- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Your questions, my answers ...
Matt from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: The B1G could be in the news quite a bit during the offseason. Will we get the final decisions on division alignment, division names and 9/10 game schedule all at once or will they come out one at a time whenever that specific decision is made? Will this be something decided early in the offseason to have people discussing it all summer or will we have all summer to talk about what we want it to be and get the answer during the season?
Adam Rittenberg: Matt, you definitely won't need to wait until the season. The most pressing topic is the future conference schedule and whether the Big Ten will have nine or 10 games. It impacts nonconference scheduling, and the athletic directors want to get things sorted out as quickly as possible so they can craft their schedules. I think we could have a decision as soon as mid-March -- the ADs meet again during the Big Ten basketball tournament in Chicago -- or shortly thereafter. Division alignment is next on the list, and should come by the end of the spring. The key event is that the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors meets in early June at league headquarters. The Big Ten wants to get most of these issues sorted out by that meeting. Division names is a low priority, as league commissioner Jim Delany told me last week, and the future bowl lineup probably comes after the league schedule and divisions. We should have decisions on all of these topics by the middle of the summer.
AAWolv from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Hi Adam, I'm not usually one to get worked up about top 25 lists, but I can't wrap my head around this. In your post-season top 25 rankings, you state that the criteria is based solely on performance in the past year. If that's the case, how do you put Taylor Lewan at number 7? He proved that he was the best or 2nd best tackle in the country by shutting down guys like Jadeveon Clowney. I realize that linemen don't get much love in rankings, but based on his performance and your criterion, I have to disagree with your ranking.
Adam Rittenberg: That's fair, AA, and Brian and I debated a bit about Lewan and certainly could have included him a little higher. I'm glad you point out that the rankings are based on in-season performance rather than NFL potential, as some of your fellow Wolverines fans are pointing out Lewan will be a first-round pick in April. So will Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins, who we have at No. 12. That doesn't matter for these rankings. I realize Lewan made a bunch of All-America teams, but did he have a season like Gabe Carimi in 2010? I don't think he was that good. Michigan's offensive line certainly wan't great, and Lewan, while the group's best member, could have been more dominant at times. Carimi won the Outland Trophy in 2010 and came in at No. 6 in our postseason rankings. So he's comparable to Lewan, who could have been a spot or two higher. Ultimately, I'm comfortable with the guys we have in the top 5, who all made a major impact for their teams in 2012.
Matt from State College, Pa., writes: Do you think the most recent missteps in the Miami investigation gives any validity to the State of PA's lawsuit against the NCAA in relation to PSU's sanctions?
Adam Rittenberg: Matt, I think Monday's news certainly hurts the credibility of the NCAA and its president, Mark Emmert. If the NCAA had done its own investigation into Penn State, led by now-fired compliance chief Julie Roe Lach, and made missteps along the way, it certainly would have strengthened the state's case. But the NCAA used the Penn State-commissioned Freeh Report as the investigation for the Penn State case. Penn State signed a consent decree to the penalties Emmert imposed. Because the investigative process took place outside the NCAA, I don't think the Miami missteps will help the state's case as much as if they'd taken place within the NCAA.
Debra from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Adam: I find the Nebraska-Michigan rivalry more attractive than Ohio State or Penn State. Considering Penn State as a rival is based on old, old grudges no longer relevant. Ohio State is okay but not feeling the history. Michigan seems a more friendly rivalry. And friendly is better than the bitter kind, like Colorado. Who wants to go there and get your tires slashed if you have a Nebraska license plate? Ugh
Adam Rittenberg: Debra, thanks for sharing your thoughts. While I'm not sure all fans would prefer "friendly" rivalries over the alternative, it's good to know that some do. I know a lot of Nebraska fans want to keep playing Michigan every year. They bring up the 1997 season and the fact that the first two games in the Big Ten have made an impact on the division race. I like the Nebraska-Penn State series because both teams don't have longstanding Big Ten rivalries and, until November, had been the league's most recent additions. Ohio State and Michigan always will have bigger conference rivals than Penn State or Nebraska. I don't think Nebraska and Michigan will be in the same division after the realignment, and I don't expect the teams to have a protected crossover. But the Big Ten would like to have the Huskers and Wolverines play often -- two great brands, good for TV.
