Big Ten: John L. Smith

Big Ten lunch links

January, 17, 2013
1/17/13
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I'm gonna fight him. I'm gonna fight him up real nice.
Five lessons from the week that was in Big Ten football.

1. There's no stopping Nebraska now: The Cornhuskers were absolutely dominant against Minnesota, racing out to a 38-0 lead before resting their starters in the fourth quarter. That was the kind of complete performance we've been looking for from Nebraska, and while the Gophers are not to be confused with one of the Big Ten's best teams, the fact that the offense limited mistakes and the first-string defense pitched a shutout shows that this team is on the upswing. With as bad as Iowa looked Saturday (and, for that matter, the previous four Saturdays), it would take something really absurd for Nebraska to lose in Iowa City on Black Friday. This team is heading to the Big Ten championship game to face a Wisconsin club it has already beaten, and if Taylor Martinez keeps leading the way he has, it will go on to the Rose Bowl. The Huskers' only losses this season were to 11-0 Ohio State and a UCLA squad that just beat USC to win the Pac-12 South. Not bad at all for Bo Pelini's team.

2. Ohio State is doing something special: There are two undefeated teams left in the country: Notre Dame and Ohio State. The losses by Kansas State and Oregon proved just how difficult it is to go through a season unscathed. The Buckeyes might not have played the strongest schedule in the country, but they still deserve praise for figuring out how to win every week. Saturday was a great example, as Braxton Miller had his first off game of the year, throwing for only 97 yards and rushing for just 48 against a stout Wisconsin defense. Ohio State mustered just one offensive touchdown in regulation on the road. But when overtime came, Miller worked some magic to help the Buckeyes escape for their 11th win of the year. That counts for something, on a day when other top Heisman Trophy candidates struggled and lost. The Buckeyes still must beat Michigan in the finale, which will be no easy task. But if so, they could find themselves as possibly the only undefeated team in the country when the dust clears. That would have Ohio State fans forever wondering what might have happened if the school had self-imposed a bowl ban last year. But there will be no doubt that it was a special, extremely rare accomplishment.

3. Michigan's future looks bright with Devin Gardner at QB: Denard Robinson has been the face of Michigan's program for the past two and a half seasons, and most figured the Wolverines would take a step back on offense after his graduation. The Wolverines couldn't do anything offensively against Nebraska after Robinson aggravated a nerve issue in his throwing elbow. If only Devin Gardner had been ready to step in at Memorial Stadium. Gardner has been brilliant since moving into the starting role, and he turned in an unreal performance Saturday against Iowa. The junior accounted for six touchdowns, running for three and throwing for three, as the Wolverines routed the Hawkeyes to remain perfect at home for the second straight season. He led six consecutive touchdown drives midway through the game. Gardner's presence has allowed Michigan to maximize its talent at receiver, as Jeremy Gallon, Roy Roundtree and Devin Funchess all contributed Saturday. Although Robinson, who started at tailback, is getting healthier, it's clear the future is now for the Michigan offense with Gardner, who provides the balance the Wolverines have been seeking. It'll be interesting to see how he performs this week against a much better defense in The Game, but the long-term outlook for Michigan's offense looks extremely bright, especially if Gardner gets another year of eligibility from the NCAA.

4. Northwestern has developed resiliency: After a heartbreaking loss on the road last week at Michigan, you could have understood if the Wildcats would have had a letdown at Michigan State on Saturday. And once Venric Mark and Kain Colter both left the game in the second half with injuries, the Wildcats had some major work cut out for them against an outstanding Spartans defense. Despite being outgained by more than 100 yards and scoring only one offensive touchdown, however, Northwestern showed major grit by pulling out a 23-20 road win. It did so by causing four turnovers and getting strong defensive performances from Ibraheim Campbell and David Nwabuisi. After all three of the Wildcats' difficult, come-from-ahead losses -- Penn State, Nebraska and Michigan -- they have followed it up with a win the next Saturday. For a young team to show that kind of resiliency is impressive. (Compare that to Michigan State, which just can't get over the hump on a weekly basis.) Instead of lamenting what might have been in those defeats, it's time to celebrate Pat Fitzgerald's bunch, which is a win over woeful Illinois away from a 9-3 season.

5. Home-field dominance no longer there for Badgers, Spartans: Wisconsin and Michigan State took steps toward college football's upper echelon the past two seasons thanks in large part to dominant play at home. The Badgers' success at Camp Randall Stadium is hardly new, yet Wisconsin entered the season on a 16-game home win streak, the second-longest in the country behind LSU. Michigan State, meanwhile, swept its home schedule in each of the past two seasons, including two wins against Wisconsin. But both teams have taken a step back this fall and stumbled where they've been at their best. Wisconsin couldn't translate yards into points against Ohio State and dropped its second consecutive home game for the first time since 2008. It's even worse for Michigan State, which fell 23-20 to Northwestern and went 0-4 in Big Ten home games for the first time since 2006, John L. Smith's final year as coach. At some point, you stop becoming the best [insert record] team in the country and you become a major disappointment. Michigan State deserves the label after making far too many mistakes at Spartan Stadium. While Michigan State and Wisconsin have lost their home dominance, Michigan has reclaimed it under Brady Hoke. The Wolverines have been perfect at the Big House in Hoke's first two seasons.

Big Ten lunch links

July, 5, 2012
7/05/12
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Hope you had an exciting 4th. Just be happy you weren't in San Diego.

Sounds like a story for Ron Burgundy and Channel 4 News Team.
As part of ESPN.com's Hate Week, we asked you on Tuesday to vote for the most hated coach of all time in the Big Ten.

Now to wrap up Hate Week -- and we promise it's only going to be love from now on in this space (ahem) -- here are some of your comments on that topic. Let's conclude the Haters' Ball with a bang.

Philip from Iowa writes: No question it's Jim Tressel. First, he wins a lot of Big Ten Championships so naturally everyone else hates him for that. Second, he lost twice in a row in the National Championship, embarrassing the conference on the national stage -- and it hasn't yet been rebuilt. To make matters worse, the 2 games were 1 where OSU was the overwhelming favorite (against FL) and the other was to a 2 loss team (LSU)! Finally, there is the Terrell Pryor saga that happens while Tressel puts out a book called "The Winners Manual for the Game of Life" There is no contest, every school in the Big Ten, including many OSU alums and fans, hate Jim Tressel. Not many coaches can manage that.

Bert from Portland, Ore., writes: Most hated Big Ten Coach.Bo Schembechler. I attended Northwestern during 1975-79 and the football program won five games during that time (with an infamous 0-0 tie agaisnt Illinois). Woody Hayes would bring his team to town and in the post-game conference at least say that Northwestern played hard. Schembechler would complain that Northwestern did not belong in the Big Ten and that Michigan did not make enough money when it played in Evanston. He was a jerk of the worst kind. I remember watching the Homecoming game in 1978 when, during a rout, Northwestern managed to score a touchdown on a trick play embodiment of a fake punt fairly late in the game. Schembechler started screaming at his players and looked like he was on the verge of having a heart attack. The Northwestern fans started chanting "Rose Bowl! Rose Bowl!" In fact, Schembechler was probably the only man in the world who could make me root for USC in the Rose Bowl (which beat Michigan that season). Woody could be gracious in victory and even humble in own way. Schembechler could accomplish neither.

