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Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Big Ten mailblog

By Adam Rittenberg

Your questions, my answers. Follow us on Twitter.

Kevin from Aszód, Hungary, writes: Hey Adam, Being an Ohio State Buckeye fan I would like to know why we never see Ohio State vs Louisville or Ohio State vs Kentucky Football games? We almost had one if it wasn't for Rutgers in 2006-2007. I've written to Ohio States President and asked him this same question. All I got back was chirp chirp chirp the sounds of Crickets.Do you see Ohio State scheduling any games against Kentucky teams (hopefully none named Western Kentucky)?

Adam Rittenberg: Wow, an Ohio State fan from Hungary asking about Kentucky and Louisville football? Love it! And thanks for reading us from so far away. For starters, Kentucky and Louisville play one another each year, and like many major-conference teams, they're limited to one non-league game against another major-conference opponent because of budgetary demands. Kentucky typically schedules three cupcakes outside of the Louisville game, mindful of its brutal SEC schedule and its tough road to bowl eligibility.

Ohio State's scheduling model in recent years has been one marquee opponent (home or road) and several smaller, mostly in-state opponents, many from the Mid-American Conference, at The Shoe. That model will remain as the Big Ten transitions to a nine-game league schedule and a three-game non-league schedule. Ohio State wants one blockbuster non-league game and two others that pay the bills and assure it can have at least seven home dates per year. So basically if Louisville and Kentucky want home-and-home series, which I assume they do, they need to put themselves in that marquee category. Kentucky certainly isn't there, but Louisville has reached that level under Charlie Strong after its Sugar Bowl championship. I'd love to see a Louisville-Ohio State series, but there could be some drawbacks. Would Ohio State want to play at Louisville's home stadium, which recently expanded but still only seats 55,000? I also wonder whether Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer would want to square off against his former assistant in Strong.

The bottom line is I don't see either series happening any time soon as Ohio State has series coming up with Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, TCU, Oregon and Texas. Is there room for Louisville? I'd love to see it.

Bud from Columbus, Ohio, writes: I know the B1G did not renegotiate the current ESPN contract with the addition of Nebraska. Will they do so to cover the 2014/2015 seasons to account for the additions of Rutgers/Maryland or wait for the new contract to take effect for the 2016 season?

Adam Rittenberg: Bud, it's my understanding the Big Ten will just wait to do an entirely new deal when the current 10-year contract expires after the 2016-17 sports season. The idea is to enhance the brand as much as possible in the next few years before beginning negotiations for the new agreement. By being last in line, the Big Ten is in position to land the most lucrative TV deal, and the competition in the market also will be ramped up.

Gale from Virginia Beach, Va., writes: I'm fearful Blake Countess will ever be 100% due to his injury? Can he be the playmaker he once was?

Adam Rittenberg: Gale, unless you have some knowledge of a setback for Countess that never made it out publicly, I wouldn't worry too much. Countess sounded optimistic about his progress this spring and moved around very well when I watched him during individual drills at a practice. He didn't rush back too soon and seemed to tackle his rehab well. A lot of players make full recoveries from ACL surgeries and don't lose their speed or strength. Bottom line: I wouldn't worry about Countess. If you're still feeling uneasy, watch this (yep, that's Countess).

Samuel from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Adam, reading your Mailbag, I've seen you twice now mention alumi living out of state being able to make bowl games even if in-state fans can't afford it. I thought the whole point of having bowls in nice sunny places was so B1G fans can get away from the cold for a few days and watch their team. Just wondering, is there some kind of shifting of priorities here that you're hinting at?

