Big Ten: Pittsburgh Panthers

CHICAGO -- Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner jokes with his Pitt counterpart Steve Pederson about scheduling football games somewhere on the Pennsylvania Turnpike between State College and Pittsburgh.

It's unlikely the Nittany Lions and Panthers will lock horns on the side of the road, but they could be seeing each other annually for many years to come. Pederson told colleague Brett McMurphy at the ACC spring meetings Tuesday that he'd like to schedule more games against Penn State beyond the schools' agreement to play from 2016-19. Joyner has strong interest, too.

"We'd be interested in talking about that," Joyner told ESPN.com at the Big Ten spring meetings. "It's a great series. It's been a great linchpin in Pennsylvania for everyone there. Steve and I will definitely talk about doing that."

The longtime rivals announced in 2011 they would resume their series, which had been dormant since 2000, and tacked on two more games in December. Penn State and Pitt met every season from 1935-1992. They took a break when Penn State joined the Big Ten, but then resumed with a four-game series from 1997-2000. The Lions own a 50-42-4 advantage in the all-time series.

Pederson said he "would sign a 30-year deal" if he could, adding that the Pitt-Penn State game "ought to be played." Penn State coach Bill O'Brien also has voiced his support for the series.

"Pitt-Penn State, who can forget those games back in the day, usually late in the season, snowing?" O'Brien said on Penn State's recent coaches' caravan. "I think it's great for college football."

Penn State might not be able to play Pitt annually after the Big Ten goes to a nine-game conference schedule in 2016, but there is certainly more support for the series than there was during the latter part of Joe Paterno's tenure.

Joyner also said Penn State is "actively working" on a 2014 game in Ireland, reportedly against UCF, and hopes to have a resolution in the next few weeks. More neutral-site games are a possibility for Penn State, which kicks off the 2013 season against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

"Neutral sites are a very, very interesting proposition," Joyner said. "It's good for everybody. From a monetary standpoint, it's a very satisfactory thing to do, but it also engages people in other parts of the country to perhaps come to games. So it's a good thing to consider doing."

Big Ten mailblog

December, 11, 2012
12/11/12
5:00
PM ET
Your questions, my answers ...

A.J. from Madison, Wis., writes: If everybody's eligible, how many bowl games does the B1G win?

Adam Rittenberg: Good question, A.J., and a potential Take Two topic before the bowls kick off. Assuming Ohio State doesn't make the national title game but wins the Big Ten championship, it would play Stanford in the Rose Bowl. I'd like the Buckeyes' chances. Penn State also likely would be in one of the Florida bowls against an SEC team, and everyone else would slide down a notch. I think the Big Ten would get 1-2 more bowl wins if both Ohio State and Penn State are in the mix. As it stands right now, the Big Ten will have a tough time getting two or more bowl wins, and an 0-7 record is certainly possible. If Ohio State and Penn State were in there, the matchups still would be challenging, but a winning record wouldn't be out of the question.


Andy from Dayton, Ohio, writes: I noticed your column on Urban Meyer not lobbying to get the Bearcats into the ACC, you mentioned the Big 12 as a home. My question is how will this effect the Big 10 recruiting in Ohio, does the pot get split up more if Oklahoma is going against Michigan and Ohio St?

Adam Rittenberg: Andy, I wouldn't expect it to impact Big Ten recruiting too much. The Big 12 already is in West Virginia, so there's a presence there. And some Big 12 schools -- especially one like Oklahoma, whose head coach, Bob Stoops, is an Ohio native -- already recruit the state anyway. Although the Big 12 could showcase its product more often in the state with games at Cincinnati, I don't see a huge impact with respect to the Big Ten's recruiting efforts.


Chris from Omaha writes: Thanks for the article on the Big Ten attendance. Michigan State has to pad their attendance numbers - I'm a Husker fan that was at that game and that place was NOT full at all! The box score attendance is showing 73,522 in a 75,000 stadium. That is simply not accurate - there is no way. The only reason I bring this up is because you mentioned Michigan State's increase in attendance this year in the article, but I just don't think that's true. Go Big Red.

Adam Rittenberg: Chris, it's all based on paid attendance, not actual attendance at the game. The Michigan State-Nebraska game is hardly the only game to post a higher paid attendance than actual attendance. It happens everywhere. Michigan State's attractive home schedule certainly played a role in the attendance increase despite the team's struggles on the field.


Shareef from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: I'll keep this question short and sweet: How did WIll Hagerup, who was voted the B1G's punter of the year, not make your first or second team All-Big Ten teams?

Adam Rittenberg: Same reason Wisconsin's Jacob Pedersen, the Big Ten's tight end of the year, didn't make our teams. Because we disagreed with the Big Ten's selections for several of the position awards. That's not a knock on Hagerup or Pedersen -- or Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde, whose selection as defensive back of the year was most surprising. But when we evaluated the punters, tight ends and defensive backs, we felt other players were more deserving. Although Hagerup had the best punting average in the Big Ten (45 ypp), he had only 33 attempts. Both Mike Sadler and Cody Webster had twice as many attempts as Hagerup, and their averages were nearly as good. Sadler placed 28 punts inside the 20-yard line, while Webster had 29 of those (along with 17 punts of 50 yards or longer). Hagerups numbers in those categories simply don't measure up, and that's why we gave the nod to Sadler and Webster.


