My take is that the game would have been more of a toss-up had Robinson remained in there. Russell Bellomy was totally overwhelmed at quarterback and gave Michigan no chance to challenge Nebraska in the second half. Nebraska's defense was doing a nice job against Robinson before his injury, and you're absolutely right that he could have hopped on the turnover train in the second half. It's also worth noting that he got hurt following a first-down run near the goal line. If Michigan scores a touchdown there, it's probably a different game. Again, it would have been a toss-up, but injuries happen and Nebraska capitalized. That's what good teams do.
Vinnie from Atlanta writes: Adam, Your Big 10 haunted house piece was hilarious and a little sad but true. Regarding a question you received about Nebraska and Oklahoma playing in the Rose Bowl, you still have to be ranked in the top 14 to get an at large bid to a BCS game, correct? Let's say Oregon goes undefeated and makes the National Championship game. Oregon would have beat USC, Stanford, and Oregon St. which would be the Rose Bowl's preference instead of Oregon if they make the NCG. Those three teams probably won't be ranked in the top 14 of the BCS. The Rose would then have to pick an at large outside of the PAC-12 which puts Nebraska vs. Oklahoma in play. Correct?
Adam Rittenberg: Let's give Brian all the credit for the Halloween post. It was outstanding. And I'm glad you brought up the point about the top 14 because I should have explained that better. Yes, a Pac-12 team would need to finish in the top 14 to be an at-large selection for the Rose Bowl. There's a chance Oregon is the only Pac-12 squad in the top 14 if the Ducks run the table and go to the national championship game. I still think between Oregon State, Stanford and USC, one of them will make it as well. But it's possible that none do, which would free up the Rose Bowl to take a team like Oklahoma. Wouldn't feel like a traditional Rose Bowl, but it'd be a fun matchup.
A.J. from Ames, Iowa, writes: Adam, quick scenario for you: Iowa finishes the season a dismal 6-6 or 5-7 judging on how they play Indiana vs. Nebraska finishing the season 8-4 and missing out on the Big 10 championship after being in the drivers seat. More on the hot seat, Bo or Kirk?
Adam Rittenberg: Interesting question, A.J. As poorly as Iowa has looked at times this season, Kirk Ferentz is in zero danger of being fired, even if the team loses out. Iowa has committed too much money to a long-tenured coach and isn't in a position to eat all of that salary, especially with a major project like the facilities upgrade going on right now. Pelini also seems safe despite the new athletic director in place (Shawn Eichorst). Nebraska would really have to fall apart for his seat to get hotter this season. I think next season is a big one for Pelini unless this one ends in a Rose Bowl win. Eichorst will have a full year to evaluate Bo, and Bo will have quite possibly his best team since the 2009 squad. A lot of key Huskers players return, especially on the offensive side. If Nebraska struggles down the stretch, the heat will rise a bit for Pelini, but I don't think either of these coaches are truly in danger.
The Drake from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Big fan of the blog and your twitter handle as well. My question has to do with recruiting. I know LSU, Florida and Alabama are big recruiters and their success positive correlates with recruiting rankings. However you have very good programs like Wisconsin, Arkansas (under Petrino), Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and best of all K-State, not consistently cracking the top 25 in the terms of recruiting classes. Then you have Auburn, Tennessee, Texas and Oklahoma underachieving with highly ranked classes. As an MSU or Big Ten fan other than Michigan or Ohio State or Nebraska who don't have that brand name, doesn't this give us hope.
Adam Rittenberg: Love The Drake! Wisconsin has done a tremendous job of developing talent, identifying it does well as a program and maximizing players' ability. Will the Badgers ever consistently rank among the nation's best recruiting teams? Probably not, although a new football facility will help some. But this absolutely does give some Big Ten programs hope. The Big Ten is still a good league for player development, and you see it at places like Wisconsin, Iowa, MSU and Northwestern. It's certainly better than being a program that consistently wastes top-level talent. That said, the way Ohio State and Michigan are recruiting, there's the potential for those two programs to separate themselves. It's not a guarantee by any means, but it's possible. You don't just have good recruiting at OSU and Michigan, but good coaching, too. The Buckeyes and Wolverines will be tough to beat in the coming years.