Logan D. from Saginaw, Mich., writes: The most hated coach in the B1G, or who should be the most hated coach, is without a doubt Bret Bielema. The guy just radiates egotism. All you need to do is type his name into Google followed by "is" and you will know exactly what he's like from the suggested words. As a Michigan State fan, I'm not sure if I have ever been angrier with a coach than I was at the end of last year's Big Ten Championship game. After Wisconsin's punter made his Oscar-worthy dive to seal the game, I don't know if I've ever seen a coach as outwardly exuberant as Bret was in that moment. You would have thought his team just scored a touchdown on the most miraculous play in history. I don't know another coach that would be as excited over seeing a yellow flag in the backfield. Plus, not that the guy is in need of an ego-boost whatsoever, but what compels you to put up 70 on Austin Peay and 83 on Indiana? We get it. You can score a lot of points against bad teams.

Brad W. from Philadelphia writes: Most hated coach? Hayden Fry. Unsportsmanlike, completely ungracious, score-runner-upper, never giving the opposition any credit, moronic 3rd-grade stuff like the pink locker room ... just an unpleasant, vicious old man. Could never beat his butt often enough. Runners-up: Earle Bruce, Mike White.

Rich H. from Wayne, N.J., writes: Most hated coach ever? Woody Hayes without a doubt. Surly, unprofessional, a hick, temper tantrums and unpolished. Dial up an automatic loss in almost every bowl game he coached. Track record of more NFL busts than any program sans Nebraska. Unimaginative offense; never changed with the times either. Never scheduled a tough out of conference game regular season without a 2-1/3-1 deal. His famous bout with Ref Jerry Markbreit on the sideline circa 1971? Should have been fired right then and there. Of course 1978 vs Clemson and Mr. Baumann will live in infamy and is the most embarrassing complete breakdown of any major head-coach EVER and televised on national TV to boot. Good thing he wasn't around in today's day and age - that dooming episode would have gone virile in 20 seconds. Yet alums adore this basic jackwagon, go figure. Did I mention his graduation rate? Less than 70%. Should I continue? Nah, jury rests...

Paul from Johnstown, Pa., writes: Love the Hate! I nominate two coaches, one current and one former. First, Bret Bielema...a totally spineless, classless jerk. Runs up the score. Goes for 2 late in the 4th Qtr with games in hand. Whines, whines, whines, whines like a 5 year old. Loses to TCU with a completely loaded team. Makes tacky comments about how great it is to be a Badger fan when questioned about the situations at PSU, OSU and UM. Sprints across the field like a tool to shake hands quickly with opposing coach in total disprespectful fashion .Second, Bo Scumbechler ... yes, "Scumbechler." As a PSU fan, I have an obligation to hate this man for the lack of class he showed when PSU was brought into the B1G. His comments and efforts to exclude PSU and/or to make PSU's admission into the conference unwelcoming still boils my blood.

Danny from Davenport, Iowa, writes: Adam, as a Hawkeye fan it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep from hating Pat Fitzgerald. He may not be on the radar much outside of Iowa City and his body of work may leave some to question this hatred for PF. But, look at this from an Iowa fan standpoint. PF is a whiner and a coward. Take last year, for instance. PF hid behind one of his own players while that player took heat for admitting to the world that Pat Fitz hated Iowa with a passion. One cannot help but think that this is hostility boiling over from the injury incurred during a game when PF was still in pads. Grow up and get over it. Then, there was PFs whole twitter controversy, or should I say the "director of football operations" twitter controversy while he was "accidentally" logged into PFs account. SURE, man up.

Mark from Oklahoma City writes: John Cooper. I was born in Ohio in 1986. Growing up and watching the pain and anguish that John Cooper put on my father's face Saturday afternoons in late November during the 90s was enough to make me despise him. Interestingly, it's during the same period I grew to despise Lloyd Carr. I hated him more at one point until I went to Ohio State during the Jimmy T era which he spent a good amount of time of beating the same Lloyd Carr into "retirement" which cemented Cooper as my most hated coach. Go back to Arizona State, take Gene Smith with you. Give me a coach from Ohio.

Shawn from Minneapolis writes: You gotta admire talent, so I'm not picking on anyone who won, not even those [REDACTED] coaches from Michigan. Most hated B1G coach: Tim Brewster, with a pathetic record of (*googles* ... cripes it didn't feel like that many wins) 15-30 in FOUR LONG YEARS. Long live Coach Kill!

Zach from Lincoln, Neb., writes: In regards to your most hated coach ever...Can the worst coach not have ever coached in the B1G? I think universally, Bill Callahan (excuse my french) is the dirtiest word that can be spoken in 'sker country.

Joe P. from Chicago writes: My most hated Big Ten coach ever is John L. Smith. As a Spartan fan, it was bad enough getting regularly slaughtered by our rivals (and inferior programs like Indiana), but he made our program into a punchline. God Bless Dantonio.

Chris from Wisconsin writes: As soon as Urban Meyer entered the B1G he instantly became the most hated coach of all time. As a Badger fan, I didn't even really hate any coaches in the Big Ten over the years but wow do I hate Urban Meyer and I can't even figure out what it is. I can't stand the guy and he has yet to coach a game at OSU hoping Bielema runs up the score on him for many years to come "and for Urban many is about 3 which is how long I expect him to stay at OSU.

Robert V. from West Bloomfield, Meechigan, writes: Most Hated Big Ten Coach:Wayne Woodrow Hayes.

Travis form Midland, Mich., writes: As a Michigan fan, I would have to say I hate Jim Tressel the most. I was not alive during the 10-year war between Woody and Bo, so I don't hate Woody as much as some other Michigan fans. The biggest reason I hate Tressel the most would be the violations. Before "tattoogate" broke, I hated him, but I respected him for running an honest program. After the NCAA violations, I hated him and I lost most of my respect for him. Personally (and this might be my Michigan fan bias), I believe Ohio State went beyond just the tattoos. I believe that there were rule infractions as early as Maurice Clarett. To sum it up, I hate Jim Tressel because, 1. He coached at Ohio State, 2. He was extremely successful against Michigan, 3. He turned his back to NCAA violations and is labeled a cheater in my mind because of this. My second least favorite coach might just be Jerry Sandusky, for obvious reasons.

John from New Hampshire writes: Easy question: Lloyd Carr hands down without a doubt. His sideline ranting made it even easier to just despise Meeechigan. His BS screaming for more time on the clock won him a miracle game about five years ago when Penn State was in the Big House and winning till Lloyd's crying got the refs to make a historically insipient call, giving undue time on the clock and giving those hideously clad (...that bright yellow....) chumps the game - and costing my beloved Nittany Lions perhaps a perfect season.

