- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Wishing you a good weekend of game watching.
Tim from Hermosa Beach, Calif., writes: Adam,Should Wisconsin win out, win the Big Ten Championship, and win the Rose Bowl, could Bret Bielema be considered for Big Ten coach of the year? Yes, losing two games (one to a pretty good OR St. team), is bad, but with all the turnover on the field and the sidelines, wouldn't it be phenomenal to accomplish that feat?
Adam Rittenberg: Tim, if the Big Ten awarded Coach of the Year after the bowl season, I would agree with you 100 percent. But the major awards actually come out after the final regular-season games are played. Would Bielema win the award if Wisconsin merely wins the Leaders division, which everyone predicted it would before the season? Highly unlikely. Although it would show he helped right the ship in Madison after a very shaky start, I'd be surprised to see him claim the award over, say, Bill O'Brien, Urban Meyer, Pat Fitzgerald or Jerry Kill. There's a long way to go and anything is possible, but the timing of when the award is presented -- before the league title game and the bowls -- probably eliminates Bielema from the discussion.
Michael from Saginaw, Mich., writes: I know this is thinking really far ahead, but I cant help myself. This mediocre season that seems to be going down for my beloved Spartans may have one of those double edged sword mentalities i think. Instead of losing possible greats to the draft such as bell and Gholston, do they come back for unfinished business? Ive read many times how much Gholston appreciates the staff and the college life and opportunities that were afforded to him. Bell could possibly have a healthy and strong O-line next year with a (god willing) much improved pass game. Do seasons such as this give way to possible great follow-ups? (or am i asking the football gods for too much?)
Adam Rittenberg: Michael, while there could be an unfinished business mentality for Michigan State's draft hopefuls, it ultimately comes down to a set of individual decisions. I would be very surprised if Le'Veon Bell returns in 2013, even if Michigan State falls short of its goals this fall. Bell plays a position that has a very short shelf-life in the NFL, and despite his size, he has taken a ton of carries -- and hits -- this season. He projects very well to the next level and doesn't need to prove much more to the scouts after the durability he has shown this fall. Gholston is a different case because of the position he plays and whether he'll benefit more from another year at the college level. I think he could, but again, I'm not in his shoes and dealing with the circumstances in his life. Gholston hasn't been as dominant as many of us thought he'd be, but his natural ability certainly could springboard him to the NFL if he chooses to come out. If I had to make a prediction right now, I'd say Bell goes and Gholston stays.
Matthew from Charlotte, N.C., writes: Since the Pelini hot seat rumors seem to be firing up I thought I'd pose this to someone who might actually know:If we fire Pelini when he hasn't had a losing season and is 45-22 (if he's 6-6 this year) is any coach going to want to come here? Considering our treatment of Solich (who was 58-19) are good coaches going to think our expectations are grossly inflated and pass?And by good coach I mean someone who "everyone" is talking about as a good head coaching prospect, so they're likely to have options and future prospects. Yes I know that can backfire.(I know this isn't really unique to us, Georgia seems to be in the same situation. A coach you don't think is good enough to win championships and too good to fire)
Adam Rittenberg: Matthew, first of all, I'd be very surprised if Nebraska parts ways with Pelini after this season, even if he goes 6-6 (also unlikely). It's more likely he leaves for another job than gets fired. You bring up an interesting point, though, about the perception of the Nebraska job if the Huskers dump Pelini with a decent overall record, like they did with Solich. While I think the circumstances are a little different in Lincoln these days (no Steve Pederson), it's interesting to debate how the Nebraska job is viewed from the outside. Although the school and its fans want to compete for national championships, I also think there's a keen understanding of the difficulties (geography, recent history, rise of SEC) that make it tough. What Nebraska should be doing is competing regularly for Big Ten titles, occasionally for national titles and having fewer nights like last Saturday's, when it flat-lines in the national spotlight. If Bo can't do that, Nebraska will need to look elsewhere. And whomever succeeds Pelini, he needs to be keenly aware of the program/fan culture and embrace the unique elements of leading Big Red.
Grant from State College, Pa., writes: I was wondering your thoughts on Michael Mauti being left off of the Lombardi quarter-finalist list? Through the first half of the season, he is producing at a high a level as anyone in the Big Ten, and the country for that matter.
Adam Rittenberg: It's a joke, Grant. A lot of these awards embarrass themselves with preseason watch lists and sometimes with revised midseason watch lists. Anyone who has been paying attention knows Mauti has been one of the nation's top 3 linebackers this season. He is playing at an All-America caliber level, and if he keeps it up, he'll win Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. I hope the Lombardi Award folks reconsider their error and add Mauti to the mix. I agree with David Jones that these awards shouldn't be taken as seriously as they are, and there are PR agendas in play. I would hope Mauti isn't punished because of the uniform he wears, but the lack of analysis I've seen from those compiling these award lists rarely surprises me. Mauti will be recognized where it matters -- on All-America lists and with the Big Ten awards.
