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Big Ten Friday mailblog

10/14/2011

Hope you enjoy the games this weekend. I know I will.

Jason from Madison, Va., writes: Adam, I'm a little confused. You said in a post this week that you predict MICHIGAN to win the Legends Division, yet you posted today that you predict MSU to beat the Maize and Blue this weekend. You seem to be contradicting yourself here. Are you saying that Michigan will lose this game, but somehow win the division? Please elaborate on your thought process here. (By the way, Michigan wins this weekend 31-13.)

Adam Rittenberg: Jason, no contradiction. I see Michigan State winning Saturday and Michigan still going on to win the Legends division. The reason? I don't see the Spartans beating Wisconsin next week, and Michigan State will lose another game along the way. Michigan, meanwhile, has a pretty favorable remaining schedule. The Wolverines must travel to Illinois and Iowa, but they get both Nebraska and Ohio State in Ann Arbor. Listen, these predictions are far from a guarantee as Michigan State has played only one Big Ten game and Michigan only two league contests, but I'm looking at the schedules for both teams, not just who wins Saturday.


David from Baltimore writes: Adam - Love the Blog - Thanks. From the couch it seems that Northwestern has more overall talent than ever. And yet we can't get it done on the field. The coaches seem to panic, get overly emotional about minor details and do more cheerleading than coaching. Is Northwestern just getting outcoached? Pat Fitzgerald is a great guy and kids want to play for him, but he seems to be letting them down on gamedays. What do you think and do you have any words of wisdom for the Wildcat coaching staff? Thanks!

Adam Rittenberg: David, it's a combination of talent, poor execution and yes, getting out-coached at times in games. You don't repeatedly have the second-half performances Northwestern has had this year (Illinois, Michigan) and last year (Michigan State, Penn State) without getting out-maneuvered schematically to a certain extent. There are some trouble spots on defense, and the talent level there needs to be upgraded (and should be, through recruiting), but if Northwestern could execute a bit better, especially on third downs, things wouldn't be nearly as bad as they are. I think the coaches should consider some personnel changes on defense, and you'll likely see some at Iowa. As for cheerleading more than coaching, I don't see it as much. Fitzgerald is a high-energy guy, and Northwestern practices with a lot of emotion, which is good. Fitzgerald has a lot of positive attributes as a head coach, but the in-game coaching and adjusting is still an area where he and his staff have room to grow.


Cory from Omaha writes: Adam, trust me, I know Nebraska's defense has looked awful this season, especially compared to previous ones, but Lavonte David had been the one exception to the defensive woes. He has been a dominant and explosive linebacker. I know I feel he was snubbed not making the Mid Season All American list, do you?

Adam Rittenberg: Cory, I agree Lavonte David has been fabulous for the Huskers' defense this season. He might be the only Nebraska defender performing to the preseason expectations. He was good against Wisconsin and turned the Ohio State game around with the forced fumble. Now was he snubbed from the All-American list? I know David was considered, and few would have argued had he made the rundown. But the three linebackers chosen -- Courtney Upshaw, Chase Thomas and Luke Kuechly -- all are having outstanding seasons. It wasn't a huge snub.


Ethan from Sioux Falls, S.D., writes: Adam, With Mike Stoops out at Arizona and Norm Parker's defense spinning it's wheels since the end of last year, is it time to let Norm go and bring in Mike? Mike played at Iowa and has shown he can command a defense when he was at Oklahoma. Norm's health problems can present problems, he missed a good part of the year last year with diabetes related issues. Is it time to make a change to the coordinators at Iowa? Ferentz has never had to hire a coordinator other then when he came on as coach in 1999 and I applaud his ability to coaches, but maybe it's time for a change.

Adam Rittenberg: C'mon, Ethan, you don't want to get rid of Norm, do you? He's a legend! But you bring up an interesting possibility should Parker want to step down (no indication he does, but his health problems have been well documented). It wouldn't surprise me if Mike Stoops returns to the Big Ten at some stage, perhaps in a head-coaching capacity. He obviously has great affection for Iowa. Would the Hawkeyes be able to pay him? Would he want the job? A lot depends on what other offers are out there, and whether there are any head-coaching vacancies Stoops would want. But it's something to think about when the coaching carousel starts spinning next month.


Chris from New York writes: Adam, everyone is talking about how an undefeated B1G team could/will get left out of the BCS National Championship game if there are undefeated teams in the SEC and Big 12. Let's move onto another scenario. There is only one undefeated team in the SEC and Big 12 combined and Stanford is undefeated with a win over Oregon. First, will Wisconsin (assuming they are undefeated still) find itself behind Stanford in the BCS rankings and continue to be on the outside looking in at he BCS National Championship game? Second, should the Badgers be pulling for Michigan St this weekend (and look for a solid win over a 1 loss team on October 22 or should the Badgers be pulling for Michigan's continued success and hope to play a top 7 Michigan team in the inaugural B1G Championship game? Which scenario would give the Badgers a bigger boost and the best chance to be walking Bourbon Street with a drink in hand?

Adam Rittenberg: Chris, these are some exciting questions. You're getting me geared up for the Rooting Interest posts, which will return soon. I think Wisconsin should root for Michigan State to win this week and for Illinois to keep winning until the Badgers come to town Nov. 19. Michigan State and Illinois don't play one another, so those are the teams that can give Wisconsin true quality victories. Facing an undefeated Michigan team in the Big Ten title game would help, but if the rest of the Big Ten is viewed as weak, it could hurt the Badgers if it's between them and Stanford. The bigger thing Wisconsin should root for, other than a Stanford loss, is for Oregon and Arizona State to lose games. Stanford plays Oregon on Nov. 12 and could meet ASU in the Pac-12 championship game. As a Wisconsin fan, you don't want those to look like quality wins for the Cardinal. Right now, the Big Ten has a stronger computer rank than the Pac-12, which helps Wisconsin if it's between the Badgers and the Cardinal. But the landscape could change week to week.


Carrie from Pittsburgh writes: Talk of JoePa's retirement has been swirling for decades as has the debate of a replacement from within or outside the program. If a program hires from outside, usually the new head coach cleans house and brings in his own coaching staff. If Penn State's next head coach is an outside hire, why would they NOT keep any or all of the defensive coaches (provided they want to stay)? Penn State's defense plays lights out year after year.

Adam Rittenberg: Carrie, a coach usually doesn't take a job unless he's allowed to choose his staff. While most coaches give the previous assistants interviews and sometimes retain a few, the decision typically belongs to the new man in charge. I'm sure defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, defensive line coach Larry Johnson and linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden would be considered to stay on staff, as all three are veteran assistants and are very well respected in the coaching profession. They would also have to weigh their options and see if other opportunities are out there. I'd love to see Bradley land a head-coaching gig, but he loves Penn State and has been in the area for decades. A lot depends, obviously, on the next coach, who his previous defensive assistants have been, etc.


Matt from Ames, Iowa, writes: This week is Iowa's spirit game against Northwestern. I haven't seen much for fan participation beyond wearing a certain color on gameday, but this takes the cake. Do you think it's possible to take it a step further and spell words or draw pictures, pixel art style?

Adam Rittenberg: Sure, Matt, knock yourself out. I love coordinated crowd designs, especially for night games. Just keep it clean. I'll be watching.