Big Ten mailblog

April, 24, 2012
4/24/12
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Thanks to those who sent in opinions on the Joe Paterno stadium/field naming issue at Penn State. I've included several at the bottom of the mailblog.

Let's get going.

Bill T. from Ottawa, Ill., writes: As a Purdue Alumnus I have watched in agony over the past several seasons as Purdue fell short of all our fans' expectations. I find it absolutely frustrating that Danny Hope claims he is going to use Terbush and Marve this upcoming season...again. Don't you think that it destroys the momentum of the team offensively and also shatters the confidence of both quarterbacks? Additionally I have read all the buzz about how we are a sleeper team in the Big Ten. I would really like to express that we have traditionally struggled against Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State (even at the height of the program at the turn of the century). What makes you guys think this year is going to be different? We have returned a ton of starters before and sputtered (2004 and 2005). Do we really deserve sleeper status?

Adam Rittenberg: Bill, I certainly understand the philosophy that two quarterbacks equals no quarterbacks. That said, I'm interested to see how Hope employs his signal-callers when all three, including Rob Henry, are healthy. He always has had a lot of confidence in Robert Marve, and Marve hasn't been healthy during his time at Purdue. If Marve plays to his capabilities at 100 percent, I'd imagine Purdue will stick with him at quarterback. The wild card in my mind is Henry, who had an excellent offseason in 2011 and would have been the starter if not for his own knee injury. As for the sleeper status, the Leaders division is wide open and Purdue returns nine starters on both sides of the ball. Purdue also has shown flashes of taking the next step, particularly with its two victories against Ohio State under Hope. Now I'm hardly sold on the Boilers, who make too many major mistakes in all three phases to consistently win against upper-tier teams. But if Purdue can get more consistent in its play, it can do some damage. Talent doesn't seem to be the issue in West Lafayette.


Adam from East Lansing, Mich., writes: As a Michigan State fan, when I heard JLS was hired at Arkansas I was in shock. This is the last person I would ever hire to drive a top 10 team to an SEC title. JLS has been known to blow it with good teams and although he gave MSU a pulse and hope to start a season, we would always blow it in some fashion. From the biggest comeback ever (at NW) to the Ohio State FG and Notre Dame night game collapse, JLS has proven he is not a steady coach. I guarantee you this though, they will beat Alabama or LSU at home for a program victory (but then somehow lose to Vanderbilt at home the following week). Do you think JLS can finally be a steady coach?

Adam Rittenberg: Adam, you bring up some excellent points here. While I understand why Arkansas went with John L. Smith, who brings years of head-coaching experience not found among the remaining assistants, I completely agree with you about the unsteadiness of his personality. He's a treat to cover and always provides great sound bytes, but his colorful personality has reflected in his team's play, at least at Michigan State. Now John L. had success elsewhere, namely Louisville, but the fragility of his teams at Michigan State cannot be overlooked. Arkansas is an extremely talented team with some veteran leaders, but the players have been on an emotional roller-coaster after the Petrino scandal. I would think they'd be better served by a coach known for his steady demeanor, rather than one best remembered for slapping himself and going ballistic during a halftime interview at Ohio State.


Michael from St. Louis writes: Nebraska just received a verbal from a kid named Courtney Love. How long before the Hole/Nirvana jokes get really old?

Adam Rittenberg: It will be a tough call between Courtney Love and Taco Charlton for the captain of our all-name recruit team for 2013. It's too bad both Courtney Love and recent Wisconsin recruit Hugs Etienne both play defense. That would be a fun matchup. Oh well, whatever, never mind.


Samuel from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Adam, just started reading your post on Gene Smith and Urban Meyer and I had to stop to get a question in. Smith ONLY attended three practices this spring? Smith will be a fixture on the sidelines in August? Am I only the only who isn't very comfortable with an AD spending so much time on, let alone being so CLOSE to, one of his programs? I realize football is the cash machine, so it consumes most of his time. But it seems to me a heathy distance from the football program is necessary for an AD to be an objective chief executive officer.

Adam Rittenberg: Sam, while I see what you're saying, I don't think Gene Smith is too involved with the football team by attending practices. Keep in mind he's a former football player himself, so he has a unique connection to the game and to the players. I agree that ADs must be careful not to micromanage or be too involved in one of their programs, even if it's their most important sport. But I don't think Smith is crossing that line. It's also important that he keeps tabs on things after the NCAA situation, something he and Ohio State never want to go through again. There definitely have been instances of ADs meddling with football, even in the Big Ten, but I don't think Smith is overstepping his bounds.


Mike from Superior, Wis., writes: Hey Adam, when I'm reading this blog and I see schools like Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, even Minnesota, scheduling high profile, or at least higher profile non-conference games against really good opponents, it makes me wonder why does a school like Wisconsin fail to do the same with it's non-conference schedule? I don't understand why they wouldn't want to do the same to increase their exposure more and have a shot at getting some serious quality wins. Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Mike, this isn't a new issue for Wisconsin fans, but it remains a point of contention in Badger Land. I don't get the sense Barry Alvarez is going to dramatically upgrade the Badgers' non-league schedule as long as he's AD. Wisconsin got a bit unlucky with teams like Oregon State, which has been pretty decent until recently, but you don't see the "wow" games nearly enough with the Badgers. I do like that Wisconsin recently added a home-and-home series with Washington, part of the Big Ten-Pac-12 partnership. But it'd be nice to see more. We've heard about potential games with teams like TCU and Notre Dame in recent years, but they haven't come to fruition. While Wisconsin isn't exactly struggling for exposure, it could certainly benefit from a few more showcase opportunities.


John from Prince William County writes: Adam, while the Big Ten clearly has underperformed since 2000 as opposed to the pre-BCS years when it was indisputably the top conference in the country every year from 1992 to 2000, you exaggerate the fall off. While not as dominant as it was, the Big Ten has been the best conference in the country during the BCS era just as it was prior to and is the nation's top conference more often than not.

Adam Rittenberg: Wow, John, and I thought your Penn State comments were insane. How is the Big Ten the nation's best conference in the BCS era? One national title and three Rose Bowl wins in 14 years. How is that exaggerating the drop-off? Those are the facts. The Big Ten isn't the nation's worst major conference by any means, and there are some inherent disadvantages the Big Ten faces regarding bowl locations, etc. But c'mon. The Big Ten isn't the league it was in the mid to late 1990s. The Big Ten is typically a top-3 conference with the SEC and Big 12 or Pac-12. But it will take several national titles for the Big Ten to claim to be the nation's top league again.

Now for some thoughts on Joe Paterno and Beaver Stadium ...

Bernie from Princeton, N.J.: If the university wants to do the right thing in honoring Joe Paterno they will name the field or stadium after him WITHOUT the family signing off on the gesture. The university, specifically the Board of Trustees, acted in a tremendously dishonorable fashion during a very difficult time, but that does not proclude them from being held responsible by the Paterno family if they choose to take some sort of legal action at a later date. The university is trying to save face with the alumni and Paterno family rather than doing the right thing.

