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Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Big Ten mailblog

By Adam Rittenberg

Your questions, my answers. Send questions, comments and news tips to me here.

Nick C. from Peoria, Ill., writes: Agree with you about Michigan St. seeming the better fit for the west in terms of competitive balance. My question is why wouldn't the B1G go with this format? It seems like purdue vs. Indiana is kind of a waste of the only protected cross-over game if that was the route they had planned to take when setting the division alignment by geography. The Michigan st./ Wisconsin rivalry had produced some of the best games (football and basketball) the past 4 years and it looks like a nice rivalry is forming between Nebraska and mich state too. With a protected cross-over with Michigan. Would Michigan State really lose out of any rivalry by joining the west? It seems like their "rivalry" with Penn State has never really caught on and Ohio state will always be paired with Michigan. The competitive balance would definitely be less of a question with mich state in the west. Seriously, how could they not go with this idea?

Adam Rittenberg: Nick, when the Big Ten announces the divisions, which we expect to be the same as the proposed ones, I'll try to get you an answer to this question. My suspicion is that the Big Ten didn't want Michigan (and, to a lesser extent, Michigan State), having a weaker crossover rotation in the new model. From the league's perspective, if given a choice between Michigan/Michigan State or Purdue/Indiana playing a limited crossover rotation because of the annual protected rivalry, you'd choose Purdue/Indiana because those schools move the needle less and aren't as appealing to TV as Michigan/MSU. Again, that's my suspicion, but I'll try to find out more for you.




Lance S. from Greensboro, N.C., writes: Am I nuts to see parallels between 2012 Ohio State and the 1993 Auburn Tigers? Both teams went unbeaten while on probation, then, while still good, lost a few games once they came off. Teams on probation obviously have less pressure, plus the regular season is all they have so motivation is strong. OSU deserves tons of credit for going 12-0 last year, but they hardly were a dominant team, with narrow wins over Cal, UAB, Purdue, MSU, and WI. Teams that win all their close games one year often drop a few the next. Obviously a good team, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them drop a couple this year.

Adam Rittenberg: Auburn actually was on postseason probation both in 1993 and 1994, when it went 9-1-1. The Tigers then dropped off to 8-4 in 1995, the first year they could return to a bowl game. I'm not sure the parallel exists between Ohio State and Auburn, but certainly there's a little less traditional pressure when a team isn't playing for a national championship. Also, it's extremely tough for any college team to go undefeated in back-to-back seasons. You're right that Ohio State wasn't a dominant team for much of 2012, and some of those narrow wins against average competition -- along with the Big Ten being down as a league -- likely factored into the Buckeyes being ranked No. 3 rather than No. 2 after the regular season. Ohio State could be a better team this season than last, and the Buckeyes' schedule remains favorable. But it wouldn't shock me to see Ohio State drop a game just because it's so hard to keep winning year after year.




Greg from Philadelphia writes: Hey Adam. After the ACC's recent move, I only have 1 suggestion left regarding expansion: Missouri and Kansas. Missouri is the no brainer because they've already shown interest in joining and fit much better culturally with the B1G than they do with the SEC. However, I'm not sure how Kansas would get out of the Big 12's grant of rights. Still, they would bring an AAU member with great basketball tradition to arguably the best basketball conference in the country right now (Missouri isn't bad either). Now I know basketball isn't what's driving this, but it's still a possibility. This would also allow Purdue to go back to the East and we could simply split the divisions down the time zone line. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: Greg, I think it ultimately comes down to how much the Big Ten actually wants to expand again. Remember, the last expansion was all about bringing in new markets and becoming a true bi-regional conference (Midwest and East Coast). Although Missouri and Kansas also bring in new markets -- most notably Kansas City -- they're not located in a new region like Maryland and Rutgers are. If the ACC is indeed out of poaching play, there aren't many if any attractive expansion options on the East Coast, so the Big Ten once again has to ask itself, is getting bigger any better? I've always thought Missouri would be a good fit in the Big Ten and seems to be out of place in the SEC. Kansas doesn't do much for me because the football program has been erratic, to put it nicely. This isn't about basketball, as much as fans wish it were. Missouri is one to watch in my view, but I'd be surprised if another Big Ten expansion doesn't include a team closer to the East Coast.




Jason from Richmond, Va., writes: Adam, any date for release of Big Ten prime time schedule?? It was a year ago(4/24) that the 2012 came out, always looking to plan those trips, especially now that November night games are being considered

Adam Rittenberg: Jason, I know it's in the process of being finalized between the Big Ten, ABC/ESPN and the Big Ten Network. It could be any day now, and if you check the blog often, you'll be the first to know. Although November night games will be a reality in the Big Ten in the future, they might not be part of this year's schedule because of the selections made by the television partners. There are a of appealing games in September and October. Stay tuned.




