- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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First weekend off since August. Hope it's a quiet one (fingers crossed).
FYI for future mailblogs, try to keep your questions concise (150 words or less). You're free to go longer if you'd like, but we're not going to include those in the mailblog because it looks awful on the page. Thanks for your cooperation.
Will from Hoboken, N.J., writes: Hey Adam! With Maryland and Rutgers coming to the B1G in 2014, do you think geography needs to play a bigger role in the divisions? Jim Delaney said as much. I personally think Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Indiana (in addition to Maryland and Rutgers) have a major east-coast draw and have a strong case to form the B1G East. The conference and brand would also benefit by neighboring schools playing every year. I know my RU collegues and friends are itching to play Penn State and Ohio State every year instead of Iowa and Wisconsin (no offense).
Adam Rittenberg: Will, I have a feeling you'll get your wish. It's virtually guaranteed that Rutgers and Maryland will be in the same division as Penn State and Ohio State. The Big Ten wouldn't have talked so much about building the bridge from Penn State to the East Coast and then not group those teams in the same division. I also think the idea of moving Michigan and Michigan State to the Leaders has momentum now. Wisconsin can return to the Legends and have annual rival games with Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. Competitive balance could be an issue if both Ohio State and Michigan distance themselves from the rest of the Big Ten, but there are enough good programs on the other side to compete.
Allan from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Do you think the Big 10 needs to step up it's game or they will continue to lose good coaches to the SEC? I'm pretty sure Pelini was interested in the Tenn job and the Arkansas job, wouldn't that have been a problem for the big 10 brand to lose 2 coaches from upper tier big 10 schools to a mid to lower-tier SEC team and another SEC team that has been off the national radar for over a decade?
Adam Rittenberg: The Big Ten needs to increase assistant coaches' salaries, that's pretty clear. Schools don't have to overpay for head coaches, but they need to give head coaches the resources to hire and retain top coordinators, elite recruiters, etc. It's tough because the Big Ten sponsors so many sports and can't allocate as much money to football as schools in other leagues, but Big Ten schools have to make themselves destination jobs as much as possible for these coaches. The Bret Bielema exit surprised everyone, but people would be less surprised if Bo Pelini left. His name has been out there for multiple jobs (despite all his denials) the last few seasons.
Hofforbucky from Saint Joseph, Mo., writes: Adam, long time reader first time caller. While reading "Barry Alvarez talks search, Bielema's exit" it appeared the angle was to present possible personality flaws of BA. While I don't disagree that Barry may come off self confident or possibly arrogant over the years, it seemed a stretch to call him out for having a "prospective successor" 5 minutes after BB's departure. The assumption was that the successor was currently employed at another university and thus BA was committing the same actions of Jeff Long. A quick Google search of the 55th Annual Football Award Dinner attendees showed many former coaches and players that are not currently employed. BTW I have to believe nostalgia is worth at least 1 win, BA's arrival on the sideline could tip the scales in what figures to be a close run dominated game.Keep up the good work.
Adam Rittenberg: That wasn't the intent, Hoffor. In fact, I found Alvarez to be incredibly entertaining and a great departure from the bland news conferences we usually get from Big Ten coaches. He's the closest thing we in Big Ten country get to Steve Spurrier. I see your point and it's a fair one, but it just struck me that he talks about protocol and then mentions he's talking to a representative of a candidate five minutes after Bielema blindsided him. Maybe you're right and it wasn't a college coach, but odds are it was. I love the bluster from Barry, and I think he'll be able to find a good replacement from Bielema. While Stanford will be a tough matchup, I like Wisconsin's chances better with Alvarez on the sideline.
Kyle from Out West writes: Regarding the CCG location: with low numbers at Lucas this year and the eastward expansion, is there any prospect of the CCG being played at MetLife Stadium or FedEx Field? Evidently there are a lot of B1G fans there, and MetLife is hosting a Super Bowl soon...a slightly bigger deal than the B1G CCG. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: Kyle, I could see it happening as a one-time thing, but the Big Ten always will be a Midwest-based league, and I'd expect it to hold the championship game in a Midwest city. I remember when former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese was asked about holding the Big East hoops tournament in Chicago after the league expanded. He dismissed the thought pretty quickly, as the Big East tourney and Madison Square Garden go hand in hand. The Big Ten football title game obviously lacks that type of history, and I could see a one-time event in New Jersey or Maryland. But most years, expect it to be in the current Big Ten footprint.
Zach from Avoca, Neb., writes: Hey Adam I was looking at the huskers schedule for next year. Do you think they have a good chance of going undefeated next year? no Wisconsin, or Ohio State and the UCLA game is at home.
Adam Rittenberg: Zach, the schedule certainly sets up favorably for Nebraska, and it will be important for the Huskers to capitalize. But I don't believe Nebraska has a "good chance" of going undefeated. Too much evidence to the contrary in recent years. Too many embarrassing losses on big stages. Not enough elite defensive linemen or linebackers. The offense should be outstanding, but it's hard to fully trust quarterback Taylor Martinez, who makes a lot of good plays but a lot of bad ones, too. The other thing is that the Legends Division should be really good again in 2013. Northwestern brings everyone back, Michigan State should/will be better on offense and potentially just as good on defense and Michigan is building more depth with better players. It won't be a cakewalk for Nebraska, even though the Huskers get both Northwestern and MSU at home.
Ryan from Indianapolis writes: Alright, I've seen enough of the ripping on Indy comments from other fans. Your article touched on some key points that I've been thinking for days, and that's the fact that Indy has an excellent track record of hosting premier sporting events. This isn't anything new. One other item, I'd like to mention, is that the Big Ten beat out many other conference championships for attendance. Also, do we know that it's a fact that Chicago has more Big Ten fans? Purdue and IU are both an hour from Indy, even ND is only 2.5 hours away. Where do people think the majority of these grads go?Besides, what does Chicago provide that Indy doesn't in December for a championship football game? Besides amazing pizza, more expensive hotels/entertainment, and my Blackhawks (not this year!).
Adam Rittenberg: Ryan, you had to mention the Hawks, huh? The lack of hockey is killing me, man. And it's the one sport my wife actually likes. Strike a deal! ... Anyway, to your question, the Big Ten wants its title game to be like the SEC's, not the ACC's or the Pac-12 or what used to be the Big 12's. The attendance was a major disappointment, although not a shocker either given the circumstances. While I don't have the exact numbers, I can assure you Chicago has far more Big Ten fans than any other city. It's a much larger city and all the Big Ten schools feed into it with their alums. There might be more Purdue and IU grads in Indy, but there are overwhelmingly more grads from schools like Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, etc., in Chicago. It's not really a debate. And these are the people who already live in the market who would be interested in attending the Big Ten title game without much of a hassle to do so. That's why Chicago ultimately makes more sense if you want to ensure good attendance.
Ron from Mason, Mich., writes: With Butch Jones taking the Vols job, do you see Pat Narduzzi being a good fit...
Adam Rittenberg: Pat would be a great fit, Ron. He obviously has ties to the area as a former defensive coordinator at Cincinnati under Mark Dantonio and as a former player and coach at nearby Miami (Ohio). He knows the area very well and definitely seems ready to make the move from top coordinator to head coach. It would be a big loss for Michigan State, but Narduzzi has created the blueprint for the Spartans' defense.