Alex from Henry, Ill.: Adam, I may be a UT Longhorn fan, but i am a constant reader of all the blogs here on ESPN.com. Joe Paterno was the face of Penn State up until his dismissal from the university. I think that Beaver Stadium should eventually be named Joe Paterno Stadium, but it should not be for a reason as silly as to avoid a law suit. It should be named after him because of the forty-five years that he was the head football coach and not to mention the fifteen more he was an assistant. Sixty years at the same university is unheard of in this day. It should be because of the 409 wins including 24 bowl wins. If you aren't going to rename it because of his achievements on the field, do it for his achievements off the field. He donated A LOT of money to the university.

Mike from Allentown, Pa.: Hi Adam,Regarding the Stadium/Field naming. As a Penn State Alumni I think the idea of "Paterno Field at Beaver Stadium" is a bit outlandish. Nobody will remember that as the full name, and if you need evidence just ask a Florida State fan. How many times to you hear "Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Walker Stadium"? Hardly ever. I think the library having his name is good, but maybe they could add another building possiblye one frequented by English majors? That, or they just rename the whole stadium, like Alabama, to Beaver-Paterno Stadium. However, if they do not rename any buildings/stadiums, I don't think it that takes away from everything Joe did for 62 years. His name is on the library, and really he cared more about books than wins.

Howard from New York: Joe Paterno did so much more for Penn State than just create a college football brand. He was about education, charity and then football. Look at the former players that have come to his defense. Not a single bad word mentioned from any former coach or player. The stadium should be named after Joe for the fans who loved him. That would be the library and the stadium..that's a first. Enough said.

Jerry from Kelayres, Pa.: I don't know about renaming Beaver Stadium. If the fans want it, fine. But for the board to use this offer to ameliorate the family for slandering JoePa, is just buying the Paterno family favor.The facts are on Paterno's side. He was unjustly associated with somehow enabling Sandusky to do what he is accused of. A clear view of the facts show JoePa is innocent and could harm no one let alone innocent young boys.JoePa's reputation must be clear first before they do anything to justly honor JoePa.

Big Ten lunch links

April, 24, 2012
4/24/12
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Bye, bye, Blackhawks. You made this mess, Stan. Time to clean it up.
Slap yourselves, Spartans fans: John L. Smith is expected to become the new interim head coach at Arkansas.

Colleague Joe Schad reports that Smith, fired from Michigan State in November 2006, will be introduced Tuesday in Fayetteville as the surprising choice to take over for Bobby Petrino with the Razorbacks. He agreed to a 10-month contract with Arkansas, where he served as special-teams coach the past three seasons before leaving for the top job at Weber State. Coincidentally, Petrino succeeded Smith at Louisville after Smith left for the Michigan State job. The circumstances are very different now, but still notable.

Former Ohio State assistant Taver Johnson had been serving as Arkansas' head coach since Petrino's firing earlier this month.

Smith went 22-26 at Michigan State. He won Big Ten Coach of the Year honors during his first season in 2003, but he oversaw midseason collapses in both 2005 and 2006 that sealed his fate at the school. His most memorable moments: slapping himself in a news conference after a loss to Illinois and a halftime meltdown at Ohio State, when Smith famously told ABC's Jack Arute, "The kids are playing their tails off, and the coaches are screwing it up!"

Smith remains one of the more colorful characters in coaching. I'll never forget seeing him playfully shove the Lansing State Journal's Joe Rexrode after a win at Notre Dame. He also has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, has run with the bulls in Spain and has skydived over Indiana.

I'm guessing Michigan State fans, thrilled with their current coach Mark Dantonio, had a few laughs today when they heard about the John L. news.

How do you think he'll fare in Fayetteville? He inherits an extremely good team.

Who knows? Maybe we'll see Michigan State and Arkansas matched up in a BCS bowl game this year. That'd be fun.
Michigan StateHunter Martin/Getty ImagesAfter notching an 11-win season in 2010, the Spartans face the challenge of following up, something the team has had trouble with in the past.
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- They'll never forget "Little Giants" and "Mousetrap" around here.

They'll never forget the team-record 8-0 start or the team-record 11 wins. They'll never forget the way Michigan State endured after coach Mark Dantonio's heart attack, or the way a program known for crumbling in the face of adversity repeatedly overcame it.

Sure, Michigan State's storybook season had a very crummy ending. The Capital One Bowl loss showed that the Spartans haven't arrived. Not even close.

But the Big Ten championship banner unveiled a week ago at the Skandalaris Football Center is never coming down.

Michigan State made history in 2010. The Spartans now face a bigger challenge: repeating history.

"I was told in the winter by our strength coach [Ken Mannie] that this program hasn't [had] back-to-back eight-win seasons in a long time," senior quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "To have sustained, continued success is something this program has been lacking. There have been good years and there's been great tradition, but to do it year in and year out really hasn't been there for a long time.

"We need to change that."

To specify the stat Mannie told Cousins, the Spartans haven't recorded consecutive seasons of eight wins or more since 1989 and 1990. The latter year saw Michigan State's most recent Big Ten championship until last season.

After the 1990 title, the program had moments when it seemed poised to turn the corner. The Spartans went 10-2 in 1999 but lost coach Nick Saban to LSU before the Citrus Bowl and went 5-6 the next season. There were the quick-starting, fast-fading seasons under John L. Smith that drove Spartans fans nuts.

In Dantonio's second year, Michigan State won nine games and had a chance to win a share of the Big Ten title on the final regular-season Saturday. The Spartans followed with a disappointing season both on and off the field in 2009.

They once again have reached the doorstep of the Big Ten penthouse.

Dantonio has taken the team to bowls in each of his first four seasons as coach. He and his staff have upgraded Michigan State's recruiting efforts, especially in the region. The Spartans have beaten every Big Ten squad except Ohio State (and Nebraska) at least once in the past three seasons. They've recorded three consecutive wins against archrival Michigan for the first time since 1965-67.

And while several key players depart, Michigan State returns a nice nucleus led by Cousins.

[+] EnlargeMark Dantonio
Jerry Lai/US PresswireMark Dantonio believes the 2011 Spartans will be a better team than last year's Big Ten championship-winning team.
"There's a lot to play for," Dantonio said. "We certainly have come a long way in four years from where the perception of this program was. OK, with that being said, it's a process. We're not there yet."

The bowl game reinforced Dantonio's last point. Although Michigan State ended the regular season with a strong case to earn a BCS berth, the Spartans were anything but elite against Alabama.

The Tide surged to a 28-0 halftime lead and scored the first 49 points, pulling its starters midway through the third quarter. Alabama held significant edges in yards (546-171) and first downs (25-12) in a thoroughly dominating win.

If the Spartans aren't motivated by their quest for sustained success, the bowl game should do the trick.

"Our group felt embarrassed," offensive coordinator Dan Roushar said. "Their pride certainly was hurt. We all were [hurt]. The guys moved beyond that and they're working very hard."

