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Friday, March 8, 2013
Big Ten Friday mailblog

By Adam Rittenberg

Rounding out the work week every Friday around this time.

John from Phoenix writes: Hi Adam,I'm a 1971 Purdue Grad and am excited about Coach Hazell heading the Boilermaker program. Now that Gunnar Kiel has decided to transfer from ND, do you think he might connect with Purdue on what appears to be a very good fit?

Adam Rittenberg: John, I wrote about this earlier today and mentioned Purdue as a possible landing spot for Kiel. The one potential issue is that Notre Dame could block a transfer to a future opponent like the Boilers. Several Purdue fans I heard from on Twitter didn't seem to want Kiel, citing the talent already on the roster like Austin Appleby and Danny Etling. And that could be the smart play. We don't know what Appleby or Etling can do at the college level, but both clearly have talent. And Kiel brings with him a lot of baggage and drama that a new coach like Darrell Hazell might not want. Ultimately, it comes down to talent and whether Kiel would be a better option than other quarterbacks on the roster. If so, Purdue absolutely should pursue him if he can transfer there.


Rich from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Adam, I applaud the targeting rule. However, The ejection component could cause some major controversies. I know the officials spokespeople will say that the hit will have to be unquestionably a targeting penalty to result in an ejection. However, we have seen dozens of replay calls ruled the opposite way from what appears to be obvious to viewers. Moreover, I realize they like to equate targeting to fighting. However, it is very clear when a player throws a punch, unlike some of these hits that are a hair's breadth on one side or the other of targeting. Wouldn't it be more reasonable to suspend a player for one full game after a review by the league office? This eliminates the pressure of the in-game officials having to eject players on close calls. It also eliminates the possibility of Carollo's feared "5-minute production." Additionally, waiting until after the game is over to invoke what amounts to a one-game suspension removes the awkwardness of missing the 2nd half of one game and the first half of another. Plus, the way the ejection is set up now can result in some very inequitable penalties. A player penalized in the first minute would miss an entire game basically. A player penalized in the last minute of the 2nd half would miss what amounts to only half a game. Thanks.

Adam Rittenberg: A lot of good points here as always, Rich, and I agree the ejections will be controversial no matter what. Carollo noted that some of these calls will be missed and that there's a very fine line between an ejectable targeting penalty, a regular unnecessary roughness penalty and even some legal hits. The Jadeveon Clowney-Vincent Smith hit was a good example of a legal play but one that looks really bad. A lot of the responsibility rests with the replay officials. They'll ultimately judge whether to uphold an ejection on the field or overrule it. There's more pressure on them, and they need to be really, really accurate. And as Bill Carollo said, you don't want the process to drag on. I think it's critical to be as clear as possible on defining targeting so everyone -- officials, coaches, players, fans -- has a good grasp on it before the season starts. Coaches need to educate their players in practice, and players must be aware of it in games. Ultimately, I think there will be a handful of obvious ejectable targeting penalties, like the Earnest Thomas play in the Penn State game. There probably will be 2-3 debatable ejections per year, which could loom large. But the idea is to decrease the overall number of these plays -- "take the head out of the game," as Carollo puts it.


David from Warren, Mich., writes: With the apparent need of northern schools to be able to successfully recruit in the south in order to maintain a high level of football talent, do you see a possibility of the B1G opening a recruitment center(s) in cities such as Orlando, Atlanta, and/or Dallas? B1G recruitment centers located in major southern cities could feature lavishly appointed recruiting lounges which could be shared by all conference member institutions. State of the art audio/visual rooms could be incorporated into such facilities where B1G recruiters would be able to give presentations to recruits. These centers could also possibly include a mini hostel on site for usage by B1G recruiters.These recruitment centers could even feature easily changeable interior decor/logos for all B1G member institutions so that recruiters can quickly customize the facilities prior to the arrival of a recruit. I don't know if such an idea is even legal under NCAA rules, but it would seem to be an interesting way to pool resources among the members of the B1G.

Adam Rittenberg: David, you've definitely given this some thought! It reminds me of baseball teams setting up training centers in Latin America, although this would be league-sponsored rather than team-sponsored. Unfortunately, I think the NCAA would take issue with such a recruiting center. Also, there would have to be extremely clear and strict rules about usage of center so no teams could get an advantage. The center would need an enforcement staff to prevent rules violations. It would be ... interesting to say the least. I absolutely love the concept of all the Big Ten recruiters staying in the same mini hostel. They'd try to kill one another.


