Friday, June 7, 2013
Big Ten Friday mailblog
By Adam Rittenberg
Wishing you a great weekend. Be sure to follow us on Twitter.
Dan from Omaha writes: As a Husker fan who watched us get torched by the Wisconsin offense in the B1G title game, I'm a little surprised to not see Wisconsin on your list of triple threat teams. You've got experienced players returning at all key skills positions, unlike PSU who will be starting a brand new QB. And while Wiscy's QB position may be in question, either have big game experience under their belt. [Melvin] Gordon and [James] White are both very viable and dangerous backfield options. Several times Abbrederis has been talked up as one of, if not the best, returning receiver in the B1G, and both he and Pedersen (quadruple threat??) are on Steele's AA teams. Stave/Phillips, Gordon/White, and Abbrederis provide a very potent triple threat, at least in my book. Why the snub?
Adam Rittenberg: Dan, some fair points here. I disagree Wisconsin was snubbed from the list, as we can only include five teams in the poll and I felt the other five were more deserving than the Badgers, who finished 111th nationally in passing in 2012 (156.9 ypg). Sure, Penn State has some major quarterback questions, but the Lions also have better depth at both wide receiver and tight end than Wisconsin, not to mention a pass-oriented, talented play-caller in head coach Bill O'Brien. Wisconsin's quarterbacks have more experience, but I have a hard time seeing one come close to 3,000 pass yards this season. Jared Abbrederis is the team's only real threat at wide receiver, and while Jacob Pedersen is a solid tight end, I like Penn State's overall group more. It came down to Penn State vs. Wisconsin for that fifth spot, and the combination of O'Brien's play calls and Penn State's returning receivers and tight ends trumped what Wisconsin brings back for 2013. Penn State's offense always will have a passing lean under O'Brien, while Wisconsin will remain run-based (as it should be) under new coordinator Andy Ludwig.
FredCoxRocks from Chilly Minnesota writes: Will you be posting the APR scores of the B1G teams? I heard Minnesota took a big jump up, as Jerry Kill promised he would work on. I know in the last few years they were near the line (I believe they even lost some scholarships in the Brewster era).
Adam Rittenberg: Yes, we'll be posting the specific scores for all the teams on Tuesday afternoon (release comes out at 2:30 p.m. ET). Some of the scores already have trickled out, but you'll get a complete list then. You're right about Minnesota taking a big jump up under Jerry Kill, who spoke earlier this week about it. "We were in big time trouble two years ago," Kill said during a Minnesota barnstorming tour event. "I can tell you, we've had four back-to-back semesters of 3.0 [cumulative GPA] or better. We've gotten ourselves out of a hole. And a big reason that’s happened is people working together to help us get out of that hole. We have over half our football team that’s over a 3.0. That's a miracle in where we were at before."
Neil from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Hey Adam, do you think the Big Ten will consider adopting the Pac-12's championship game model? Rewarding the qualifying team with the best record with an essential home game both rewards them for their conference regular season play and postitions a Big Ten team to have a better opportunity to qualify for the College Football Playoff. What are your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: Neil, you certainly aren't the only Big Ten fan who likes the Pac-12's title game model, but I don't see the Big Ten going down this road. For starters, there's concern from several Big Ten power brokers (league officials, ADs) about playing the championship game outdoors. No Big Ten team has an indoor home venue. The bigger thing is the Big Ten views the championship game as a major branding opportunity. It wants to bring in all fan bases, showcase the league and hold several events around the game. Many Big Ten cities couldn't accommodate these types of events. Like the SEC, the Big Ten can afford to have its championship game at a neutral site because its fans are willing to travel. The Pac-12 simply doesn't have that luxury. Its fans don't travel well to bowls, and asking two fan bases to make a trip to a neutral site -- even a great venue like the Rose Bowl -- might be too much to ask. Unless the Big Ten continues to see disappointing attendance in Indianapolis or another neutral-site venue like Chicago, I don't see the league going with campus sites for the game.
Bill from Portales, N.M., writes: Dear Adam, Can we let the Gee issue go? Surely there is something you can report on about Ohio State's football team that doesn't center around an eccentric, loose-lipped University President. Yes, I agree that he has been an embarrassment to the University and the State (and all of us Buckeye fans) however he is not a member of the football team. Those of us who live outside of Ohio and count on your coverage of Buckeye football want to read about the coaches and players. We rely on you to quench our thirst for information on our beloved football team. Thanks for listening.