Brian from Atlanta writes: You keep mentioning all the B10 alumni in Chicago, and that's very true. I'd just point out two things. First, most neutral B10 fans have zero interest in attending the CCG so most of those alumni don't matter. Second, PSU and OSU have more alumni in both NYC and DC than in Chicago. Playing in Chicago isn't going to be a big draw for them.I think the problem is WI, not Indy. Let's see what happens when OSU or MI plays in the CCG.

Adam Rittenberg: I agree that title game attendance will be less of an issue when Ohio State or Michigan plays in it, but when did you start speaking for most neutral Big Ten fans? You don't know that they wouldn't want to attend an easily accessible Big Ten game in their home city, if priced correctly. I've heard from many general Big Ten fans who would have gone to the game in Chicago because they live here. Also, Penn State and Ohio State are two of 12 Big Ten schools. Every other Big Ten school has a massive alumni base in Chicago. And Ohio State has a sizable presence as well. Penn State does not, but that's the exception until Rutgers and Maryland join the league.


Spartan4Life from Los Angeles writes: I loved the article on the attendance of games but I think it should be done according to % of max capacity. Of course Michigan and Ohio State would be on the top considering they have stadiums that can hold over 110,000 vs other stadiums that can only hold up to 80,000. measuring the % it gives each team an equal footing to see how many people showed up compared to how many the stadium can actually hold.

Adam Rittenberg: Spartan, I see your point, but the post wasn't really aimed to show who had the largest attendance figures, but how the attendance figures changed from 2011 to 2012. So it's more important to pay attention to Michigan State's increase, Penn State's decrease, etc., than whether Michigan and Ohio State are Nos. 1 and 2. Everyone knows those schools have massive stadiums and always draw the most fans. That's not really news. It's more telling how the average attendance totals change from year to year, or during a longer span of time (4-5 years).


Tom from Minneapolis writes: Adam - You chided Barry Alvarez a little for saying he was talking to a prospective coach five minutes after Bielema's exit, but how about some props for NOT pursuing Paul Chryst, because BA recommended him for the Pitt job last year. If Alvarez had had any inkling at this time last year that Bielema was looking to leave, Chryst would be UW's head coach right now. I thought the comments re Chryst demonstrated that Wisconsin is committed to doing things the right way, even if that sometimes results in a competitive disadvantage.

Adam Rittenberg: Tom, I think it says a lot about Chryst, too. He knows what those kids at Pitt have been through, and leaving them after just one year, even for a potential dream job, isn't the right thing to do. While no one will confuse Paul Chryst with Todd Graham, some would have put them in the same category if Chryst had bolted. It was nice to see Alvarez be up front about Chryst and why he wouldn't pursue him for the job.


Steven from Estero, Fla., writes: Adam, I'm a big ten guy (TOSU '70) and I'm curious as to why our seemingly expansion obsessed commish has not considered Pitt and WVA. Those two make sense if post Md/Rutgers expansion is in the works, as has been intimated. Heard anything about it?

Adam Rittenberg: Steven, a couple of things to keep in mind when throwing out expansion possibilities. If a school isn't an AAU member and a strong academic fit, the Big Ten will not be interested. Nebraska was an AAU member at the time of its admission to the Big Ten. West Virginia is not an AAU member and not a strong academic school. While the ACC seems more willing to compromise its academics (i.e. Louisville), the Big Ten will not. The other thing is demographics and extending the brand into new markets. Pittsburgh is not a new market. The Big Ten brand already resonates there because of Penn State. It's more important to extend the brand into newer, more populated areas than add a school in an area where you're already known.
You already knew the Penn State-Pitt rivalry would resume in 2016. It's going to last a while, too.

The two schools announced Friday that two additional games have been schedule for 2018 and 2019, so the Nittany Lions and Panthers will meet in four consecutive seasons.

Here's the breakdown:

2016: at Pitt
2017: at Penn State
2018: at Pitt
2019: at Penn State

The schools played every season from 1900-31 and from 1935-92. Pitt and Penn State met from 1997-2000 but haven't faced one another since. Penn State leads the all-time series 48-42-4 (first meeting: 1893, two Penn State wins were vacated).
"We are thrilled to have the University of Pittsburgh back on the schedule for several consecutive years," Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said in a prepared statement. "Regional rivalries in college football are special. I have been involved in a few as a coach. Penn State versus Pitt is a rivalry rich with history and tradition. We have a great deal of respect for Paul Chryst and the Pitt Panther football program and we are looking forward to competing against them on the gridiron."

I'm guessing most Penn State fans are fired up about the news. Penn State's four-year postseason ban expires after the 2015 season, so the Lions will be aiming for bigger goals when they face Pitt.

The interesting thing to monitor is whether the Big Ten goes from eight to nine conference games with the upcoming expansion. My fear is that more conference games means fewer attractive non-league series like this one. But the bottom line is a rivalry that always made sense will rev up again in 2016.
As soon as the stunning news of Bret Bielema's departure from Wisconsin broke earlier Tuesday, the attention quickly shifted to Pitt head coach Paul Chryst.

The Madison native and former Wisconsin offensive coordinator seems like a natural choice to step into a suddenly shaky situation. He knows the program, knows the players and knows the fan base.

But Chryst released a statement Tuesday night affirming his commitment to Pittsburgh, where he went 6-6 this season.
"I understand the speculation surrounding my name given today's developments," Chryst's statement reads. "I am committed to the Pitt football program and the University of Pittsburgh. I am focusing all my time and energy on our team’s bowl game preparation and recruiting a great group of young men to join our program and this outstanding university. We are working hard every day to re-establish this program and I am excited about the future of Pitt football."