Dantonio admits there was a "sense of denial" after the bowl loss.

"Players didn't want to believe, and coaches, we didn't want to believe that we were that far away," Dantonio said. "And I don't think we were. It was a combination of us not playing well and Alabama being very good on that particular day.

"But the wins and the losses, the good things that happened, how you play in certain games, that exists. That's real."

Although Michigan State must replace standout linebackers Greg Jones and Eric Gordon, two starters in the secondary and three starters along the offensive line, Dantonio believes he has a better team than the 2010 version.

Cousins will be entering his third season as a starter. The Spartans are restocked at running back, receiver and tight end. The coaches see improved depth at defensive line and boast promising young defenders like linebackers Max Bullough and Denicos Allen, end William Gholston and cornerback Darqueze Dennard.

Dantonio also is a realist. Michigan State didn't blow out many teams in 2010. If Notre Dame and Northwestern didn't bite on "Little Giants" and "Mousetrap," respectively, the Spartans wouldn't have had such a special season.

The schedule becomes much tougher this fall. Michigan State visits Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern in Big Ten play, in addition to a Week 3 trip to South Bend.

"A storybook season [in 2010]," Roushar said. "Does everything go right this year to give you that? We go to Nebraska, we go to Columbus. It's a different challenge now."

And a challenge players are willing to accept.

"Most teams' downfall is they have a good year, they feel complacent and they feel comfortable," junior running back Edwin Baker said. "Coach D is always preaching about not getting complacent, not getting comfortable."

Dantonio often has talked about measuring up. To call itself elite, Michigan State must measure up to top elite programs like Ohio State and Alabama.

The Spartans also must measure up season to season. They have the chance in 2011.

"It would tell you about where we are," defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. "We're not a flash in the pan. We're right there as an elite football team in the Big Ten Conference. It's not going to be up and down, it's not going to be like a yo-yo.

"It's going to be every day, every week, every year."

Big Ten lunch links

December, 20, 2010
12/20/10
12:00
PM ET
"Monday Night Football" at a Big Ten stadium tonight. Who's excited?

Big Ten did you know? Week 12

November, 19, 2010
11/19/10
9:00
AM ET
A few nuggets of note to make you smarter heading into Week 12. Thanks to ESPN Stats & Info for several of these.
  • Wisconsin is on pace to shatter the team single-season scoring record. The Badgers average 40.2 points per game, which is second the Big Ten and No. 8 nationally. The team record is 34.3 points per game, was set in 2005. Wisconsin has been even more potent in conference games. They’ve averaged 40.7 points in league play. The last Big Ten team to average at least 40 points per game in league play was Northwestern in 2000.
  • Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson already has the Big Ten record for most rush yards by a quarterback. He has 1,417 rush yards this season and is 78 yards shy of setting the NCAA single-season record for most rush yards by a signal caller. Air Force's Beau Morgan ran for 1,494 yards in 1996.
  • Wisconsin leads the nation with 43 touchdowns from inside the red zone. The Badgers also lead the nation in red zone touchdown percentage (81.1), while Michigan ranks No. 3 nationally (77.8).
  • Michigan State's senior class has 31 wins, which ties the 1990 class for the most in team history. Michigan State is 7-3 in November under Mark Dantonio. Under John L. Smith, the Spartans were 2-11. A win Saturday will make Michigan State 7-0 at home this season, giving the team its first undefeated home record in a season since 199 (6-0).
  • Northwestern has either led or been tied in the second half of 26 straight games dating back to November 2008. The Wildcats are 28-8 in their last 36 games decided by seven points or fewer.
  • Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor has been a much better pocket passer this season, especially in Big Ten play. Pryor has attempted more than 76 percent of his passes in Big Ten play from within the pocket and completed 70 percent of them with nine touchdowns, earning him a passer rating of 170.9.
  • Iowa leads the nation in fewest plays allowed of more than 20 yards. Only 3.2 percent of plays run against the Hawkeyes go for 20 yards or more. But Iowa's defense has slipped a bit in recent weeks. The Hawkeyes ranked first nationally in points allowed, second in rushing yards allowed and fourth in total yards allowed after Week 6. They now rank seventh, fourth and 16th nationally in those respective categories.
  • FedEx Field will become the seventh stadium Penn State has played in that currently is home to an NFL team. The other facilities are: Lincoln Financial Field, Louisiana Superdome, the Metrodome, Qualcomm Stadium, Raymond James Stadium and Sun Life Stadium. Penn State has played four of these venues since the 2005 season.
  • Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan is 3.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss shy of tying the single-season school records for each category. He has 32.5 sacks in his career and needs 2.5 more to pass Roosevelt Colvin for the most career sacks in school history.
  • The Illinois offense has exploded in the last four games, averaging 46.5 points and 412.7 total yards. During the first six games this season, the Illini averaged 21.3 points and 320 yards per game. The Illini defense has forced 13 turnovers in the last four games and has converted those miscues into 62 points (eight touchdowns and two field goals). During that span, the Illini offense has turned the ball over just three times.
  • Indiana has never defeated Penn State. The Nittany Lions have won all 13 meetings, including seven in Happy Valley, five in Bloomington and one at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. Five of the 13 matchups and two of the last four contests have been decided by seven points or fewer.

Big Ten makeup mailblog

August, 30, 2010
8/30/10
2:30
PM ET
The mail didn't come on Friday because I didn't have time to deliver it. My bad. Here's my attempt at making it up to you.

Mike from New Haven, Conn., writes: Adam,Is it possible PSU is keeping the qb situation a mystery in order to keep Alabama in the dark? Any chance the true starter doesn't start vs YSU to have bama prepare for the wrong type of offense? or do they play all 3 equally and force bama to prepare for 3 different looks?

Adam Rittenberg: I like the conspiracy theory there, Mike. But I really think if one player had separated himself, Penn State would announce the starter for the opener. The staff did so in 2008 with Daryll Clark, although I recognize this is a different situation with three relative unknowns. I think it's more likely we see multiple quarterbacks against Youngstown than Penn State deciding to conceal the starter's true identity until Week 2. Whomever starts in Tuscaloosa really needs some game experience before heading down there.


Bob from New Orleans writes: Adam, if the Buckeyes win the NC, and they will, where do you think JT goes?? I don't see him moving on to the NFL, and there's no way he's moving to another college, so retirement?

Adam Rittenberg: Bob, retirement from coaching would be the likeliest option for Jim Tressel. While I'm not saying there's a strong chance he moves on after 2010, I wouldn't be totally shocked to see him retire if Ohio State wins the national title. Take a look at this picture of Tressel after the 2002 national title and how he looks now. The job has taken a toll, which is totally understandable. Plus, his wife had some health issues this summer. And he has always said he doesn't want to coach into his seventies. Unlike some coaches, Tressel has other interests and could be very successful in other arenas (athletic administration, politics). I couldn't see him coaching in the NFL and certainly not at another college.