Adam Rittenberg: Bill, I think the Gee story is pretty much over. That there was so much sports coverage about the retirement of a university president underscores how much Gee has injected himself into the Ohio State football/athletics story during his run as president. And it's impossible to deny the fact his retirement announcement comes days after his comments related to football became public. NBC Nightly News wouldn't have mentioned the story if Gee had retired quietly, with no preceding controversy. We have and will continue to have plenty of Ohio State team coverage, and I agree that's what the blog is mainly about. But Gee wasn't a typical university president when it came to football and public comments, and that's why the situation generated so much media attention, not just from ESPN but from everyone.
Missed New Rivalries from Buckeye Nation writes: Hey Adam, I know the Indiana-Purdue rivalry will be the only protected rivalry starting in 2014, but would the Big Ten have any interest in having protected rivalries for all Big Ten teams even if it could not start until the Big Ten begins a 9-game conference schedule in 2016? Here's a possibility for protected-rivalries:Indiana-Purdue: It's obvious this rivalry must remain since it is an in-state rivalry that has significant meaning to everyone in the state of Indiana. Maryland-Iowa: Of course, this will not will the greatest rivalry but at least it won't be as one-sided as Virginia Tech and Boston College and it gives Maryland another conference rival.Michigan-Minnesota: Yes, this is more of a one-sided rivalry but it's a trophy rivalry game for the Little Brown Jug and it still has meaning. Michigan State-Wisconsin: This is a new rivalry on the rise with 2 powerhouse teams and it should remain that way. Ohio State-Illinois: It preserves the Illbuck, provides a decent rivalry game and gives Illinois another rivalry that would be played annually. Penn State-Nebraska: It keeps an older rivalry alive and it would provide 2 competitive teams. Rutgers-Northwestern: How about a NYC-Chicago rivalry in the Big Ten? And it would provide 2 decent football teams on an annual basis in the big cities. Most of these protected rivalries keeps traditional rivalries which is important to the Big Ten while creating new traditional rivalries for the Big Ten and should be considered for future Big Ten conference scheduling, what's your opinion on this Adam?
Adam Rittenberg: I've never been a fan of protected crossover games, especially when the league gets larger. Protected games across the board hurt the overall schedule rotations for teams and create long gaps in matchups like the one we currently have between Iowa and Illinois (haven't played since 2008). Purdue and Indiana definitely have to play each year, but the other crossovers you propose, while nice rivalries, aren't essential, in my mind. Sure, it's nice to have the Jug game and the Illibuck game every year, but not at the expense of those teams going years and years without playing cross-division foes. The Big Ten feels the same way: it's more important for every league matchup to take place at least once every four years. You won't get that if every team has a protected crossover.
Scott from North Liberty, Iowa, writes: Hi Adam. We hear a lot about the top teams and players in the Big Ten for the upcoming season as voted for the pre-season accolades. Can you name some teams that you think could surprise everyone as well as some players who are waiting eagerly behind an incumbent that could light up the stats if given the chance?
Adam Rittenberg: Starting in the Leaders Division, Indiana could be a surprise team. The Hoosiers certainly improved in Year 2 under Kevin Wilson, and with eight games at home, they should have a good chance to go bowling. The defense always will be a major question mark, but IU has upgraded the talent there and should be very explosive on offense. I'm not sure Penn State will be a surprise team, but those thinking the Lions will crumble under the weight of the NCAA sanctions might be waiting a while. Jerry Kill has a history of producing good teams in Year 3, and while Minnesota plays in the deeper Legends division, it could make some noise if it can build off of a decent bowl performance. As far as players, Melvin Gordon isn't an unknown, but he'll step into a bigger role for Wisconsin this fall. Many in Madison think Gordon has a higher ceiling than any recent Wisconsin running back, including Montee Ball. Purdue's Akeem Hunt is another running back poised for success after an excellent spring. Also keep an eye on Penn State LB Mike Hull. He finally moves into a full-time starting role and could have an excellent year. Also keep an eye on three defensive ends: Michigan's Frank Clark, Ohio State's Noah Spence and Michigan State's Shilique Calhoun.
Max from Toronto writes: Adam, tell Ivan that PA, MI, IL all have fantastic beaches, he should get out more. I've been to Destin, it's a dump!
Adam Rittenberg: Will do, Max, and Ivan can get to those beaches a lot easier from his home in Connecticut. But you can never take the South out of a Southerner, and I think he'll always be partial to Destin. Wonder if the Big Ten ever moves its spring meetings to a beach resort on Lake Michigan?