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Friday, January 4, 2013
Big Ten Friday mailblog

By Adam Rittenberg

Wishing you a great weekend, and don't forget to check out the Under Armour All-America game at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Let's get to those questions ...

Brian from Atlanta writes: Regarding bowls, wouldn't it be better to switch the BWW Bowl to a P12 game rather than keeping it and adding a game in CA, too? The B12 dropped their Fiesta tie, so I'm not sure BWW wants to do them any favors. I'd also drop the Gator and Heart of Dallas Bowls while adding the Pinstripe (NYC) and Military (DC) Bowls versus the ACC. The B10 probably needs to add one more bowl for 9 total (not counting the Orange). I'd love to see it end up with 2 bowls each against the ACC, B12, P12, and SEC plus the 1 MAC bowl.

Adam Rittenberg: Good thoughts here, Brian. The Big Ten likely wouldn't add the Military Bowl because it takes place so early in December, and most Big Ten schools are either in finals or about to take finals. The Big Ten prefers having all of its bowl games after Christmas. I also would drop Gator and Heart of Dallas, but I really like the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl because of the location. A few days in Arizona always will appeal to most Big Ten fan bases. I think you only need one game in Texas (Meineke Car Care), but you definitely need one more in California -- Holiday or Kraft Fight Hunger. I'd rather see more Big Ten teams in Arizona and California than Texas and Florida. Maybe that's my West Coast bias.


Jazona from Columbus writes: Adam,After seeing how all the teams played, do you still think the B1G would have had a losing record had your following guesstimation come true? (I think the B1G would be 6-3!)Rose: Ohio State vs. Stanford Capital One: Nebraska vs. Georgia Outback: Michigan vs. South Carolina Gator: Penn State vs. Mississippi State Wild Wings: Northwestern vs. TCU Meineke Car Care: Michigan State vs. Texas Tech Heart of Dallas: Wisconsin vs. Oklahoma State Little Caesars: Minnesota vs. Central Michigan Liberty: Purdue vs. Tulsa

Adam Rittenberg: Jazona, the Big Ten would have an excellent chance at a 5-4 record, and 6-3 would be possible. I think Ohio State, with a month to prepare and upgrade its defense, would have beaten Stanford in Pasadena. Penn State would have handled Mississippi State, and while Northwestern-TCU would have been close, I like the Wildcats there. I'd give Michigan State and Minnesota wins, but I'm not sure about Wisconsin against that high-powered Oklahoma State team in Dallas, and Tulsa would have beaten Purdue. So I would have predicted a 5-4 mark for the Big Ten if Ohio State and Penn State both had been eligible for these matchups.


Chuck from Miami writes: Hi Adam,I just read your story about Delany diversifying the B1G bowls. I always hear about how disadvantaged the B1G is in bowls because we play an extremely difficult slate and we do it in virtual home games for the opponent. I know Delaney's not going to start scheduling cupcakes and I get that, but why do they have to be virtual home games? Why couldn't he push for, say, playing an SEC team in California? The whole point of the bowls is to stimulate tourism, right? So why wouldn't you want both fan bases to travel? I can imagine that Arkansas' fans would want to get away on a bowl-centric vacation to Disneyland, for example. I just don't see why getting away to see great football somewhere exotic should be an experience that only the B1G fans enjoy. Is there a reason that the bowls are set-up this way or is it just that teams from other conferences don't want to give up their home field advantage?

Adam Rittenberg: Chuck, while I understand your points here, you need both parties to agree on a bowl tie-in. The SEC would want to add a California bowl for its own interests, not to just make it easier for the Big Ten opponent. If you're the SEC and your fans can easily access games in Florida, Texas and Georgia, why would you want to add a California bowl? There's more risk to it, especially in tough economic times when fewer fans are traveling. Arkansas fans might make the trip to California, but it's a heck of a lot easier for them to get to Dallas for the Cotton Bowl or New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. Each league has to evaluate itself, its fans and the willingness to travel. The Big Ten is unique because it has so many fans who will go far to watch their teams, and no major bowls are located in Big Ten territory. That's not the case for most leagues.


Hart from Minneapolis writes: I am a Wildcats fan. Their terrific season got me thinking about an interesting phenomenon. The elite private schools have done remarkably well this year. Notre Dame, NU, Vandy, Duke, Rice and Stanford all made bowls. Obviously ND hasn?t played yet. But of those that have played, only Duke lost. Trend? Coincidence? If a trend, can you explain?