Scott from Kansas City, Mo., writes: Looks like NU (104) fell out of the USNWR Top 100, and MU (94) back in. So much for all Big Ten schools being in the Top 100. But then again, why add the 18th largest state to your footprint when you can add the 40th? And why add a school that has been relevant in recent years, when you can add another school that hasn't?Cheers

Adam Rittenberg: Husker fans, you want me to handle this or do you have it covered? Scott, while Mizzou has had some nice seasons lately, Nebraska clearly is a better addition to the Big Ten. The size of the state and the U.S. News ranking matters a little bit, but Nebraska brings national championships, legendary coaches and a program recognized around the country. Go up to a casual fan in L.A. or New York and ask them to name 10 college football teams. They'll probably include Nebraska. Missouri? Not so much. The Big Ten can put Nebraska in games against Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan or even Iowa and Wisconsin and draw national attention. Missouri doesn't move the needle nearly as much. Again, Missouri brings a lot to the table, but the Big Ten clearly made the right call with Nebraska.


Chris from Philly writes: How annoyed is the Michigan faithful when they see what a stud Ryan Mallet has become at Arkansas and know that RichRod ran him out of town with his spread offense? Is that one of the main factors that will bite him when he does get fired that he did not utilize the talent already there and possibly could have won 8-10 gameshis first two years then slowly implement his style?

Adam Rittenberg: Chris, there are a lot of reasons why Michigan fans can knock Rich Rodriguez, but the Ryan Mallett thing isn't one of them. Before Michigan, Rodriguez had been incredibly successful winning games in his style, with the spread. You can't expect people in leadership roles, especially college football coaches, to completely scrap what had made them successful. I recognize the transition to the spread hasn't gone smoothly in Ann Arbor, but you have to stick to what you know and who you are. Rodriguez couldn't run a pro-style offense just for Mallett, who clearly has benefited from one at Arkansas.


Stephen from Ankeny, Iowa, writes: Do you think that Dantonio has really raised the bar at Michigan State the last three years. I would argue that he has been the benficiary of a couple of wins each year that could have gone either way (also because of a down Michigan). Do you think that his three years there has really shown improvement over the John L. Smith years or are they merely treading water? In a larger context, are there programs in the Big Ten that are kind of in the same boat with no real chance to move up in the pecking order (e.g.: Minnesota)? It's pretty apparent that the moves by both Minnesota and Michigan State to fire their coaches (Glen Mason and John L. Smith) have not resulted in better results on the field and in Minnesota's case worse results. Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Stephen, I respectfully disagree with your take on Mark Dantonio. He has lost a ton of close games, several of which could have taken the 2007 and 2009 seasons from average to very good. Although 2010 is very big for Dantonio and the Spartans, who have a great opportunity with a very favorable schedule, the program has stabilized since John L. was sent packing. Just look at the recruiting. Michigan State has really upgraded in that area, especially locally, and brought in players like Larry Caper and William Gholston. The Spartans certainly have benefited a bit from Michigan's struggles, but Dantonio definitely has things headed in the right direction. The one thing he can't afford is another bad off-field incident. ... It's a different case with Minnesota, where the jury is still out on this coaching regime. Tim Brewster and his assistants have recruited well and played tougher schedules, but the big wins haven't come, especially late in the season. Brewster needs some quality wins this fall to show he can take the program further than Mason did.


Keith from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, writes: Adam there is a possibility that the big ten could end in a three way tie between Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio State (asmunig they all win out). I know its alot of work but could you break down the scenario? Who do you think will be ranked high enough to get the BCS bid is national title still open to a one loss big ten team which team goes? it would be a hudge mess! a three way conference championship! thanks adam

Adam Rittenberg: Keith, here's how the BCS/Rose Bowl tiebreaking procedures work in the Big Ten (in order). I'm guessing Option 4 would be the most likely scenario with an Ohio State/Iowa/Wisconsin tie. Option 1: If one of those three teams beat the other two, it wins the tiebreaker. Option 2: If two of the teams beat the other squad, the other squad is eliminated. Then it would be head-to-head for who wins the tiebreaker (this is unlikely unless all three teams finish 6-2 in league play). Option 3: Overall record. The tiebreaker winner would have a better overall record than the other two teams. Option 4: If Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin all finish at 11-1, with all three losses taking place within the group, the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings would go to the Rose Bowl or BCS title game.

Big Ten Friday mailblog

July, 23, 2010
7/23/10
3:00
PM ET
California dreamin' this weekend.

Pat from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Adam -- Love the blog. Help me settle a bet...Does the Big Ten still have a "rule" regarding night games after November 1st? I recall last year teams were not allowed to play night games after November 1.

Adam Rittenberg: Pat, the Big Ten has a contractual provision with its teams and its TV partners regarding night games played after Nov. 1. Unless both teams and the TV partner agree to play a night game and do it far enough in advance -- the prime-time football schedule is typically finalized in mid April -- the game won't kick off after 3:30 p.m. ET. Penn State and Ohio State talked about playing last year's game (on Nov. 7) at night, but an agreement wasn't finalized in time. Check out my piece on November night games from this spring for more information. Basically, night games after Nov. 1 are possible, but unlikely.


Bob from Scranton, Pa., writes: Why is everyone so worried about PSU's recruiting? They have had the top or one of the top recruiting classes in the Big Ten for the last 5 years. With approximately 17 scholarships available, they are taking their time. By the end of the month, I would not be surprised to see several Big time recruits commit to PSU. Paterno knows what he is doing.

Adam Rittenberg: Bob, I like your attitude toward this, but a lot of fans have a hard time being patient about recruiting. And I understand their anxiety as well, especially when teams like Texas, Ohio State and Florida State are racking up top recruits. Heck, even Indiana is pretty much done with 2010 recruiting, and it's only July 22. Penn State's recruiting has been very good for a while after a dip in the early part of the 2000s. This won't be a huge class and might not be as highly rated as the 2010 crop, but I have faith that Joe Paterno's staff will get it done. That said, the longer this goes without Penn State landing a few big-time verbal commits, the more anxious Nittany Lions fans will get.


Dan from Columbus, Ohio, writes: With regards to the Rose Bowl tie-in to a non-BCS school, what happens if the Big Ten/Pac10 send somebody to the Championship game but there are no non-BCS schools eligible for the BCS? Can the Rose Bowl take a non-Big Ten/Pac10 team from another BCS conference? If a non-BCS school isn't eligible does the rule roll over for another year or is that their only shot and they just didn't have somebody eligible?

Adam Rittenberg: Good questions, Dan. If no non-BCS team is eligible for the Rose Bowl, the game can select an eligible team from a BCS league. In this case, you'll almost certainly see a Big Ten-Pac-10 matchup in the Rose Bowl because those leagues typically have enough BCS-eligible teams (read: Illinois in 2007). I can't see the Rose Bowl going away from the Big Ten-Pac-10 pairing unless there are no teams available for selection. Regarding your second question, a rollover would go into effect, but keep in mind that this access change can only happen once during the upcoming BCS cycles (2010-13 seasons). So if Rose Bowl is required to select Boise State this season, it fulfills the new BCS policy and wouldn't have to do it again until at least 2014. But if no non-BCS team is available in 2010, the Rose Bowl would have to select one in 2011 if a team is eligible.