So there you have it, for what it's worth. I still think Chryst would listen if Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez calls.

Sources: Pitt to hire Chryst as coach

December, 21, 2011
12/21/11
11:34
PM ET
Paul Chryst's wait is over.

The Wisconsin offensive coordinator will be named head coach at Pittsburgh, colleague Joe Schad and others are reporting.

Chryst interviewed for the Pitt vacancy for the second consecutive season, and this time, he landed the job. Florida International coach Mario Cristobal and Ohio State's Luke Fickell also were in the mix at Pitt. Chryst also reportedly drew interest from Illinois for its recent vacancy.

As most blog readers know, I'm a big fan of Chryst's. He's one of the nation's best playcallers and should be an excellent head coach. This opportunity is overdue. While Pitt has botched its last two head-coach hires, the school should be much happier this time around.

Chryst's departure will affect Wisconsin, which also will lose quarterback Russell Wilson and possibly running back Montee Ball. His exit also could push quarterback transfer Dayne Crist away from the Badgers. Crist is deciding between Wisconsin and Kansas. It will be interesting to see where head coach Bret Bielema turns for Chryst's replacement.

More to come Thursday ...
Pittsburgh is scrambling for a new coach after Todd Graham left the program high and dry, and the school reportedly will consider two prominent Big Ten assistants for its vacancy.

Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and Ohio State interim head coach Luke Fickell are in the mix for the Panthers job. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Paul Zeise reported Friday that Fickell already has interviewed for the job and Chryst will interview Saturday before returning to Madison for Rose Bowl prep.

Chryst also was a candidate for Pitt's head-coaching vacancy last year, and was under consideration for recent openings at Illinois and Kansas. He's one of the nation's most successful offensive coordinators and seems ready to make the jump to be a head coach, although he's not the most charismatic personality and seems to thrive behind the scenes.

Fickell will coach Ohio State in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl against Florida and then become a top defensive assistant under Urban Meyer on the Buckeyes staff -- that is, if he doesn't get a better gig elsewhere. Thrust into an extremely difficult position this year, Fickell impressed a lot of folks with how he handled himself. He certainly seems ready to be a full-time head coach, and has recruited western Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh area well over the years. If Fickell stays with Ohio State, he'll make the defensive calls next season and have coordinator in his title, Meyer said this week.

Pittsburgh also is reportedly considering several sitting head coaches. But both Fickell and Chryst are intriguing candidates for a program that needs to act in a hurry.
Does Iowa have a conditioning problem?

The mere suggestion would be swiftly dismissed during most of Kirk Ferentz's tenure as Hawkeyes coach.

Iowa's success during the Ferentz era can be directly tied to its strength and conditioning program, which consistently takes unheralded prospects and develops them into All-Big Ten candidates who outwork the competition. There's a reason why Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle makes more money than many major-conference coordinators, and why Ferentz stuck by Doyle during the rhabdomyolosis outbreak in January.

[+] EnlargeIowa coach Kirk Ferentz
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallKirk Ferentz and his Iowa Hawkeyes have had a tough time finishing games lately.
But Iowa's recent losses have led some to question one of the program's fundamental values. The Hawkeyes blew fourth-quarter leads in each of their final three regular-season games in 2010, losing all three contests. If not for Micah Hyde's interception return for a touchdown against Missouri in the Insight Bowl, it might have been four consecutive blown leads.

Then came Saturday's game at Iowa State, where Iowa took a 24-17 lead with 5:50 to play. Needing a defensive stop to seal the win, Iowa allowed Iowa State to march 59 yards in 13 plays. The Cyclones converted on third-and-15, third-and-20 and fourth-and-1 before scoring the tying touchdown. Iowa ended up losing 44-41 in three overtimes.

Iowa may or may not have a conditioning problem, but the Hawkeyes appear to have a finishing problem.

"Not finishing the game is always frustrating," linebacker Christian Kirksey told ESPN.com. "Especially in a rivalry game, when you lose, there's nothing good about that."

Iowa's conditioning level, particularly on defense, will be tested Saturday against Pittsburgh.

I spent some time on Pitt's campus last week and spotted many students wearing T-shirts that read: "High Octane Football." It's the motto new Pitt coach Todd Graham has brought to the program, and it stems mainly from the tempo Graham demands from his spread offense.

"This isn't nanotechnology or nuclear science," Graham told a crowd of Pitt fans this spring. "We are going to mentally and physically wear you out."

Graham's Tulsa team was one of only eight FBS programs to run more than 1,000 offensive plays in 2010. The quick pace worked as Tulsa ranked fifth nationally in total offense (505.6 ypg) and sixth in scoring (41.4 ppg).

Graham wants to snap the ball within five seconds of when it is marked for play and keeps his offense in hurry-up mode throughout the game.

Although Pitt hasn't been nearly as explosive as Graham's old squad in its first two games -- the Panthers average 35 points and 395.5 yards -- only seven FBS teams have run more plays than Pitt's 156.

"You're going to see the quarterback option attack, throwing the football, a lot of plays, fast-paced," Ferentz said.

The pace shouldn't be new to Iowa after facing Iowa State last week, Missouri in the bowl game and teams like Northwestern and Michigan last season. Graham has three former Michigan assistants, including co-offensive coordinator Calvin Magee, on his staff at Pitt.

"We've played a lot of teams that are high-paced," Kirksey said, "so throughout practice you've got to make sure you fly around to the ball, keep that high tempo and be aggressive."

