- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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You should already know this, but Big Ten media days begin Monday. The top three teams and preseason players of the year are announced Monday morning, so check the blog early and often. It'll be worth it.
Kurt from Chesapeake, Va., writes: Adam,You mentioned that one of the issues that will be discussed at the Big Ten Meetings will be the possibility of going to a nine-game conference schedule. Why would the Big Ten do this? To me, I see nothing but downfalls to this, including: 1. Big Ten teams will play an un-even number of home and road games, a trend that would be reversed every season. 2. Big Ten teams will have more potential losses, which could and would hurt bowl selections. 3. In the season that a Big Ten team would have five conference away games, there is less likelihood that the team will schedule tough non-conference games, and it would be almost guaranteed that if the Big Ten team does schedule an "A" level opponent, it would have to be at home. 4. Having nine conference games, then that would possibly cut into revenue from eliminating a non-conference game. 5. Adding another conference game would take away from the "prep" non-conference schedule where a team is able to "prepare themselves" for the conference slate. What do you think about this?
Adam Rittenberg: Kurt, do you mind if I copy your photonote and pass it out to the Big Ten coaches on Monday? Because you outline many of the reasons why the coaches might not be excited about the prospect of a nine-game Big Ten schedule. It means six more losses for the league, five conference road games every other year for each team, and most likely fewer bowl appearances. From the coaches' perspective, it's probably not a good idea. But for the athletic directors, it makes sense for a number of other reasons. It eases the burden of nonconference scheduling and likely reduces the number of guarantee games they pay for FCS or lower-tier FBS opponents. More important, it gives the ADs a more attractive home schedule every other year to sell to fans. A schedule with five Big Ten home dates looks a lot more attractive than one including Towson, Eastern Michigan and Arkansas State. Your point about potential lost revenue could be offset by increased revenue from a better schedule. To get the ADs' perspective, check out what Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke told me. Bottom line: a nine-game Big Ten schedule will be discussed next week, and the AD's ultimately have more say here.
Andrew from Madison, Wis., writes: Hey Adam - loving the hope/concern series! Seems like the secondary is a concern for a lot of teams in the Big 10 for this upcoming season. Seems like Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Illinois are all either coming off poor performances last season or lost some major talents in the off season. Is this just a coincidence for this season or is there a specific reason why this position group seems poised to under perform across the big 10?
Adam Rittenberg: Andrew, that's a great observation. The Big Ten retains some great defensive backs like Iowa's Tyler Sash, but secondary could be a weak spot for the league this season. Among the big losses are Iowa's Amari Spievey, Northwestern's Sherrick McManis and Brad Phillips, Michigan's Donovan Warren, Wisconsin's Chris Maragos, Ohio State's Kurt Coleman, Minnesota's Traye Simmons and Purdue's Torri Williams. It'll be very interesting to see how certain groups bounce back. Can Purdue replace all four starters? Will Iowa find a shut-down corner like Spievey? Can Northwestern avoid a relapse? Will Michigan State be younger but better in the back four? We'll find out soon enough.
Dale from San Marcos, Texas, writes: Can I get your personal opinion on RFR running back Jamaal Berry? What are his strengths and how does he measure compared to the other Ohio State backs? For instance when QUIZZ Rodgers arrived at Oregon State, his coach said it took about 3 seconds to know he was a player. Berry didn't even play in the Spring Game for Ohio State after sitting out a year. He's like a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Oh wait that's Russia. I'm perplexed.
Adam Rittenberg: I like the analogy, Dale. As for Berry, Ohio State fans seem to be obsessed with this guy. I've only seen him a few times in practice, and I was neither blown away nor disappointed by him. He was OK. We just have to wait and see if he can make up ground in preseason camp, because right now Brandon Saine and Dan Herron are the bell cows for Jim Tressel. Berry certainly comes in with some impressive credentials, but he's got to stay healthy after nagging hamstring problems last fall and really challenge Saine, Herron and Jordan Hall (don't forget about him) for carries.
Lance from Greensboro, N.C., writes: Welcome back! Two things: When the BT expanded, I thought a championship game was a no brainer. But now I've heard a very intriguing idea - play nine conference games, and schedule the rivalry games on the first Saturday in December. This solves the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" problem with not playing after Thanksgiving, but also avoids the championship loser out of the BCS problem. Plus, some of the rivalry games could prove more attractive than other conference championship games. What do you think? Thanks!
Adam Rittenberg: Lance, I've heard the same idea from people within the Big Ten. You add two bye weeks to the schedule and finish in early December, much like the Pac-10 does right now. There's certainly a contingent of coaches around the country who don't love league championship games, but there's also a ton of support for these events and lots of money to be made. Can a wealthy league like the Big Ten afford to stiff-arm millions and maybe help its second-place team reach BCS bowls every year? Sure. But I still think you'll see a title game when all is said and done.
Seann from Fort Collins, Colo., writes: Hi Adam. Thanks for the updates on the blog. What do you think about the Spartans' recruiting for the 2010 and 2011 classes? It seems like they are doing a better job competing for some of the top talent. A few years ago if you asked a top recruit if he wanted to go to Michigan or Michigan State he probably would have looked at you weird. Now it seems like state is in the mix. Do you think Mark Dantonio has improved the recruiting at state for the long term?
Adam Rittenberg: I really like what Mark Dantonio and his staff have done with local and regional recruiting. It's the right approach, and they've gone about it in a very effective way. Michigan State is consistently putting itself in the top half of the league in recruiting and, in some years, in the top three. I know the Michigan State/Michigan local recruiting debate makes for good fodder, but the truth is both programs have done pretty well and improved themselves. One potential concern for Michigan State is the departure of Dan Enos to Central Michigan. Enos really spearheaded the team's recruiting efforts in the Detroit area, and the other coaches need to pick up the slack.