Kevin from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Adam, first thing's first, I think it's brilliant how ESPN set up a blog for each of the BCS conferences. Secondly, I was wondering if I could get your thoughts on what it would be like if Big Ten revenue sharing was like Big 12 revenue sharing over the past decade (excluding the Big Ten network)? How far ahead/behind would some programs be financially, in facilities, in recruiting? And thirdly, isn't Big Ten revenue sharing a better situation for Nebraska to be moving into compared to what it's leaving? Thank you.

Adam Rittenberg: Kevin, some of the Big Ten's bigger programs might have benefited from a Big 12-like model, where the rich get richer, but overall the league would have undoubtedly suffered. The Big Ten's model is ideal because it allows every school to share evenly in what has become the nation's largest revenue pie. The fact that Ohio State and Michigan are willing to share evenly with Northwestern and Indiana helps prevent situations like the one this summer in the Big 12. Look at the recent facilities improvements we've seen in the Big Ten. Almost every school has upgraded their football stadium -- in Minnesota's case, built a new one -- or updated their football training and practice facilities. Indiana has become a more attractive program, and so has Michigan with an incredible indoor facility and a renovated Michigan Stadium. So the model has benefited everyone, and it'll definitely be a better situation for Nebraska, which would always be looking up at Texas in the Big 12.


Jason from Chicago writes: MSU has not been a bad or flaky team in October, or November, in recent years. 6-3 and 4-2 respectively the last two years(13-9 combine under Dantonio). You keep banging on this "MSU in October" drum that was true for John L. Smith, who was fired four years ago. Other media members do this as well, it's old, lazy, and has nothing to do with the current team and regime, let it go. Here are the quotes I'm speaking of from the last few days:"It's never easy to forecast what Michigan State will do during October, a rough month for the program in recent years." "We've seen Michigan State fall apart in October after strong starts."

Adam Rittenberg: Jason, I understand you're tired of it, but you're acting like Michigan State's problems in October are ancient history. I'll give you the 2008 season, where Michigan State had only one October loss, albeit a sobering 45-7 shellacking at the hands of Ohio State. But in 2007, Dantonio's first year, the team went 1-3 in October, with all three losses by seven points. Last season, Michigan State started October with three wins, but in a game where the team really could have turned the corner against Iowa, it lost on the final play. A week later, Michigan State drops a bizarre game on Halloween night at Minnesota. You can't tell me the Iowa game wasn't the critical juncture for Michigan State, and it took place in October. Maybe I'm simplifying things a bit by confining things to one month, but the Spartans' track record of starting fast and then stumbling midway through the season is still very much relevant. Look at the schedule this year and Michigan State should be 4-0 in September, with Notre Dame as the only real test. Things then get a lot harder -- and more revealing -- in October.
We're entering the meat of the college football offseason, which is usually the opportune time to rekindle the debate about head coaches and their employment status.

Let's see ... where to find hot-seat talk ... aha! Got it.

CBSsports.com has put together a hot-seat ratings system, and not surprisingly, embattled Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez is at the top of the list. The ratings go from 0 (can't be touched) to 5 (need wins or else). All 120 FBS coaches received ratings.

So how does it look for the Big Ten bosses?

Rodriguez might not want to sit down any time soon. He's one of four FBS coaches with a hot-seat rating of 5 (Colorado's Dan Hawkins, North Texas' Todd Dodge and Washington State's Paul Wulff are the others).

Illinois head coach Ron Zook isn't much safer with a hot-seat rating of 4.5 (defined as "warm seat" ... riiiiight). Indiana coach Bill Lynch and Minnesota coach Tim Brewster both have ratings of 4.

Who's the safest in the Big Ten? Ohio State's Jim Tressel and Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald both have hot-seat ratings of 0 (untouchable). I'm a little surprised that Kirk Ferentz isn't among them (he has a rating of 1). Penn State's Joe Paterno has a rating of 0.5, but I'm guessing that's solely because of his age (83). By the way, I like parentheses.

Colleague Bruce Feldman also weighs in, ranking the 10 coaches sitting on the hottest seats entering the 2010 season. Feldman thinks Zook is in more trouble than Rodriguez and lists the Illinois coach at No. 1 on his list.

The Zooker has had one big year, when he led the Illini to the Rose Bowl and they lost to the USC Trojans. But after that it's been frustration. In five years, the Illini have been to only that one bowl game. He wouldn't be cheap to dump, but can the program afford to keep him around if he doesn't somehow respond with a strong season?



I tend to agree with Feldman. Rodriguez has had a very rocky road at Michigan, but he's only been there two seasons and he installed a dramatically different system. It's not easy to launch coaches before a full recruiting cycle. Zook, meanwhile, hasn't capitalized on very strong recruiting classes he signed early in his Illinois tenure.

Rodriguez comes in at No. 3 on Feldman's list.

The Wolverines have a good shot at opening up 5-1 (UM folks would be excited) but the slate is back-loaded and a 2-4 finish isn't a stretch given they'll face the four favorites in the Big Ten. A potential 2-4 finish would douse all of that energy, especially if it includes yet another loss to the Buckeyes. I think Rodriguez, though, will get this program cranked up this fall and the Wolverines will surprise a lot of people.



Minnesota's Brewster ranks No. 9 on Feldman's hot-seat list, while Indiana's Lynch didn't make the cut, which I'm sure he doesn't mind one bit.

Bottom line: It has been three years since a Big Ten head coach was fired, as Michigan State's John L. Smith and Minnesota's Glen Mason got pink-slipped before the 2007 season (Michigan's Lloyd Carr "retired" after the 2007 campaign). But there's a good chance we'll see some movement in November or December.

Big Ten mailblog

December, 4, 2009
12/04/09
5:00
PM ET
Judge a person by their questions, rather than their answers.

Brian from Pittsburgh writes: Adam,Love your reporting, read it every day. One thing I enjoy is balance in your reporting, but I feel you're missing one opportunity to reinforce this reputation. You were clear in your reporting that while Jared Odrick's selection as Big Ten DPOY was worthy, several other candidates were more so. Odrick's selection to first-team All American should convince anyone who has not watched a full season of snaps by Odrick, why his Big Ten honor was so obvious to those of us who have.

Adam Rittenberg: I'm not missing an opportunity, Brian. Jared Odrick is a great player, but in my opinion, he shouldn't have been Big Ten Defensive POY. That's my opinion, and you have yours, and the coaches have theirs. That's what makes it fun to debate. Greg Jones was an All-American, too, and Brandon Graham is the only defensive player still in the running for the Big Ten's Silver Football award (MVP). So while Odrick is a dominant player and deserves all the accolades he receives, the Defensive POY race is hardly clear cut, or obvious, as you put it.