Iowa endured a stretch of close losses in 2007 and in the first part of 2008 before reversing the trend and turning into arguably the nation's most clutch team in 2009. Saturday's game marks a chance for the Hawkeyes to regain a bit of momentum and for the defense to prove it can outlast a fast-paced foe.

"We're a pretty conditioned team," said Kirksey, who led Iowa with 13 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery against Iowa State. "It just makes us want to work harder. Now we know it can go over 60 minutes because we've seen it in overtime. It just makes us push more and become better as a team.

"We will finish a game."
Penn State and PittAP Photo/ George WidmanPenn State and Pittsburgh are scheduled to meet in 2016 after last facing each other in 2000.
Penn State and Pittsburgh announced this week that they would resume their once long-running rivalry for at least two years, beginning in 2016. The game is sure to be a hot topic for Pennsylvanians between now and then, and it's a perfect setup for a debate between Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett and Big East blogger Andrea Adelson.

Brian Bennett: Andrea, how is my old conference beat treating you? Good thing they didn't set us up as a blogger-in-waiting thing, because I may have started some rumors about your behavior at casinos.

Anyway, I think we both agree that the Pitt-Penn State game is a good thing for college football. Frankly, I was surprised to see it happen. The Nittany Lions had been holding out since the last game in 2000, wanting at least two out of every three meetings to be played in Beaver Stadium. Since the series was announced, I've heard from several Penn State fans who wonder what their school has to gain by this game. And while it's great for football in the state, I tend to agree that the Nittany Lions don't necessarily need this series.

What has been the reaction from Pitt fans, and who stands to benefit more from this rivalry resumption?

Andrea Adelson: Brian, you were not supposed to mention anything about the casinos! Thanks a lot for ruining my rep three weeks into the job.

As for the Penn State-Pitt game, I think the overwhelming majority of Panthers fans are excited because they never wanted this game to end. They also believe this means there is no way JoePa is coaching the team in 2016 because they are convinced he is the reason the series ended. But even with the excitement, there are those who say it is no big deal because it is just two games.

What do two games against a former rival really mean? In the time since the Penn State series ended, West Virginia has become a much more bitter rival. The "Backyard Brawl" is one of the nastiest rivalries in all of college football. I don't think that changes even though this series resumes. That being said, playing Penn State is extremely important for Pitt. Anytime a Big East team gets an opportunity to play a marquee team from a conference like the Big Ten, the stakes are much higher. Beating Penn State would definitely be a big win for Pitt and the Big East itself. The league can use all the big nonconference wins it can get.

BB: Andrea, we all know JoePa will be coaching for at least 20 more years, even if he's calling plays via Skype by then. Anyway, I agree that a win over Penn State would be big for Pitt and the Big East, potentially. But unless Todd Graham gets the Panthers playing at an elite level, beating Pittsburgh probably won't be considered a marquee victory for the Nittany Lions, while a loss could damage Penn State's reputation and recruiting efforts in Western Pennsylvania.

But you mentioned the West Virginia-Pitt rivalry, and I think that's an important point. Penn State doesn't really have a true annual rivalry game right now. The school still feels like somewhat of an outsider in the Big Ten as that league's far Eastern school. Sure, Syracuse and Temple appear at times on the schedule, but those games simply wouldn't move the needle as much as a duel against the state's other AQ team. College football is at its best when there are good old-fashioned neighborly feuds to follow.

I know Pitt would like this to be an annual home-and-home series (if for no other reason than to guarantee a rare sellout at Heinz Field). Right now, only two games are scheduled. Do you think the two schools should extend this to a yearly date like it used to be?

AA: Absolutely. I think both schools would have something to gain. As you mentioned, Penn State has no true rival and getting Pitt back on the schedule would certainly help. Fans would enjoy watching a game against Pitt, as opposed to the Cupcake U. flavor of the year. What does Penn State really have to lose here? I understand about the extra home dates, but how much money are we really talking about Penn State losing if they go on the road every other year to play Pitt? Florida State and Florida still play each other in a home-and-home series, and they have been able to maintain their strong rivalry and fill in the rest of their home dates without a problem. What does Penn State have to lose with this game, other than an old grudge from JoePa?

BB: Well, Penn State has to consider the very real possibility that the Big Ten will go to nine conference games by 2016. That means there are only three nonconference games available, and the Nittany Lions would want to schedule at least one guarantee game. If the school wants to have another big-name opponent like the current Alabama series, then all of a sudden the schedule becomes both very difficult and perhaps not financially feasible.

Then again, Penn State likes to believe its program is vastly superior to Pitt's. So why not prove it on the field?

Big Ten lunch links

May, 16, 2011
5/16/11
12:00
PM ET
These links go out to Taj Gibson.
I missed seeing Joe Paterno last week at the Big Ten spring meetings (I doubt he missed me).

I had a blast visiting with the Penn State coach at last year's spring meetings -- he shared some great Jackie Robinson stories -- and looked forward to hearing him sound off on various topics. Unfortunately, the 83-year-old was battling the stomach flu, which has kept him home-bound the last few weeks.

[+] EnlargeJoe Paterno
Fernando Medina/US PresswireJoe Paterno says he trusts Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney to come up with a good expansion plan.
We haven't heard from JoePa since the Blue-White Game on April 24, but he made an appearance Wednesday morning on a Pittsburgh sports radio station (93.7 The Fan). Paterno said his health has improved, and he weighed in on several topics, including Big Ten expansion.