Oliver from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Is it me or has the conference bent over backwards for Wisconsin with regards to scheduling? They drop MSU and Nebraska in 2013, haven't played Michigan in years, played only 2 road night games during the BB era (yet hosted many) and don't get me started on the new divisions. My theory; the BIG needed to prop somebody up over the past few years as the conference suffered on and off the field. If there isn't conspiracy a foot, can you tell me why the special treatment?

Adam Rittenberg: Oliver, that's an interesting theory because many saw Wisconsin as the team getting the short end of the stick during the Big Ten's initial division alignment. The Badgers lost their annual series against Iowa, one of the most competitive long-term rivalries in all of college football. Their crossover schedule the past two seasons included Nebraska and Michigan State, two of the league's stronger teams. Sure, there's been a gap in the Wisconsin-Michigan series, but there are similar gaps with other pairings (Iowa-Ohio State) around the league. And the night games thing is more about TV than anything else. Night games at Camp Randall Stadium are awesome, better than almost anywhere in the country. TV loves them, so Wisconsin gets them. That's not a conspiracy if you ask me.




Vanilla Go-Rilla from Kansas City, Mo., writes: Hi Adam. Love the blog, keep up the good work...just add more Hawkeye coverage. My question is about Penn State. When discussing division alignment it seems like Penn State is always discussed as a major conference power. I'm too lazy to check the numbers, but it just doesn't seem that they challenge for conference titles more than any other mid tier team since they joined. Would you please tell us how many conference titles that they have either outright or shared since they joined the league? Would you please compare those numbers with the other conference teams so that we can see where they truly stack up against everyone else? Maybe this will curb some of the talk of how unbalanced the divisions are.

Adam Rittenberg: Vanilla, Penn State certainly hasn't been the force many thought it would be when it joined the Big Ten in 1993. The Nittany Lions won the Big Ten outright in 1994 and shared titles in 2005 and 2008. The 2005 and 2008 titles since have been vacated. Here are the total league titles for other teams during the past 20 years (1993-2012):

Ohio State -- 9 (three outright, six shared)
Wisconsin -- 6 (three outright, three shared)
Michigan -- 5 (two outright, three shared)
Northwestern -- 3 (one outright, two shared)
Iowa -- 2 (both shared)
Illinois -- 1 (outright)
Michigan State -- 1 (shared)
Purdue -- 1 (shared)

So Penn State hasn't been a world beater in the Big Ten. A solid program, yes, but not a powerhouse. Neither has Michigan in the past decade. You bring up a good point with your comment, that things are cyclical and change over time. A lot of people are putting Michigan State in the Big Ten's upper echelon, a place where Iowa found itself not long ago. Other than Ohio State, no Big Ten program has been truly dominant for a long stretch in recent years. Although the East division certainly will be stronger in some seasons, it should even out over time.




Kirk from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Adam, Your article on Brock Vereen was wonderful all the way around. I'm a lonely Gopher fan in Iowa but am really, really excited about Jerry Kill, his staff and his players at Minnesota. I watched Hayden Fry turn Iowa around when he was about fifty and with the staff he brought with him from North Texas. Many of Fry's assistants will join him in the college football hall of fame (e.g., Barry Alvarez--already there--Bill Snyder, Bobby Stoops and so forth). Kill's staff can never be that good but he and his people are solid. Is there any way you can see Minnesota winning eight or nine games in 2013?

Adam Rittenberg: Kirk, thanks for the kind words. Brock is a great guy, and he should be an excellent leader for Minnesota's secondary this season. You make an interesting link between Fry at Iowa and possibly Kill at Minnesota. Staff continuity has been a big part of Kill's success at other stops, and he's continuing the trend at Minnesota, one of two FBS schools (along with Northwestern) to feature no coaching changes in the past three offseasons. Minnesota could see its wins total rise from last fall (6), but it will need to identify more playmakers throughout the offense and solidify the back seven on defense. I think the defensive line will be a strength, and the offensive line, if healthy, could be, too. Right now, there are a few too many question marks -- combined with a really tough division -- for me to predict Minnesota will win eight or nine games. The Gophers must once again run the table in non-league play -- San Jose State won't be easy -- and get at least a split at home in league play (Iowa, Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin) to have a chance at eight or nine wins. I still think Minnesota is a year away, but we'll see.