Dan from Richmond, Va., writes: Adam, love the blog, usually keeps me going during the work week. Anyway, not sure if you have done this or would do it, but I'd like to see a "where are they now" feature on the blog. For example, I'm interested in knowing what's happening with a guy like Jack Ikegwuono. He sort of fell of everyone's radar with that knee injury prior to the draft. I'm sure there are some similar guys from every school that were big time college players and have fallen off the radar. Thanks for your time, and keep up the good work!

Adam Rittenberg: Dan, thanks for the suggestion. This is definitely something I'll look to do during the offseason months. There's just not nearly enough time between August and January. As for Jack Ikegwuonu, the free agent met with the Cincinnati Bengals earlier this week, though no contract has been signed yet. He was a heck of a player at Wisconsin.


Dave from Chicago writes: First off, love the blog, great job! On to the question: since I've become a Spartan ('05), I've seen nearly all of our major teams achieve or come close to national success without any substantial off the field incidents (Men's hoops final fours in '05 and '09, Women's hoops final four in '05, hockey NCAA title in '07) so clearly it's possible for athletes to be successful and law abiding in East Lansing, why do you think that the football team has been unable to duplicate either condition? Is it something special about the nature of football? is it something to blame on the coaches? (Dantonio's fault? or hangover from the Smith and Williams eras?) something else I'm just not thinking of? And what do you think is necessary to reverse these trends for MSU (with a definite preference for solving discipline first and on field success after)?

Adam Rittenberg: Football certainly has something to do with it, as the game is inherently violent. And most football programs go through periods of off-field problems, as both Penn State and Iowa did recently. We need to see how this latest Michigan State situation plays out, specifically if charges are filed against football players and who gets charged with what. But it's certainly a concern for Mark Dantonio, who has done a good job of enforcing discipline for the most part. I disagreed with Dantonio's decision to reinstate Glenn Winston the same day he was released from prison in August. Since Winston seems to be at the center of this alleged brawl, the decision looks even worse.


Seth from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: I saw someone post a question in your chat about adding Notre Dame and what the divisions would be. I think you were leaning to something like West=Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Notre Dame. East=Michigan, Michigan St. Indiana, Ohio St. Penn St., Purdue. I think to make it more even, you could do more of a North/South area with Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan St., Michigan, Northwestern, Penn St., and South would be Iowa, Illinois, Purdue, Indiana, Notre Dame, and Ohio St.?

Adam Rittenberg: That's exactly how I envisioned it, Seth, and here's why. It would be very tough to split up Ohio State and Michigan and continue their annual rivalry. There's no way a division split would happen unless Ohio State and Michigan played every year. You can count on that. Now they still could play every year in opposite divisions, but it could create more scheduling headaches with the division byes for other teams. I really think you'd need to keep Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State in the same division and hope it doesn't turn into a Big 12 South type of deal where the other division is much weaker.

For more questions and answers, check out the video below ...


Big Ten power rankings: Week 13

November, 23, 2009
11/23/09
9:00
AM ET
Big Ten play is complete, so there will be minimal movement the rest of the way.

1. Ohio State (10-2, 7-1): It seemed extremely unlikely back on Oct. 17, but Ohio State once again found its way to the top of the Big Ten. The Buckeyes won their fifth consecutive Big Ten title and their third outright league title in the past four seasons. Never doubt Jim Tressel in the month of November. Never doubt Tressel against Michigan. Buckeyes are at the top, again.

2. Iowa (10-2, 6-2): Head-to-head isn't everything, but when teams are as close as Iowa and Penn State on paper, it has to be the deciding factor. The Hawkeyes don't have as many dominant wins as the Nittany Lions, but they have better wins, including a 21-10 triumph at Penn State on Sept. 26. Iowa's defense bounced back strong against Minnesota after struggling at Ohio State. The Hawkeyes likely need a healthy Ricky Stanzi to win their bowl game.

3. Penn State (10-2, 6-2): The Nittany Lions on Saturday not only looked like a team that belongs in a BCS bowl game, but a team that could win one. Senior quarterback Daryll Clark stepped up in a big way, and the defense totally shut down Michigan State in the second half. It took a while, but Penn State seems to be peaking right now.

T-4. Wisconsin (8-3, 5-3): Wisconsin doesn't have a bad loss on its résumé, but the Badgers are certainly a notch below the top three after their loss at Northwestern. I'm sold on quarterback Scott Tolzien, running back John Clay and tight end Garrett Graham, but the defense struggled against Northwestern's spread attack. Still, the Badgers are in line for a possible Outback Bowl berth if they beat Hawaii on Dec. 5.

T-4. Northwestern (8-4, 5-3): When Northwestern trailed Indiana 28-3 on Oct. 24, no one thought the Wildcats would end up here. OK, maybe Pat Fitzgerald and his players kept the faith, but this was a flawed team that found itself down the stretch. Besides Ohio State, no Big Ten team had a better November than Northwestern, which notched two wins against top-20 teams. Like Tressel and Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, Fitzgerald does his best work in November.

6. Michigan State (6-6, 4-4): The Spartans might be beyond the collapses of the John L. Smith era, but they still haven't turned the corner as a program. With a chance to make a statement at home against Penn State, Michigan State fell flat on its face after halftime. Mark Dantonio's team will be an underdog in a bowl game and can redeem itself, but the season has been a disappointment.

7. Minnesota (6-6, 3-5): Another season has passed without a win in November or a victory in a rivalry game. The Gophers' defense came to play Saturday, as it has for most of the season, but the offense really struggled. Minnesota went scoreless against Iowa for the second straight season and endured its second shutout of the season (there was nearly another against Ohio State). The coaches downplayed the magnitude of the shift in offensive philosophy, but this unit looks lost right now.

8. Purdue (5-7, 4-4): I'd really like to rank the Boilermakers higher, but their losses to Michigan State and Minnesota keep them at No. 8. It's really a shame that Purdue won't be going bowling because the Boilers would be a very dangerous team in December or January. Kudos to head coach Danny Hope, quarterback Joey Elliott and others for keeping the team united after a 1-5 start.

9. Illinois (3-7, 2-6): The Illini didn't play this week, and they're assured of finishing outside the Big Ten basement because both Michigan and Indiana lost. Illinois really needs to win one of its remaining two games to build some momentum for a make-or-break 2010 season. A victory against No. 5 Cincinnati on Friday (ABC, noon ET) would provide a major confidence boost for Ron Zook and his team.

10. Michigan (5-7, 1-7): The Wolverines move up a spot because of a solid defensive effort against Ohio State, which couldn't pull away until Tate Forcier began firing interceptions in the second half. Mistakes doomed Michigan throughout its miserable Big Ten season, and head coach Rich Rodriguez needs Forcier and his other young players to grow up fast for 2010.

11. Indiana (4-8, 1-7): I'm very disappointed in the way Indiana finished the season. The Hoosiers had the mojo on their side Saturday, with a large crowd and archrival Purdue in their stadium. But they seemed to come out uninspired and made too many mistakes in all three phases. Head coach Bill Lynch has some exciting offensive weapons, but he needs to find a way to get this program over the hump in 2010 or he'll be gone.

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