Some of the highlights:

  • Paterno said the Big Ten is "on the verge" of a key decision and continued to advocate the need to expand the league. "The Big Ten, with the kind of programs we have, the universities we have, there’s got to be a couple of schools out there that would be an asset to us," he said. "I don’t think it’s fair for me to say which ones, but I hope we get somebody from the East. It’ll help us with the New York and the New Jersey television markets. But [commissioner] Jim Delany’s working hard on this thing and when they come up with some kind of a plan, it will be a good one."
  • On the potential for superconferences in college football: "I'd like to know the pros and cons if we go to 16 [teams] as opposed to go to 12. The future is probably going to be 16-team conferences. That probably will be the future because of the television markets and the chances to have meaningful conference championship games and things of that nature."
  • Paterno talked about the AAU factor in Big Ten expansion and recalled being surprised at how excited Penn State faculty members were when the school joined the Big Ten. "It was a real solid upgrade academically for us," he said. "So when we move on, we ought to be thinking somewhat about the kind of academic school we’re looking at."
  • On the now defunct Penn State-Pittsburgh rivalry: "I miss the Pitt game. You don’t have the old stadium up on the hill [any more]. I used to love to walk down that hill after the game was over. … I have great memories of games we played there. I think it’s in the future, but a long way off."
  • On whether he stumps for Pitt as a Big Ten expansion candidate: "I don’t think coaches have anything to say about that. The Big Ten is not a coaches’ conference as far as setting rules and goals for the conference and so forth. ... Jim Delany knows what he’s doing, he’s got a good staff and he’s working hard on trying to put the best arrangements together. Now if Pitt’s part of it, then that’s fine, but it won’t do me any good to call him and say, 'What about Pitt?' It won't hurt, but it won't do any good."
  • Paterno said quarterback and offensive line are his two biggest concerns entering the summer, saying the linemen were "a little shaky" in spring practice. "They were a little unsure of themselves," he said, "not as aggressive as they have to be."

For a transcript of Paterno's interview, click here.

Not a ton of earth-shattering stuff here, but it's always a big deal when Paterno talks, and I'm always interested in what he has to say.

Big Ten lunch links

May, 24, 2010
5/24/10
12:00
PM ET
Just give us the Cup already.

Big Ten mailblog

May, 21, 2010
5/21/10
3:00
PM ET
As a reminder, you can send me your questions here. Have a great weekend.

Jacob from Texas writes: Adam,I know you thought the odds of going after Vanderbilt were low, but I think you underplay the southern demographic change on the thought process of the Big 10. I see where you are coming from in the Vanderbilt arguement, but one school that shouldn't be overlooked is Georgia Tech. Tech was just admitted to the AAU in 2010, is in "Hotlanta" (huge TV market), and opens the hotbed of Georgia to recruiting. I say why not?

Adam Rittenberg: Georgia Tech is a possibility, Jacob, but I just think if the Big Ten is going to significantly extend its boundaries to the South, it needs a big-splash addition. This needs to be worth it for these schools to spend much more money on travel, etc. To me, Texas is the only southern school that fits my big-splash definition. I think a lot of folks misunderstood Jim Delany when he talked about the migration to the Sun Belt. He's used the same argument many times in previous discussions we've had about other topics, including recruiting. It's much more likely the Big Ten will solidify itself in the North than go heavy with southern schools. Georgia Tech has a good profile, just not a great one.


Neal from Tallahassee, Fla., writes: What's your prediction regarding the Big Ten's success against non-conference BCS foes for the 2010 season? Also, do you think Notre Dame is playing hard to get or do they really value their independence that much? I just can't comprehend a football program that holds onto traditon and uses it as a conduit to push their agenda, especially when they haven't been consistantly relevant for the past two decades

Adam Rittenberg: For the most part, I like the Big Ten's chances in some of the key nonconference matchups this fall. Obviously, beating Notre Dame is key, and I think the Big Ten will go 2-1 against the Irish. The other key games are Ohio State-Miami, Iowa-Arizona and Penn State-Alabama. It'll be tough to see the Nittany Lions win that one in Tuscaloosa, so the Big Ten really needs wins from the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes. As far as Notre Dame, I really get the sense that it doesn't want to voluntarily join a conference. Who wants to be the Notre Dame AD and president who "caved" and gave up independence? While I agree with you about the relevancy thing, Notre Dame won't join a league unless it has no other choice.


Bilal from Islamabad, Pakistan, writes: Love the blog, Adam. Keep up the good work! So the issue of divisions always comes up when discussing expansion, and nobody wants the Big Ten to have the disparity we currently see in the Big 12. No matter how the teams are divided up now, we don't know if they'll be equally strong/weak a decade from now. So here's a thought. The Big Ten can go a step further and create two "fluid" divisions. Each season, the teams can be divided equally based on their standings the year before so that we can have parity in the divisions. To maintain rivalries, each team can then have 1, 2 or 3 permanent rivals depending on whether the Big Ten goes to 16, 14 or 12 so rivals can play every year regardless of which division they end up in.

Adam Rittenberg: Bilal, nice to see the Big Ten representing in Islamabad. I like your idea about fluid divisions, and you bring up a great point about projecting teams a decade from now. It would be tough to determine the schedule years in advance because the divisions would always be changing, and for this and other reasons, I can't see the Big Ten going with such a model. You have to be honest about the historical powerhouses in your league and who boasts the biggest athletic departments. In the Big Ten, three schools separate themselves: Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. I've long said putting all three of these teams in the same division would be a major mistake. Depending on the new addition or additions, there could be some good balance in the divisions.