Darek D. from Colorado Spring, Colo., writes: I keep hearing you guys talk about Pelini needing to get over the hump. Being a Buckeye fan, I find it very similar to the John Cooper years. I remember a friend laughing at me saying, "How do you fire a coach with that kind of winning percentage?" What stood out to me was that all those wins don't mean anything if you never win the ones you REALLY want. You end the season feeling like you had a losing record. Is it the same situation for the Nebraska fans?

Adam Rittenberg: Darek, that's a really interesting comparison between Pelini and Cooper. There certainly are some similarities (two traditional powers, fans used to championships). One big difference is that Pelini doesn't have a Michigan problem like Cooper did. Nebraska doesn't have one game every year that takes precedence above all others (it used to with Oklahoma). I also think Nebraska fans are, for the most part, realistic about where the program was (mid-1990s) and where it is now. They're not expecting national titles every year, although they do and should expect conference championships, which Pelini has yet to deliver.

It is hard to cut ties with a coach who wins nine or 10 games per season. But man, do losses like Nebraska's Big Ten title game disaster really sting. It makes you wonder if Pelini can get the program to the next level. We could find out this season.


Garrett from Smithfield, Ohio, writes: Where do you think that Ohio State can improve most in the passing game? Is it more about Braxton Miller or is it mostly the lack of quality receivers? Could it also be the pass protection?

Adam Rittenberg: I hate to sound like a coach, Garrett, but it's really all of the above. Ohio State needs more depth at receiver, and not necessarily the game-breaker types, but the reliable targets who can help the high-percentage pass game. Miller has shown he can stretch the field with guys like Devin Smith, but who will be the 65- or 70-catch guy who converts third-and-6? I think Jordan Hall's return could really help Ohio State's pass game, even though he'll also play running back. Another point Meyer made after the season is that Miller, while brilliant on designed runs, wasn't a very good scrambler in 2012. He didn't take off when he should have, and ended up taking too many sacks. Ohio State surrendered 29 sacks in 2012, the third-highest total in the Big Ten. The line needs to improve in protection, but Miller is also part of the equation there. Bottom line: I think Ohio State's pass game will be better this fall. Miller returns, almost all the receivers are back and so are four starting linemen.


Steve from State College, Pa., writes: Saw this in yesterday's mailblog, and was wondering, 17.9.5.1.1 In-Season Foreign Competition. [FBS/FCS] A member institution may play one or more of its countable contests in football in one or more foreign countries on one trip during the prescribed playing season. However, except for contests played in Canada, Mexico or on a certified foreign tour 17 (see Bylaw 17.28), the institution may not engage in such in-season foreign competition more than once every four years. So with this bylaw does this mean that Navy and Notre Dame are completely out of the question for Penn State's possible Ireland game?

Adam Rittenberg: Yes, that seems to be the correct interpretation of the rule. Unless Penn State were willing to wait three more seasons -- which makes no sense since the postseason ban expires after 2015 -- neither Notre Dame nor Navy could be the opponent.


Anthony from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: March Madness is here! Any chance you're going to be at the United Center reporting on the B1G tourney for ESPN? Are you daring enough to put up your predictions after all the regular season battles are over? And can we expect you to and Brian to fill out some brackets? Just because this is the football blog and spring practices are kicking into high gear doesn't mean we can't get your guy's opinion! (even though here in Iowa City, doesn't really feel like spring with a foot of snow on the ground)

Adam Rittenberg: I will be at the United Center next week, although I'll be doing more game-watching -- and football blogging -- than basketball coverage. Check out colleagues Eamonn Brennan and Myron Medcalf for your hoops needs. But I'm really looking forward to it. It's been a great season for Big Ten hoops, although things seem to have dipped a bit in recent weeks. Brian Bennett is definitely the authority for hoops around these parts, but I'll weigh in with my bracket predictions. The Big Ten has been the nation's deepest league all season, but I wonder if there's a lot of good and not much great. It's time the Big Ten won a championship in basketball -- none since Michigan State in 2000 -- and this figures to be the year to do it.