Al from Chicago writes: Nice article on Illini branding, but you'll have to show me where Northwestern has seen increased attendance (from their fans - not the visitors)!
Adam Rittenberg: Al, that's a fair point, as visiting fans like those from Nebraska have helped Northwestern's attendance numbers. The Wrigley Field game in 2010 also boosted attendance because it was part of a season-ticket package. But Northwestern's increases since the 2009 season, when it averaged 24,190, to this past season, when it averaged 33,442, can't be solely attributed to visiting fans. Northwestern is responsible for a portion of that increase, and its marketing push certainly has been a factor.
Scott from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Roushar is out as MSU's offensive coordinator. Spartan Nation cheers his departure but should they?
Adam Rittenberg: It's tough to say. Dan Roushar had much better success in 2011 when he had an established quarterback in Kirk Cousins, three good wide receivers and a better offensive line, which he helped mold. He did a nice job as the team's offensive line coach, although MSU needs to take things to another level up front. You can make a case that aside from RB Le'Veon Bell and TE Dion Sims, Roushar simply didn't have the weapons to do what he needed to in 2012. But some of his play-calling, especially in the red zone, left a lot to be desired. Was Roushar the main problem with Michigan State's offense in 2012? Perhaps. But many of us expected more from the players, too. The offensive structure isn't going to change at MSU under the next coordinator, but his play calls will be scrutinized, just as Roushar's were.
Paul from Minneapolis writes: Can you please tell me the racial breakdown of assistant coaches in the Big Ten by school. I got thinking about this as I noticed both of Iowa's latest hirings are white, but I have no idea how diverse any Big Ten school is in thier coaching ranks. Does the Big Ten have a program to promote racial diversity in it's coaching ranks?
Adam Rittenberg: Paul, I addressed this a bit in this story from last February, but the Big Ten has participated in an annual minority coaches' forum, which brings together top minority assistant coaches, athletic directors and administrators to network. The assistants learn what ADs are looking for in interviews and how they can improve their chances of landing head-coaching positions. Five of the 17 Big Ten assistants who attended the event from 2006-10 have become FBS head coaches, including former Ohio State aide Darrell Hazell, now the head man at Purdue. Still, Hazell is only the fourth black head coach in Big Ten history, a low number given the Big Ten's history as the conference of opportunity. As far as staff diversity, every Big Ten team has black assistant coaches and all but two teams have two or three on staff. Not all coaching staffs are complete, so those numbers could go up. One item of note: there are only two black coordinators in the Big Ten in Illinois' Tim Banks and Ohio State's Everett Withers.
James from Pasadena, Md., writes: Adam,I have switched over from the ACC blog to the B1G blog in anticipation of Maryland's move in 2014. I want to say that I have really enjoyed getting more familiar with the Conference through your posts. Having explored some of the message boards for schools around the B1G, I think many B1G fans are sleeping on Rugters and Maryland. At what point do you anticipate incorporating the two new schools in your blog? Will you be waiting until after the 2013 season or do you plan to keep B1G fans updated on the happenings with RU and UMD during the summer/fall this year?
Adam Rittenberg: Welcome, James! I know Big Ten fans are starting to familiarize themselves with both Maryland and Rutgers, and we'll do much more of that as we get closer to the official arrivals of those teams in 2014. We will post Maryland and Rutgers-related content from time to time this season, including updates on how the teams are performing, but they likely won't officially transition to the Big Ten blog until after national signing day 2014 (Feb. 5). That has been the point where we've seen teams move from one blog to another.