Bill from Greeneville, Tenn., writes: Thanks for all the reporting on Big Ten Expansion. It has a drug quality to it. Not that I would know anything about that????Delany talking about demographics has me thinking they will go in one of three directions. Direction being the key word.1. Go toward sunbelt. Texas, A&M, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. If you land a Texas you must bring Texas rivals.2. Stay close to home. ND, Rutgers, Syracuse, Pitt, and Missouri. 3. South. UVA, Maryland, NC, Duke, Ga Tech.Note all of these except ND r aau members.Does it stand to reason that if they are going after a big dog. (NC, Tex, ND) they must bring familiar rivals and thus a demographic viewing region?

Adam Rittenberg: Bill, I'm not sure you have the geography right here, as few would describe Missouri or Nebraska as being in the Sun Belt. We're looking at two primary regions of interest -- the Midwest and East Coast. If the Big Ten looks to the South, Texas seems like the only realistic and worthwhile option. The rivalry thing is interesting, but if you add Nebraska, you'll have an automatic rivalry with Iowa. If you add Missouri, you'll have rivalries with Illinois (already exists) and Iowa. Notre Dame already has three annual rivals in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue). Rutgers would have an automatic rivalry with Penn State. So I don't know if the Big Ten would need to bring in familiar rivals for its new additions.


Josh from New York City writes: Hey Adam - love the blog, keep up the good work. Every report I've read on PSU's 2011 class has repeatedly said to not worry about the fact that PSU has yet to sign 1 recruit. Saying that the coaching staff was being "strategic" in their offerings. As someone who follows this very closely, when should PSU fans start to really worry about this issue??

Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Josh. While I agree that Penn State can be strategic with its scholarship distribution for 2011, you'd like to get on the scoreboard eventually. Since Purdue picked up its first commit this week, Penn State is the only Big Ten school without a verbal commit. I'd start to get concerned if Penn State doesn't pick up some commits during its football camps, which begin in June.


Jordan from Pleasant Hill, Ohio, writes: Adam, love the blog and read it every day. Wanted to comment on the recent postings by you and Pat Forde on the best way for the Big Ten to expand. I am a staunch traditionalist, but am supporting an expansion to 12 teams. I dont want to see the college landscape change drastically, we have a REALLY good thing going here as things are. I know that Nebraska would be the best fit for the BTN, but when I think of them, I think Big VIII. I just dont see them fitting into our landscape. Since it doesnt seem like we will be getting ND - the best fit - I think we need to take another look at Pitt. Good FB and MBB programs, renew the rivalry with Penn St., and fits well geographically in this economy. I know the major driving force is the BTN and $$, but this makes the most sense to me. Comments?

Adam Rittenberg: I understand how you feel about Nebraska and the Big 8/Big 12, but you have to open your mind during this process and look at the school and its athletic program and not just its conference affiliation history. When you do that, I think you'll see that Nebraska is a really good fit for the Big Ten. The Huskers have Big Ten-like fans (good thing), Big Ten-like tradition (good thing) and a location that makes sense for the league. I'm sure Pitt is a school that the Big Ten will examine, but it's hard to ignore the location factor. As you say, the Big Ten Network and cable dollars are big factors in this expansion study, and Pitt wouldn't add as much as other schools. Could Pitt be school No. 15 or 16? Sure. But if this is a limited expansion (1 or 3 teams), I don't see the Panthers among that group.


Josh from Wheelersburg, Ohio, writes: Any chance of the Big Ten getting rid of a current member (ie. Indiana) in order to strengthen the conference and make more room for expansion. I ask because it seems to me cutting a team then adding Texas and A & M would allow for a 12 team conference without destroying the conference layouts but still gives Texas their wingman.

Adam Rittenberg: Josh, I just can't see this happening. Keep in mind that the Big Ten doesn't have to expand and remains a very healthy league with its current structure. There wouldn't be much if any support for getting rid of teams just to make room for expansion candidates. Delany would never let this happen, in my opinion.

Big Ten lunch links

May, 10, 2010
5/10/10
12:00
PM ET
I'm bound for Bristol and the mothership later today.

Big Ten mailblog

February, 2, 2010
2/02/10
3:30
PM ET
Before we begin, I wanted to quickly address the Pitt-to-the-Big Ten rumors, which had absolutely no truth to them. I know many of you wanted me to weigh in much earlier on this, but when something has no substance behind it, we're not going to fan the flames or even acknowledge it. Sources on both sides have told me and colleagues Brian Bennett and Mark Schlabach that nothing is in the works right now. Pitt very well could become the 12th member of the Big Ten, but when the Big Ten says the process will take 12-18 months, it's a good bet the process will take 12-18 months. Adding a team six weeks after making the public announcement about expansion is beyond out of character for this conference.

Bottom line: Don't believe everything you read on the Internet (unless it's on the Big Ten blog, of course).

Rod D. from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Adam,Do you think the reason OSU has struggled with the in state recruits this year is due to the negative Big 10 perception finally taking its toll. Also do you think Tressel conservative game management is a turn off to potential recruits. I'll be honest when saying this but watching Oregon, Usc, heck even Texas, it just seems more exciting than watching OSU when the offense takes the field. I can understand why recruits are attracted to that style of play.

