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Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Big Ten mailblog

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Brent from State College, Pa., writes: Adam, how are home and away distinctions made for bowl games? I noticed that Wisconsin is the only "home" designate in the Big Ten. I was hoping to see Penn State in their home unis against LSU...

Adam Rittenberg: Brent, I did some checking on this, and there's actually no universal formula for determining home and away teams. Each bowl does it differently. If memory serves, the Big Ten was the home team in the Insight, Valero Alamo, Outback and Capital One bowls last year. Wisconsin was the away team at Champs Sports and will be the home team this year against Miami. The only Big Ten bowl that will have a repeat Big Ten away team is the Rose Bowl, as Penn State wore its white unis last year and Ohio State will wear its road threads Jan. 1 (ABC, 4:30 p.m. ET).


Mike from Greensboro, N.C., writes: Adam,Love reading your updates alll season long. I am a die hard Buckeye fan, so I am not a Wisconsin fan who is complaining. However, How did a 9-3 Badger team slip all the way down to the Champs Sports Bowl? I was constantly reading the updates on Non-BCS bowls on Sunday and could not believe that Wisconsin was not offered the Outback and then the Alamo Bowls even though they clearly have a better record than both Northwestern and Michigan State.Don't expect the Big Ten to gain any respect versus the SEC when they send Northwestern to play Auburn. Wisconsin fans travel and the physical smashmouth style of football that they play provides for a much better match up agains Auburn.Your Thoughts?Mike

Adam Rittenberg: The Badgers actually slipped down only one spot, not two. This year, the Champs Sports Bowl selected ahead of the Valero Alamo Bowl, which would have taken Wisconsin if given the chance. But because of Big Ten bowl selection rules, Champs Sports had to take the Badgers because of their overall record. The Outback could have taken Wisconsin, but it picked a Northwestern team that beat the Badgers on Nov. 21. As for the Outback matchup, both Northwestern and Wisconsin are playing pretty well right now, and you could argue NU is the second hottest team in the league behind Ohio State. Everyone counted out the Wildcats last year against Missouri, and they took the Tigers to overtime in a game NU should have won. I do think, however, Wisconsin matches up better with Miami than Northwestern would have in Champs Sports. So if things fall right, the Big Ten could end up with wins in both of those bowls.


KJ from Arlington writes: Hey Adam in case you had not noticed, Jared Odrich was named a first team all-American. This is why people such as you should not have a public voice, because you don't know a damn thing about football. We are all familiar with the anti-Penn State bias in the Big Ten and the media that covers it. Please, go away.

Adam Rittenberg: Odrick with a "k," not an "h." I really don't understand why Penn State fans are up in arms about my view on Jared Odrick. I've given the guy a ton of praise the last few years, putting him in every All-Big Ten team I select. He's the best defensive tackle in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country not named Ndamukong Suh. It's my view that Greg Jones deserved to be Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. That's not knock on Odrick, as both he and Jones were All-Americans. Odrick deserves all the accolades he receives, and he'll be an excellent NFL player. No Penn State bias here, just a realistic view of the league.


Jed from West Lafayette, Ind., writes: Adam, Could you defend your placing of MSU in front of Purdue other than the head-to-head where MSU narrowly defeated Purdue. I believe 7th is just about right to place the Boilermakers, but wanted to know if you think there is any reason as to why they could be placed ahead of MSU. Although Purdue finished outside of a bowl selection, I believe through the entire season they played much better week to week than MSU did. Had Purdue replaced NIU with a doormat FBS team as MSU had, both teams would be at 6-6. Also, where do you think Purdue ranks heading into next season with a lot of parts coming back except for the secondary (which has one of the top secondary coaches in the nation to help them). Personally, I'd say 5th and a chance for a surprise 4th.

Adam Rittenberg: The head-to-head game was a big factor in my final placement, especially since the teams played so late in the regular season. Purdue should have beaten Michigan State, but like so many Boilermakers games this fall, they couldn't avoid major mistakes or breakdowns. If the game had happened a few weeks earlier and Purdue had rattled off three wins to close the season, I would have ranked the Boilers above the Spartans. But both teams went 2-2 down the stretch, and both endured a blowout loss (Purdue at Wisconsin, Michigan State vs. Purdue). As far as next year, I'm very excited about Purdue and the direction Danny Hope is taking the program. Joey Elliott could be a bigger loss than many anticipate, but I like the skill-position talent on offense. The defense is a bigger concern, especially the back four.


Michael from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Hi Adam. A lot is being made of whether or not Ohio State can control Oregon's high-powered offense. While I certainly know Ohio State has had its share of offensive problems, Oregon's defense is ranked behind Navy and Wisconsin's, and close to Minnesota's, all of whom gave up 30+ points to the Buckeyes. What do you think of the optimistic line of thought that Brandon Saine and Terrell Pryor will exploit Oregon's defense? Also, as we saw last year, Coach Tressel seems to open up the playbook given 4 weeks to prepare. Will we see more of the same? Thanks!

Adam Rittenberg: Oregon's defense isn't any great shakes, Michael, and this has to be the game where Terrelle Pryor becomes the difference maker for Ohio State. As strong as the Buckeyes defense has been this fall, it's unrealistic to expect them to hold Oregon below 24 points. Pryor and the rushing attack will need to click for Ohio State to win this game. Jim Tressel clearly had Pryor operate in a more conservative offense down the stretch, but he'll have to open things up a bit against a team like Oregon. Ohio State hasn't seen an offense that remotely resembles what the Ducks bring to the table.