Adam Rittenberg: No shifting priorities, Samuel, but the Big Ten has to be strategic in picking its bowl sites. Sure, the main priority is getting fans from the Midwest to nice locations around the holidays to watch their teams. But bowl attendance is down and fewer fans are making trips. Almost any decent Big Ten bowl trip is going to be far from home and expensive. That's just the nature of these games. Although going to California might cost a little more than going to Texas, it's still a long, relatively costly trip around the holidays. You might as well pick locations where there are also large concentrations of Big Ten fans/alumni who can easily attend games. There are some Big Ten fans bases -- Iowa, Nebraska -- that always will travel in force for bowl games from the heartland, but that's not the case around the league. Other schools have larger alumni bases on the coasts who can get to San Diego or New York or Orlando fairly easily. My larger point with the bowl lineup is I'd rather see the Big Ten playing the Pac-12 more -- the leagues have a ton in common -- than so much SEC/Big 12.

Craig from Shoreview, Minn., writes: Adam, I would like your opinion on the job Coach Kill is do at University of Minnesota. I have had the opportunity to go to a number of Gopher practices and think he is on the right track. My biggest concerns is the recruitment of so many borderline division one athletes. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: Craig, there's no doubt Kill can build programs and develop players. Minnesota could develop into one of the nation's better developmental programs. The recruiting question is a valid one as Kill and his assistants haven't recruited at such a high level before. Minnesota isn't loaded with elite in-state talent, which forces the Gophers coaches to expand their recruiting reach. Although Big Ten programs like Iowa, Wisconsin and Northwestern have shown they can win at a high level despite average recruiting classes, Minnesota ultimately needs to bring in a higher-level athlete. It will be very interesting to see how things go on the field this fall and whether that translates into a bump on the recruiting trail.

Tony T. from Renovo, Pa., writes: Hi Adam, after reviewing the 2014 schedule, PSU once again is the biggest loser. As someone who never thought the Lions were a good fit in the B1G, expansion started to change my mind a little bit. I felt like PSU never had a true rivalry game, but Nebraska changed that for me when they joined because of the past history between the teams. That's gone now with divisional realignment. I guess Rutgers and Maryland could be good rivalry week opponents due to proximity/history (albeit one-sided), but Rutgers and Maryland will play the final week against each other. So once again for rivalry week we get MSU, which is normally a good game, but certainly not what I would consider a rivalry game. Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Tony, I understand your disappointment about rivalry weekend itself and the resumption of the Land Grant series, but it's not like Penn State has played Nebraska on that weekend (the Huskers have Iowa instead, while Penn State has played Wisconsin). Although both the Penn State and Nebraska fan bases really like the current crossover game, I don't know if that matchup rises to true rivalry status. Isn't Ohio State a bigger rival for Penn State? It seems that way. And the new division alignment ensures Penn State will play Michigan every year. That's a pretty good rivalry game, too. Although Penn State won't be Michigan's or Ohio State's top rival, I don't know if the Lions would have become Nebraska's top rival, either. You'll see Penn State take on Nebraska fairly frequently because of parity based scheduling, and you'll get Penn State-Ohio State and Penn State-Michigan on an annual basis, plus the resumption of the Penn State-Pitt series in 2016. All in all, not too bad for the Lions.

Chris from Melville, N.Y., writes: Adam - I appreciate your recent post on the difference between the Big Ten and SEC concerning the number of varsity sports in the leagues. However, I find it disappointing that sponsoring more varsity sports is being perceived as a negative. As a Michigan State graduate, I take pride in the accomplishments of all Spartan sports (the NHL playoffs are a great current showcase for the MSU hockey program). I'm a football fan, and I know that this is a football blog, but I don't believe that the Big Ten should sacrifice opportunities for men and women in various other athletic endeavors for the sake of trying to secure a football championship.

Adam Rittenberg: Chris, I don't think Purdue AD Morgan Burke was saying the Big Ten's philosophy about broad-based programs is a negative relative to the SEC and its football dominance. But it's an important thing to point when when the discussing around college football is to constantly compare conferences. There are different models, and while they don't directly lead to SEC dominance and Big Ten struggles on the gridiron, they contribute to results. There are a lot of Big Ten fans who share your view and support the league's approach to athletics and opportunities. The Big Ten will not change this outlook, at least not under the current regime. Still, people look for championships from the Big Ten, and as long as the league keeps falling short, these issues will be spotlighted.