Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Big Ten mailblog
By Adam Rittenberg
Only a few more of these before the season kicks off. Can't wait.
Don't forget: Twitter!
To the inbox ...
Scott from Williamsport, Pa., writes: Hey Adam, As we gear up for another season, we begin to speak about the Big 10 national perception. Do you think that part of the problem with the Big 10 is that it allows its identity to be wrapped up around OSU and MU? And that is not only from outside the league, but I think people inside the league also have that view. To prove that point I ask a simple trivia question. What Big 10 team has the most bowl wins since 1993? Hint: It's not OSU or MU.
Adam Rittenberg: Just so everyone's clear, I'm assuming you mean MU is Michigan. This is an interesting topic, Scott, and one I've discussed with other writers and even Big Ten officials. Big Ten fans who don't root for Michigan and Ohio State have raised this issue many times on the blog, and there's some truth to the belief that the league identity remains too rooted in those two programs. Here's the problem: the Big Ten actually has had more parity in the past 20 years than any time in its history, as teams like Wisconsin, Iowa, Penn State, Northwestern, Purdue and now Michigan State have made surges. But where has all that parity gotten the league? Nowhere. The national titles still aren't coming, and that's really all that matters with national perception. The SEC's depth has shown up when it counts -- five programs have won BCS national titles -- while the Big Ten's depth hasn't translated well enough in the biggest games.
When it comes to pure perception, the Big Ten might be better off with 2-3 dominant teams that could win the crystal football on a regular basis. It's safe to assume Ohio State would be one. Would Michigan be the other? We haven't seen it too often in the BCS era, but no other team -- Penn State, Nebraska, Wisconsin -- has really established itself as a national title contender. Until that happens, the default perception of the league will focus on Ohio State and Michigan, the two most tradition-rich Big Ten powers. People talk about what they know, and those two programs still represent Big Ten football more than any others.
Steve from Khandahar, Afghanistan, writes: Is there heir apparent to Braxton Miller currently on the Buckeye roster? Of the four freshmen currently on the roster, I have only heard any buzz (sounded like a baby fly) about one, Cardale Jones. Should the Buckeye faithful be getting nervous about not recruiting any highly ranked QBs this past summer? What are the chances Miller stays for his senior year to allow Urban Meyer to grab a top 2015 recruit?
Adam Rittenberg: Steve, this is a fair question as Ohio State needs to start thinking about life after Miller. But I think Miller sticks around for his senior season, as I doubt he'll develop into a can't-miss NFL prospect this year. When I asked offensive coordinator Tom Herman about Miller reaching his full potential in 2013, he replied: "This year? I think it will be really hard because of some of the rudimentary and remedial things we still had to work on going into this year for him to reach his full potential this season." Maybe that's Herman wanting one more year to work with Miller, but I think there's some truth there. As for the future, Jones certainly is a name to watch, but Ohio State hasn't brought in another quarterback who makes major waves nationally. Perhaps J.T. Barrett or 2014 recruit Stephen Collier or someone else steps forward, but you're right about the lack of buzz.
Scott R. from Chadron, Neb., writes: Hey Adam. Just wondering, it's not your ranking, but what are your thoughts on Sports Illustrated having Nebraska as unranked? Not sure if I'm just biased, or if Nebraska really has a shot at being 7-0 at one point in the season. Gotta beat UCLA, but if we do, we could be top 10 by November. Of course, what happens then is going to make or break, particularly playing Michigan in Ann Arbor... but still, unranked?!? And behind Northern Illinois? (No disrespect to them, but SI talks about what a huge challenge Iowa will be for Northern Illinois this season... yet they ranked them ahead of us...)
Adam Rittenberg: I'd be lying if I said the SI rankings didn't raise an eyebrow or two, especially with where they had Michigan State (No. 15) in relation to the rest of the Big Ten. Sure, defense can win championships, but Michigan State has some major questions to address on offense. I agree Nebraska has a great chance to start the season 7-0, and 10 or 11 wins certainly is realistic for Bo Pelini's crew. But in terms of perception, the Huskers left many folks with a sour taste by falling flat in the Big Ten championship game and surrendering 105 points in their final two games. Nebraska is a Top 25 team in my view because of the offense, but there are some uncertainties with Pelini's D. Northern Illinois has 23 wins the past two seasons and brings back a superstar in quarterback Jordan Lynch. I don't have an issue with the Huskies being ranked, but Nebraska should be, too.
Jason from Rochester, Minn., writes: You mentioned in one of your recent mailbag responses that you'd be attending the latest Badgers scrimmage. Anything interesting come out of it?
Scott E. from Barron, Wis., writes: Hey Adam, I saw you on a video from Madison yesterday. Where is our report? How is the team looking? How about the addition to Camp Randall?
Adam Rittenberg: Jason and Scott, you better start following Brian and I on Twitter. I had plenty of scrimmage updates there, including some glowing words about my new man crush, Wisconsin freshman LB Leon Jacobs (get that kid on the field!). Wisconsin's offense looked good for most of the scrimmage, although the defense held out linebacker Chris Borland, defensive tackle Beau Allen and several other key players. The Badgers not surprisingly are loaded at running back -- freshman Corey Clement has extremely quick feet, can change directions in the hole and has the size to pass-block effectively -- and need more bodies at wide receiver and on the offensive line, which won't be as dominant as in years past. I gave Joel Stave a slight edge among the quarterbacks in Monday's scrimmage. Scott, I'm a big fan of the new video board and Wisconsin's facilities upgrades.
PSU Josh from Galesburg, Ill., writes: Hello Adam: Any word on Penn State playing Michigan to start the B1G East football schedule early with their future schedules? It would be great to see Penn State play either Michigan, Michigan State, or Ohio State in September to begin their Big 10 slate yearly in the future schedules!
Adam Rittenberg: I'll check on that, Josh, but I'm all for having conference games in early to mid September to make the Big Ten more relevant. Everyone should prepare for the Big Ten to be a national afterthought this season in Week 1, as there are few matchups that appeal outside the region. Pairing Penn State and Michigan or Ohio State in a season opener or a Week 2 matchup would bring more eyeballs to the Big Ten. I generally prefer marquee division games to take place during the stretch run in November, but I wouldn't be opposed to this idea every once in a while.
Scott from Davenport, Iowa, writes: With Iowa losing their top recruit to Alabama, Don't you think that some of these player that go after championship teams, miss the chance of starting sooner than later. They also miss out on the bigger picture the possibility of going to the NFL. Iowa currently have more offensive lineman playing in the NFL than Alabama does.
Adam Rittenberg: Scott, it's certainly a factor that recruits like Ross Pierschbacher must consider when making their college choices. But if Pierschbacher is as good as some recruiting analysts think, he should be able to start fairly early for any program, including Alabama. Both Iowa and Alabama do an excellent job of getting offensive linemen ready for the NFL. While the Hawkeyes might have more NFL linemen than the Tide, recent years have brought a surge in pro-caliber linemen from Nick Saban's program. Ultimately, Pierschbacher needs to have confidence that he can play on the highest level for the best program or he'll surely fail. We'll have to wait and see if his decision pays off or not.
Stay at home dad writes: When do your chats start again? And can they be during my kids nap time (12:00- 2:00)?
Adam Rittenberg: Chats should be starting up very soon, most likely next week. And I'm shooting for a noon ET chat slot, so it should work for your kids' nap schedule. See, I take care of my fans.