A few questions and answers before the holiday weekend. Not surprisingly, many of you want to talk about Big Ten realignment possibilities and this post.
Let's get started ...
Rob from Baton Rouge, La., writes: Adam, I have been seeing a lot of people complain about the B1G diluting traditional match-ups as the conference continues to expand. I have a possible solution should the conference expand to 16 schools, which seems inevitable: create four, four team divisions. Every year the divisions pair up on a rotating basis, and every team in the paired divisions plays every other one, and the team with the best record out of each pair goes to the B1G Championship game. Add in a protected crossover and you have a complete 8 game schedule, where 4 rivalries are protected, but every school plays every other school at least every three years. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: Rob, while I had some initial reservations about the four, 4-team pods when readers first suggested them, I've definitely warmed up to the idea. You can solve a lot of rivalry issues by putting Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska in the same division. You could put Michigan and Ohio State in different pods as long as you kept the crossover game, or you could put Ohio State and Michigan together and split Michigan and Michigan State (keeping the crossover). It offers a lot of flexibility that two 8-team divisions don't. My concern is how do you determine who plays in the Big Ten title game? Top two records? What are the tiebreakers? Things could get a bit tricky, and I'm not a fan of having semifinals and then a championship game within the league.
Brett from Madison, Wis., writes: Hey Adam, Long-time reader, first time writer. Am I right to be extremely excited about this Gary Andersen hire by UW? I don't know much about him, but the guys who cover him in Utah absolutely rave about him. He sounds like the guy who could take the Badgers to the next level. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: Brett, I also like the hire. Those of us who monitor the national landscape understand how difficult a task Andersen faced at Utah State. If there was an FBS program in worse shape than Utah State when Andersen took over, I'd like to know it. He won big this season at a place where I didn't think you could win big. He also has a strong defensive background, much like his predecessors at Wisconsin -- Bret Bielema and Barry Alvarez. He has run different types of offenses but doesn't seem like the type to stray from what has made Wisconsin successful on offense for so long. There are concerns here -- how well he can recruit at this level, Andersen's lack of ties to the Midwest -- but given the difficulties with this search, especially related to timing, I think Wisconsin did well.
Alan from Los Angeles writes: Have you heard any rumblings as to the new mix of B1G bowl games in 2014? I'd personally love to see us add the Holiday Bowl if they would move it to Jan 1. Some more west coast bowls would be great!
Adam Rittenberg: Alan, I definitely would expect a bit more variety than the SEC/Big 12-heavy lineup we see right now. It's very likely the Big Ten signs on with the Pinstripe Bowl in New York, especially with Rutgers coming into the league soon. I also would expect at least one more matchup against the Pac-12 besides the Rose. I know some league officials came away impressed with the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl after Illinois appeared in it last year. The Big Ten should be playing the Pac-12 more than once per bowl season. The Holiday Bowl could be a good fit, too. There will be some changes for sure.
Brandon from Portland, Ore., writes: I read your steps to follow in order to get smart about B1G expansion and tried to come up with my list of candidates. Here's the schools I think would make some sense with your guidelines in mind: Colorado, Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Rice, Texas, Tulane, and Vanderbilt. Am I missing any that the B1G would consider? What two teams seem the best fits for what the conf is trying to do? Georgia Tech seems like a no brainer with the Atlanta market and I'd love to see Texas (or Rice?) added to get into that state, but don't see that happening. Do any of these others make sense and are they possibilities?
Adam Rittenberg: Brandon, I think you have several realistic candidates here (Georgia Tech, North Carolina), some candidates the Big Ten won't consider (Rice, Tulane, probably Vanderbilt), a long shot in Colorado and the dream candidate with a ton of baggage in Texas. You're missing Virginia, a school the Big Ten definitely would consider because of its location and its sterling academic reputation. Georgia Tech is very much on the radar, and I think the contiguous state thing isn't nearly as important as it used to be. We're in a new environment now, and I do think the Big Ten would be willing to add a school not in a contiguous state. The AAU component, on the other hand, remains extremely important.