Adam Rittenberg: No, I agree with colleague Bill Kurelic that 2010 is more the exception than the rule with Ohio State and its local recruiting. Ohio State might not have the "cool" factor like Oregon or USC, but if players want to make it to the NFL, Columbus is a pretty good place to play college ball. I remember talking to several Ohio State players before the Rose Bowl about Oregon and all its Nike gear and uniform combos. They admitted to being drawn to Oregon, but ultimately they chose tradition and a program that would help them get to the next level. Bells and whistles and dynamic schemes play big roles in recruiting, but these guys ultimately want to get to the NFL, and Ohio State will always help them get there.


Jeff from State College, Pa., writes: Adam, Do you know anything behind the validity of the internet rumors circulating that Texas is likely to be headed to the Big Ten?

Adam Rittenberg: I'm hoping you wrote this e-mail with tongue planted firmly in cheek, after the Pitt fiasco. I'll get to this issue later this week on the blog, but the Big Ten absolutely should take a look at Texas. UT makes sense for a lot of reasons, namely its powerhouse athletic department and its academic reputation. But I wonder how much interest Texas has in the Big Ten. Besides the financial incentives, which can never be dismissed in college sports, would Texas benefit much more as a Big Ten member? It's certainly a fun topic to debate. But to answer your question, no team is "likely" heading to the Big Ten at this point. Everyone needs to be more patient with this issue.


Carl from Mequon, Wis., writes: So I am an ideas man, say the Big Ten adds three teams (Mizzou for sure, then any two from Pitt, Cuse, Rutgers, Cincey, or the Ville; we'll say Cuse and Rutgers). After that you divide them up into two leagues: Wisconsin, Mizzou, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern, and Michigan; MSU, Indiana, OSU, Purdue, Penn St, Cuse, and Rutgers. play 8 conference games (make sure Mich and OSU always play) for football. For hoops play a 19 game conference slate (I know, everyone wants an even number, but if the played every team in their division twice that leaves a one game rotation schedule with the rest). What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: Carl, I like your ideas, especially the decision to split up Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. I don't think Big Ten basketball coaches would like this setup, as several already don't like the 18-game conference schedule. These divisions would have some nice balance for football. For basketball, the MSU/Cuse/Ohio State/Purdue division would be much tougher. I'm still not in favor of splitting Ohio State and Michigan into separate divisions because I'd rather only see them play once a year, but to guarantee a cross-divisional game like the SEC does would make some sense.


Marc P. from Chapel Hill, N.C., writes: Hey Adam,If Northwestern manages to set up the Wrigley game with Illinois, what are the chances it will be played on a Thursday night? I vaguely remember hearing about the Big 10 possibly scheduling a few Thursday night games, and I think the Wrigley game would be a prime opportunity for that to happen. There's going to be a lot of media attention anyway, but moving the game to a Thursday could get us some national coverage. It would be a great opportunity to spotlight the Big 10, highlight a program on the rise like Northwestern, and/or improve the image of the floundering Illinois.

Adam Rittenberg: Marc, while a Thursday night game would be pretty electric, there's zero chance of it happening. The Big Ten has been open to a few midweek games, but only at the beginning or the end of the season. This fall, three Big ten teams will open on Thursday, Sept. 2 (Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio State). The Big Ten schedule is already set for 2010, so moving this game would create a bunch of problems. Add in the resistance from the Wrigley Field neighbors about a night football game, and it'll never happen. The Big Ten also prohibits night games after Nov. 1, and the game would have to take place in November. Like you said, the game will generate a ton of buzz no matter when it kicks off.


Rich from Wayne, N.J., writes: Adam - As a lifelong NYC/Northern NJ resident and alum of PSU, I think tapping the NYC-Metro market is huge for B10 expansion and disagree with your assumption that it is a "pro market."Take a long hard look at the thousands upon thousands of Penn State grads from the metro-NYC market, in addition to transplanted alum from other B10 universities to the Northern NJ/NYC area over the years. I have had the pleasure of working with hundreds of B10 alum who are passionate about FBS football. As an NFL Giant season tix holder believe me - the college game is huge in this area, especially since Rutgers has been showing signs of life the past 4 years. Their stadium is now always pretty much packed every home game and they have a waiting list for tix. In addition, PSU always packed Giants Stadium for all Kick-Off Classic games and Cablevison now offers the B10 Network - so don't blow it off that easily. An Ohio State-RU or Michigan-RU matchup would create a ton of media buzz in the press and WFAN for weeks. Paterno has a point - tapping this market gives the B10 a huge no-brainer thumbprint for recruiting, viewership and the #1 market media coverage than adding ANY other program (except for ND). Virtually would knock the Big East (as a football conference anyway) out of business if Rutgers was added. Your take?

Adam Rittenberg: Rich, while I don't question your observations in New York/New Jersey, to label the area anything other than a pro market would be silly. You've got two NFL teams, two MLB teams, two NBA teams and three NHL teams. I know there are a ton of Big Ten alumni in New York, and having Big Ten teams come to the region would attract some attention. I'm just a bit skeptical that Rutgers could truly capture the market in a way the Big Ten would want to go through with expansion. Now if Rutgers AND Syracuse were added, I'd feel a little more confident. From a men's basketball standpoint, Rutgers doesn't bring much to the table, and the one true college sports event in New York City is the Big East tournament at MSG. New York will always be a Big East basketball town, in my opinion. Bottom line: the addition of Rutgers combined with the sizable Big Ten alumni presence in NY/NJ could be enough. But Rutgers will need to make one heck of a sales pitch to Jim Delany.