Nate from Iowa writes: Adam, with Damon Bullock returning this week, and more than likely sharing snaps with "The Hammer" Mark Weisman, I can't help but wonder if you are going to see more out of the Hawkeyes' offense this weekend, especially on the ground. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg: Nate, it definitely helps Iowa to have another weapon for an offense that still ranks 94th nationally in total yards and 96th in scoring. As good as Weisman has been, he can use a breather every now and then with the carries, and Bullock can provide a change of pace. I'm really interested to see how Iowa splits the carries against Michigan State because Weisman has been so good. Still, it's more important for Iowa to establish a threat in the passing game to complement the run. If James Vandenberg struggles and Michigan State can load up at the line of scrimmage, it's going to be very tough for Iowa to score. MSU matches up better against Iowa's offense than the spread it saw last week at Indiana.
Ken from Portage, Mich., writes: Adam, regarding strength of schedule in determining BCS standing position. Michigan started the season ranked 8th. Had the Wolverines not played Alabama & Notre Dame and instead played the same non conference schedule as Ohio State, chances are they would be a top five team and still in contention for the BCS. Instead they are barley ranked. Upgrading your competition level may not always be a good thing.
Adam Rittenberg: Ken, I agree that scheduling tougher games often doesn't help teams in the current BCS setup. While Michigan would need to go undefeated to have any chance to reaching the title game -- a one-loss Big Ten team definitely wouldn't make it -- a softer non-league schedule would increase this likelihood. The good news is that playing tougher non-league games should pay off more in the playoff era because four spots are in play, not just two. If Michigan had one close loss -- Alabama or ND -- and won the rest of its games, plus the Big Ten title game, it would have a better chance of cracking the top four because of its schedule strength. The counterargument is that an undefeated season remains the best way to reach the playoff, and a softer schedule would increase those chances. But it's very rare to run the table, and athletic directors have and will take schedule strength into mind as they craft schedules in the future (already seeing a change with Ohio State). As it stands now, Michigan's losses don't hurt it in relation to reaching the Rose Bowl.
Shawn from Houston writes: I usually enjoy you being on the college football podcast but did not on 10/10. As it would not be right of me to do otherwise here is a copy of the email I sent Ivan. Thanks have a nice day. I listen to the espnu college football podcast everyday on my way to work and rest assured this isn't to whine about my team not getting talked about. In fact I enjoy hearing about other teams and what is going on all over the college football world. The reason I am writing is I did not enjoy the twenty minuet rant by Adam rittenburg about how amazing the big ten is. He has been on the show many times where I have enjoyed what he has had to say but by the time the podcast was over I felt as if he should be exhausted from hard selling the big ten and defending their down year. I certainly did not enjoy the remark about how during week two when the big ten had a bad week and that they should have at least beat Norte dame. I don't think he has forgotten that Norte dame did not only beat purdue that week but michigan and Michigan state as well. So to say that the big ten's major disappointment during week two was to lose to what is now the number 7 team in the nation and a team that has beat every big ten opponent this year or every opponent this year was illplaced. I will continue to enjoy the podcast but wanted to speak my opinion and defend the honor of Norte dame.
Adam Rittenberg: Shawn, Shawn, Shawn, you clearly don't read the Big Ten blog, do you? Go ahead and find out how much I've "defended" the Big Ten this season. Did you miss this story? Or this one? You're only upset because I said the Big Ten was expected to do better than 0-3 against Notre Dame this season. Most analysts had the Big Ten going 2-1 or 1-2 against the Irish before the season. I was referring to the Week 2 debacle and the oh-fer against Notre Dame as elements of the Big Ten's overall struggles this season. Notre Dame has received credit on the blog, and there has been very little defending of an indefensible performance by the Big Ten this season.
Matt from Midway, N.C., writes: Adam, since I cannot watch or follow every B1G team each week, I was wondering if you could do a piece on each teams MVP so far this season? Maybe even for offense and defense.
Adam Rittenberg: Matt, thanks for the segway, as you're way ahead of the game. We'll have midseason reviews for every Big Ten team on Tuesday (Oct. 16), which will include offensive MVP and defensive MVP selections. Here's a sneak preview: Braxton Miller will be Ohio State's offensive MVP. I know, I'm just full of surprises. Check the blog bright and early Tuesday for all the midseason reviews.
11hSam Khan and Greg Ostendorf