Brandon from State College, Pa., writes: So I read your "How to get smart about B1G expansion" and you mentioned that Notre Dame would be an exception to the AAU requirement, and it got me thinking, what about Boston College? I don't know how they are viewed academically by other B1G schools, but they are a traditional rival of Notre Dame's, and they bring in the Boston market (if they care about college football up there, I honestly do not know). Is it totally outrageous, or just very unlikely they would look into adding BC, if it meant Notre Dame comes too? Also, would UNC really leave the ACC without Duke or does the power of money mean the destruction of another great basketball (see Big East) rivalry?
Adam Rittenberg: Brandon, the Big Ten wasn't tied to the AAU thing for Notre Dame because Notre Dame is such a unique national brand that could have added so much to the Big Ten's brand because of its football program. Boston College isn't in the same category, so I think the Big Ten would be less inclined to overlook the lack of AAU membership. To answer your question about college football in the Boston market, they don't care. But you could say the same thing about the New York market, which the Big Ten has targeted with the Rutgers addition. The Big Ten is really betting on its existing brand to resonate in the new markets. Could it work in Boston? I'm more hesitant because it's not the same type of population center you have in New York/New Jersey and Maryland/D.C./Northern Virginia. It's not the same type of recruiting hotbed as those other two markets. To your second question, a lot of people have brought up the North Carolina-Duke connection. The Big Ten would rather have Carolina than Duke, but the question could become whether it would be willing to take both to get UNC. Tough to say.
Pete from Cincinnati writes: Adam, You said you didn't think Missouri would leave the SEC because it had a good thing going there. I would contend that Missouri school officials would rather be a Big 10 member than an SEC member. From a money standpoint, it may as well be a wash or even slightly in favor of the Big 10. From an academics standpoint I think the Big 10 is a better fit. Missouri also would swap one sometime traditional opponent (Texas A&M) for another far more traditional (Nebraska). And they'd almost certainly be slotted in against schools they share more borders with, are more culturally similar to, and just plain closer. On top of that Missouri would have a much better chance of being competitive in the Big 10. So while the may not be playing Alabama, Florida and LSU every weekend, they will also not be losing 6+ games every year. I think Missouri would be happy with the Big 10 if the Big 10 were happy with Missouri. And I also think the SEC would be happy without Missouri as they could find a school that "fits" culturally a little more.
Adam Rittenberg: Pete, some good points here on Missouri. Before Nebraska became a realistic option for Big Ten expansion, I really like the idea of adding Missouri as a 12th member. And Missouri wanted in. Real bad. But if you listened to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany last month, he talked about building a bridge to the East Coast, being a conference in two areas of the country (Midwest and East Coast), creating a Big Ten satellite office on the East Coast. That all suggests the Big Ten is much more interested in moving East than West. Missouri has some nice pluses, too, but the demographic gains you get with Mizzou might not be as good as what you could get with Georgia Tech, North Carolina or Virginia.
Eric from Los Angeles writes: Since you guys are giving out subjective grades to each team for their seasons, I thought you might appreciate a subjective assessment of your work this season: Rittenberg: B+ Won the B1G Fantasy League weekly tally and Weekly Picks challenge; provided excellent video and interview footage; contributed high-profile Notre Dame stories; fair criticism of Northwestern's 4th quarter woes; chose Michigan State to win the B1G; not as hip/pop culture knowledgeable as Bennett; somewhat curt in chat sessions. Bennett: C-Lost the B1G Fantasy League weekly tally and Weekly Picks challenge; Chose Michigan State to Win the B1G; foolishly declared "play better" to teams' fans when they pointed out egregiously poor officiating and when reasonable objections to Bennett's attitude came to the mailbag, he stubbornly doubled-down on the "play better" mantra; provided excellent video and interview footage; makes excellent "Breaking Bad" and other pop culture references. Adam wins 2012.
Adam Rittenberg: An A+ for your email, Eric. One of the best of the year. Well done, sir. No issue with my grades, although I will defend the curtness in the chats (so many dumb questions) and the "play better" mantra because the officiating complaints can get a bit excessive (many were warranted this year). I'll also work on my pop culture references (sometimes better on Twitter than on the blog).