Blogger debate: Penn State vs. Pitt

October, 28, 2009
10/28/09
9:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg

It has been nine years since rivals Penn State and Pitt last played, and the debate about the discontinued series still rages in the Keystone State. When will they meet again? Not in the regular season any time soon. But there's a new subplot in the discussion this fall, as the Nittany Lions and Panthers are separated by just three spots in the BCS standings.

Both teams are playing their best football right now and remain alive in their respective conference title races. And maybe, just maybe, the 12th-ranked Lions and 15th-ranked Panthers will meet in a BCS bowl down the road. The big question: Which has the better team?

Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg and Big East blogger Brian Bennett break it all down.

 
  Eric Bronson/Icon SMI
  Pennsylvania football fans would like to see Daryll Clark and the Nittany Lions play Pittsburgh in the future.
Adam Rittenberg: We already debated Iowa and Cincinnati. Now let's get really personal. There are enough fans on both sides who want to see the series resume, but we both know how BCS teams hate to part with home games. Any chance we see Penn State and Pitt meet in a BCS bowl game?

Brian Bennett: It's certainly possible that both teams get into the BCS. But I see the chances of them meeting in a bowl as slim. Penn State would have to be an at-large pick, since there's no way Pitt is going to the Rose Bowl, and the options are limited elsewhere. Plus, the game wouldn't generate a whole lot of interest outside of Pennsylvania, where it would be enormous.

The bigger question I have is, why aren't these two teams still playing in the regular season? All indications are that Pitt would welcome the resumption of the series. Panthers fans blame Joe Paterno for killing the rivalry. How much truth do you think there is to that?

Rittenberg: Paterno wasn't pleased when Pitt joined the Big East, which prevented him from forming a new conference with Eastern schools. Penn State also must play at least seven home games a year. That's non-negotiable. The Lions can't afford to lose revenue from cramming their enormous stadium and continue to play other attractive nonconference opponents (i.e. Alabama) unless Pitt agreed to a 2-for-1 with two games in State College. I know the fans don't like to hear it, but the two schools are in different financial positions, and Pitt plays one more non-league game (5) than Penn State.

We could talk about this all day, but let's get to the teams. How do you think Pitt matches up against Penn State?

 
  Justin K. Aller/Icon SMI
  Pittsburgh quarterback Bill Stull is leading an improved Panthers offense.
Bennett: As with all the Big East contenders, you have to start on the offensive side of the ball. Those not playing close attention this year may view Pitt as a typical Dave Wannstedt, defensive-minded team. But the Panthers can really score and are averaging 34 points a game. They've got answers everywhere, from a terrific veteran offensive line, a true freshman back in Dion Lewis who's already gone over 1,000 yards, a stud receiver in Jonathan Baldwin, two top flight tight ends and a fifth-year senior quarterback, Bill Stull, who has made tremendous strides.

Defensively, Pitt has one of the top defensive front lines anywhere, with sack specialists Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard on the outside and bullrushing tackle Mick Williams on the inside. The Panthers have been exploited, however, in the passing game against the outside linebackers and the defensive backs, which is where I would think the Nittany Lions would attack with Daryll Clark.

But Penn State's offense hasn't been overly impressive this year. Has the Spread HD gone low def?

Rittenberg: Offense, offense, offense. That's all I hear from you, Bennett. Before getting to the Spread HD, which looks pretty good to me, let's talk a little D (you like my rhymes?).

Penn State's defense is simply dominant this season. I won't bore you with stats, but Penn State ranks in the top 10 nationally in seven major statistical categories, including No. 1 in points allowed (8.88 ppg). The defensive line is ferocious, led by tackles Jared Odrick and Ollie Ogbu and budding star Jack Crawford at defensive end. Linebacker U. is back as Navorro Bowman and The 'Stache (Josh Hull) have been fabulous and Sean Lee is getting healthier each week. They would digest Lewis.

The Lions are getting better each week on offense as a new-look line jells. Clark and running back Evan Royster have been fabulous since the Iowa loss, and the new group of wide receivers has seen different stars emerge each week (Chaz Powell, Derek Moye, Graham Zug). Tight end Andrew Quarless is a major matchup problem, and backup running back Stephfon Green can go the distance on any play.

Penn State might be the most complete team in the Big Ten right now. So what do you think? Who would win if these rivals decided to play this year?

Bennett: This why I'm glad I cover the Big East and not the Big Ten: I enjoy the forward pass and seeing teams score.

I'm with you on Penn State's defense -- it's stacked. That would probably be the difference in the Pennsylvania Bowl. Although I think Pitt could still move the ball, it likely wouldn't come anywhere close to its usual points total against the Nittany Lions, while that improving offense behind Clark would get the job done.

So I give the slight nod to Penn State as remaining the big dog in the state, but the gap is narrowing once again. Now, what can we do to talk these two teams into actually playing one another?

Rittenberg: I agree that Penn State would win the game, especially with the way the Nittany Lions are playing right now. The Big East doesn't have a defense ranked in the top 20 nationally, and the Nittany Lions' size and speed on that side would pose problems. Pitt's defensive line could hurt Penn State, but Clark still would make plays in the pass game. I've been very impressed with Pitt this year, as much as I'm reluctant to buy into Wanny-coached team (sorry, Bears fan here).

How do we get these two together again? I wonder if Pitt would be willing to do a 3-for-2. Otherwise, maybe they could meet at a neutral site and split the revenue. Or we could wait for Paterno to retire. On second thought, that'll never happen.

SPONSORED HEADLINES