Adam Rittenberg: It's definitely a trend, Hart, and what Stanford has done to elevate its program in the past four years has been remarkable (not easy for me to say as someone who grew up in Berkeley, but it's true). These institutions are realizing there's tremendous value in having good football programs, and they've increased their investment in the programs, whether it's paying coaches, upgrading facilities, spending more on recruiting, etc. There are enough players out there with the grades and the ability to bolster these programs, but the programs had to be attractive enough to the recruits. That's what has changed in recent years. We've definitely seen it at Northwestern with Pat Fitzgerald's new contract, more money for his assistants and their new lakefront facility (a game-changer). The quality of coaching, facilities and other factors is much better at these schools than it was 10 years ago.


Michael from Saginaw, Mich., writes: Everyone wants to talk about the poor season my Spartans had this year. Was it TRULY that poor? I would say it was on the better half of mediocre. That people simply had too high expectations. Poor performance from the WR unit? yes. Mediocre performance by QB? yes. RB was strong. Def was strong. They won some big games on primetime national tv against quality opponents. Boise St, Wisc, and TCU. They won their bowl game. The only game im ready to concede was a flop was the ND game. I know some people are tired of hearing it but there were a few games the refs played a bit too much a part in. Still - winning season, winning their bowl game, sending guys to the pros, and so far i do believe at least all the coaches return for stability with a solid incoming recruiting class. If you were to say that season took place for a offensive unit that had giant injuries to the O-line and replaced all the main WR's and QB would you really be that disappointed if you didn't have such high expectations if you didn't look at the past year just this year?

Adam Rittenberg: Michael, I agree the expectations were a little too high (guilty of that myself), but Michigan State went 0-4 in Big Ten home games, including an overtime loss to a bad Iowa team. Sure, the Spartans were in every game but Notre Dame, but they had season-long issues on offense that went beyond the injuries. The bowl win certainly takes some of the sting off of the season, but if you want Michigan State to truly put itself among the Big Ten's elite, you need to demand more than a 6-6 regular season. I agree that it's not a disaster, and Michigan State certainly showed some positive things this season, but it definitely was a step back from what we've seen the past two seasons in East Lansing.


Alex G. from Fairfield, Iowa, writes: How much will Ferentz regret not picking WR Coach Campbell for offensive coordinator if Greg Davis' offense doesn't become much more effective next season? Campbell was a fan favorite to replace O'Keefe last year and now that we've lost him completely, Iowa fans have more reason to be frustrated with Ferentz. Is there ANY way he comes to his senses and fires Davis this offseason and brings Campbell back or is that the most improbable pipe dream you've heard?

Adam Rittenberg: Alex, I like Campbell as an offensive coordinator candidate, but it didn't seem like he ever gained serious consideration there. We'll find out what he can do as a playcaller at Eastern Michigan, I guess. He's a very good receivers coach and a strong recruiter who will be missed at Iowa, a program that lacks top-level playmakers on offense. It would be very surprising to see Campbell back at Iowa in any capacity, much less a coordinator role, as long as Kirk Ferentz is the head coach. Once a coach leaves, he's likely not coming back unless there's a regime change.


A.J. from Brighton, Mich., writes: Now that Le'Veon Bell, William Gholston, and Dion Sims all declared for the NFL draft, how do you think the Spartans will do next season? Can they contend for the Legends Division if they fix their passing game? If they don't, can they even make it to a bowl?

Adam Rittenberg: A.J., spring practice becomes a lot more interesting in East Lansing after the departures, although Bell's certainly was expected and the other two aren't major surprises. The quarterback competition between Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook takes top billing, but running back will be a very intriguing position to watch as Nick Hill and several others compete there. Michigan State clearly has to become more efficient in the passing game because the run game almost certainly will take a step back without Bell. The Spartans need playmakers to emerge at receiver, more consistency from the quarterback position and, more important, better play up front. The offensive line is my view is still what separates Michigan State from taking the next step as a program. MSU isn't deep enough up front. The Spartans play a favorable schedule and should have no trouble making another bowl game, but the offense will have to address several questions if MSU wants to challenge Nebraska, Northwestern and Michigan in the Legends division.