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Friday, July 19, 2013
Big Ten Friday mailblog

By Adam Rittenberg

Wishing you a great weekend. Big Ten media days coming up next week.

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Mochila from Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: Before getting to my question, I wanted to say one thing. Three years ago, I started coming to this blog to spend a little time during work. Since then, I met many interesting people and even found a wonderful woman (a Nebraska fan) with whom I've been together these past two years. I'd like to thank you and Brian for all the hard work you put in despite constant criticism. If this blog wasn't the best, she and I may never have met. So thank you. To my question: which of the four offensive position groups (QB, RB, WR/TE, OL) has the most to prove for MSU?

Adam Rittenberg: Who needs match.com when you've got the Big Ten blog? Just call me Chuck Woolery (two and two ...). Glad to hear of your success in the blog community, Mochila. All four of Michigan State's offensive position groups have a lot to prove this season. Although the quarterbacks will gain the most attention in preseason camp, I'm going with the running backs here. The Spartans have to replace so much production after losing Le'Veon Bell to the NFL draft, and there are no proven options with the group coming back. Several freshmen will be in the mix, and converted linebacker Riley Bullough made quite the impact after moving to running back late in spring practice. Michigan State undoubtedly needs to boost its passing game, but the offense always will revolve around the run game under coach Mark Dantonio. The backs undoubtedly will be under the microscope.


Brian from Atlanta writes: Adam, As one of those fans that doesn't like all the CA bowls, yes, I like adding Nashville. I also like adding NYC and hopefully DC. Frankly, if the money was the same I'd rather drop the Gator Bowl entirely (Jacksonville is terrible) and just have the Music City Bowl.

Adam Rittenberg: Brian, it doesn't look like Washington, D.C., will happen this time around, but New York, Nashville and Detroit certainly provide Big Ten fans some easier bowl travel options. I like the overall variety of the future bowl lineup as opposed to the current one, which is so Florida/Texas/SEC/Big 12-heavy. The Gator Bowl is one I thought could go from the Big Ten's lineup, but the bowl has a long tradition and a traditional Jan. 1 spot, for what that's worth. I've never been to Jacksonville, but I've heard mixed reviews. Just don't tell my guy Rick Pizzo that you're not a fan of The River City.


Michael from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Can we ask the B1G to move Nebraska's game against Wisconsin to the end of the schedule? Since joining all of the Iowa\ NU games have been awful to watch. The NU/UW games have been filled with scoring and bad blood (especially considering the lopsidedness of the two Wisconsin victories). I feel like the (Barry) Alvarez -NU connection and now Eichrost - UW also makes for good drama and that the Huskers have more in common with Badgers.

Adam Rittenberg: Michael, the schedules are set through the 2017 season, and rivalry weekend will continue to feature Nebraska-Iowa and Wisconsin-Minnesota. I like having the Wisconsin-Minnesota game later in the season than it has been in recent years, although you bring up a very valid point about the quality of these matchups. Neither Wisconsin-Minnesota nor Nebraska-Iowa has been a very compelling game as of late. Although two of the three recent Wisconsin-Nebraska games have resulted in Badger blowouts, the other produced a lot of drama last year in Lincoln. And the rivalry potential between the two programs certainly seems real. It's definitely something to monitor, and perhaps the Big Ten will flip the two matchups for 2018 and beyond, pairing Iowa-Minnesota and Wisconsin-Nebraska on that weekend.


Nate from Council Bluffs, Iowa, writes: Despite his eye-catching strength, if he remains healthy through the majority of league play Brandon Scherff will gain attention for his talent as well.What I am wondering is... Why hasn't the media picked up on the fact that Scherff was a QB for two and a half years in high school at Denison and is now a Jr. 2-year starter at left tackle for Iowa.That seems more interesting than when all the broadcasters kept going on about how Greg Bruner lost 20 lbs. one summer by not eating French fries...So... Chad Greenway from QB to Linebacker was an interesting story, but from QB to BCS left tackle is almost unheard of!