Mike from Chicago writes: Just read your first response to the mailbag, I will just assume it was an unintentional oversight to leave Michigan State off the list of teams you think will get to bowl eligibility...
Adam Rittenberg: Absolutely, Mike, and thanks for catching it. Sometimes with the speed of the chat, you leave things out. Michigan State obviously took a huge step toward bowl eligibility with the Wisconsin win. Had the Spartans lost to both Wisconsin and this week against Nebraska, you might have taken them out of the bowl mix. I think they'll get there now with six or seven wins. I picked Nebraska to win this week, but I think Michigan State will get to the threshold against Northwestern or Minnesota.
Go Buckeyes Go from Cincinnati writes: Hypothetical question for you Adam. Say Ohio State goes undefeated, Nebraska wins out and wins the B1G title game, how would (you) rank those two in (your) power rankings? On one hand, OSU is undefeated and beat NU during the season, on the other Nebraska won the B1G. In that case, who would u rank #1?
Adam Rittenberg: Easy one -- Ohio State. The Buckeyes convincingly beat Nebraska in Columbus on Oct. 6. That victory resonates as long as Ohio State keeps winning. So if there's no reason to drop the Buckeyes -- like a loss or two -- they'll remain No. 1 in the power rankings, no matter what happens. Brian and I might consider a change if Nebraska were to knock off Oregon in the Rose Bowl, but even then, it's a tough argument against a 12-0 Buckeyes team.
David from Chicago writes: Adam - I saw your comments on not celebrating Wisconsin or Indiana if they get to the B1G Championship game without earning it outright. I can get that, but I think you are missing the point of the original question. Instead of lamenting how crappy Wisconsin and Indiana are and casting them in poor light for not being the best representative of the Leaders in that game, why aren't you directing your criticism to OSU or PSU for creating the mess? They are the schools running programs outside the rules that resulted in this debacle. What do you want UW or IU to do, not go to the game? Thanks.
Adam Rittenberg: David, while I appreciate your note, were you reading the blog the past three years? Did you see how many times we criticized Ohio State and Penn State during their respective scandals? Even now, we note that Ohio State has only itself to blame for its situation -- and for not self-imposing a bowl ban when it could have in 2011. How many times do we have to restate that? Ohio State is undefeated, Penn State has been better than expected. It's the middle of the season. We're not going to spend a ton of time pointing out what we did for the past two years. Wisconsin or Indiana absolutely should go to the game and play for a Rose Bowl berth. They shouldn't apologize one bit for being there. But we're not going to celebrate that like it's a great thing, nor are we going to revisit all the criticism for OSU and PSU time and again.
Scott from Tampa writes: Adam, You're wrong about the tiebreakers if 3 or more teams tie for first place. The first tiebreaker is each of the teams' records against the other teams tied for first place.If MSU, UM, NU and NW are all tied at 5-3 (for that to happen assume NW beats UM, MSU would have to win out and beat both NU and NW, UM loses to OSU and NW, and NU loses to MSU and PSU), then NW and MSU would be 2-1 against the top teams and UM and NU would be 1-2. MSU and NW then use the head-to-head tiebreaker. MSU then goes to Indy.That's also the scenario MSU fans are hoping for, but that's how the tiebreakers work.
Adam Rittenberg: Yes, Scott, I failed to look into what the tied 5-3 records would mean. It would take Michigan State going 2-1 against the others, and then the Spartans would win the head-to-head tiebreak. The key for Michigan State is avoiding a head-to-head tie with Michigan, as the Wolverines hold the tiebreaker there. The advantage the Spartans have is getting both Nebraska and Northwestern at home, but if they lose to either team, especially Nebraska, they're essentially out of the race. So Michigan State is still alive, but the margin for error is slim.