Adam Rittenberg: It's definitely a unique transition, Nate, and if Scherff has a big season coming off of injury, I'm sure some will pick up on his backstory. Here's a story I found about Scherff's quarterbacking days, as his high school coach told the Omaha World-Herald: "As a sophomore, he could throw it and he was athletic enough to run it.. And he knew the game. He'd always played it, so the transition to high school quarterback went pretty smooth. As a coach, you always look at what’s best for your football team." Scherff also was a high school pitcher and excelled in the shot put and discus. Former Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg said of him, "He can throw. He looks like he might be able to pop the ball in his hand." Pretty cool story.


Josh from Behind Enemy Lines in Florida writes: What is the deal with this Ohio State/Michigan being discussed as they are THE programs in the conference? Over the last 35 years (not a small sample) Nebraska has won more National Titles than the entire conference combined and has a better record than Michigan the last 10 "bad" years too, yet so much of the talk still centers around OSU/Mich being the "elite". Is it simply because Nebraska is the new kid? Is it great PR because of "The Game"? What gives?

Adam Rittenberg: Josh, you make some good points here. College football discussion typically is shaped by what has happened recently, most likely in the past 10 years if not five. We'd both agree Ohio State has been a superior program to Nebraska in the past decade. That's why the Buckeyes get their due in terms of hype. Michigan certainly isn't the program it once was, and the talk surrounding Michigan has something to do with the program's traditional place among the Big Ten's elite and its rivalry with Ohio State. But part of it also can be attributed to Michigan's recent recruiting surge under coach Brady Hoke. Right now, Ohio State and Michigan are recruiting at a different level from the rest of the Big Ten. Nebraska's recruiting efforts, while not terrible or anything, haven't exactly moved the needle nationally as of late. I also think the discussion around Nebraska and coach Bo Pelini will change once the Huskers win a conference championship. That's why this season is so important for Big Red.


Jerry Fan from Minneapolis writes: What's your prediction for the Gopher FB program looking out 3-5 years? Do you see Minny ever being competitive or do you see more 6-6 seasons at best?

Adam Rittenberg: It'll be very interesting, Jerry Fan. I think Jerry Kill is an excellent coach with a good staff and a good plan. But I wonder whether Minnesota's recruiting efforts will take the step they need to compete better in Big Ten play. Minnesota seems to benefit from being in the West division, but the Gophers likely need programs like Wisconsin and Northwestern to take steps back in order to move into the upper half of the division/league. It might take a few more 6- or 7-win seasons to reach that next level, but I like Kill's track record in turning around programs and developing players. Minnesota's new facilities plan also should position the program well for the future. Minnesota is fighting a lack of recent tradition and a tough location for recruiting, but I think we'll see improvement in the coming years.


Matt from Omaha writes: With no major breaking stories about conference realignment, what better time than now to talk about my proposed idea. I was watching the Premier League Football (Soccer) a while back and being a novice I recently noticed that some teams can drop out of the premier league if they are unable to keep perform at the top level. That got me thinking that maybe our major conferences should do the same. For example, If the B1G were to expand to lets say to 20 teams. Ten teams could be in the B1G and the other ten could be in the ?sub-B1G?. That way if there are teams that do not the meet standards of high play consistently they could still technically be in the conference, but would have to earn their way back. Granted there are a few kinks to work out, but I think it would be a good way to keep competition high in any conference.

Adam Rittenberg: Yeah, just a few kinks, like that whole revenue-sharing thing. It's actually a fun idea and one we sort of explored at ESPN.com back in 2009. We reduced the FBS pool down to 40 teams, and seven current Big Ten teams made the cut: Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State. That said, I don't think there's any good reason for the Big Ten to expand to 20 teams. What good additions are out there? Isn't the league watered down enough at 14? It would be fun to see a relegation system in college football and which teams would be on the bubble each year, but I can't see it ever happening.