- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Big Ten bowl season is finally here. How ya feeling?
Jones from Omaha, Neb., writes: I was originally opposed to additional B1G expansion (Maryland, Rutgers) on grounds of brand dilution. They don't seem to bring nearly as much to the table as the Huskers. I'm warming to the brave new world. Now that even more expansion is likely and divisions must be realigned, I'm for Old B1G vs. New B1G. As a Husker fan this will give us exposure in far away lands, plus we've already given up all of our old traditional matchups by leaving Big 12. Bring on NC, Duke, Rutgers, Maryland, Virginia, and whoever else might be an expansion target.
Adam Rittenberg: Jones, if I didn't know better, I'd think you were trying to create a much easier path to the Big Ten championship game for your beloved Huskers. Being in a division with all of those ACC teams certainly looks more favorable than having to beat the likes of Michigan each year. I disagree with this view, as Nebraska has a better chance to build rivalries with teams closer to its campus. Geography will be a bigger factor in the next division alignment, and if Wisconsin is moved to the "West" division, Nebraska would have annual games with both Wisconsin and Iowa. These games could turn into truly great rivalries that Husker fans will value. I think Nebraska needs to be paired with at least one of the other major name-brand teams -- Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State -- but it makes more sense to divide things geographically if the Big Ten's next additions are on the East Coast.
Pat from Detroit writes: Not even a quick blurb about the passing of Reggie Garnett? I know i was over the holidays, but c'mon! The far too soon passing of an early 90s big ten stud could've at least made the lunch links. RIP Reggie.
Adam Rittenberg: Apologies, Pat, as I've been working on something outside the blog for most of the week and Brian has been busy with bowl assignments as well. It was sad to hear about Garnett's passing -- he was only 38. Check out some links about Garnett here and here and here. Coach Mark Dantonio released a statement about Garnett on Wednesday night. It reads: "We were very saddened to hear about the passing of Reggie Garnett yesterday. A four-year starter in the mid-1990s, Reggie was a tremendous player and a true Spartan. More importantly, he had remained connected to the MSU football program, returning to campus for reunions and games. Reggie was an outstanding young man, who will be missed by all of us. We’d like to express our deepest sympathy to his family as well as his extended Spartan family. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, teammates and friends."
Russ from Bloomington, Ill., writes: It sounds like there are going to be lots of openings for NFL head coaches starting next week. Is Kirk Ferentz still considered a good coach in those circles? And given that Iowa is going to be lucky to go 4-8 next year, could he finally be tempted to make the leap and spare us Hawkeye fans more one yard pass plays on 3rd and 3?
Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Russ. The Ferentz-to-NFL rumors seem to be an annual thing, and I doubt this year will be an exception, despite his recent struggles at Iowa. The job to watch is Kansas City, as Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli and Ferentz are close from their time with the Cleveland Browns. Pioli thinks very highly of Ferentz, but Pioli's own job
shouldcould be in jeopardy. My sense is that Ferentz doesn't want to leave Iowa on such a down note and would be likelier to make a jump when the program is in a bit better shape. His youngest son, Steve, just finished his freshman year on the team, and some think Ferentz, 57, wants to stay at Iowa until all of his children have graduated. Money clearly isn't a problem for Ferentz, although it's hard to resist the pull of the NFL.
John from New York writes: I understand Bennett's logic about a healthy D line and your loyalty to the Big Ten but there is no possible way he thinks the score of Purdue-Oklahoma State will be 31-27. Ok St scored 30 against Kansas State, 36 against Texas, and 48 against Oklahoma. Purdue gave up 41 to Marshall, 44 to Michigan, and 44 to Minnesota, they have no coach and not to mention they won't have a fan within 1000 miles of the stadium... Either you're required to show some sort of confidence in the league or he needs to be checked into a hospital. That game will be closer to 70-27
Adam Rittenberg: John, Oklahoma State certainly has the ability to light up Purdue's defense. But Kawann Short is a potential first-round pick at defensive tackle and played much of the season with a bum wheel. The Boilers' cornerbacks also will challenge the Cowboys receivers, but it really comes down to the defensive line and what type of pressure it can apply on the Pokes. Purdue's defense needs its best effort of the season to keep Oklahoma State's offense in check, but it's also important for Purdue to control the ball on offense and keep the Pokes offense off of the field. Could we see a 70-27 game? Sure. Oklahoma State has that type of firepower. But how much do the Pokes really want to be in this game? Purdue has an interim coach, but I really think the Boilers will be more motivated than Okie State.
Nick from Marion, Ohio, writes: Like most level-headed and educated realignment prognosticators, you believe the ACC is the most likely conference to supply the Big Ten with its next expansion targets. What happens if Maryland isn't able to wiggle out of its $50 million buyout; are Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia Tech still the likely looks? Also, give us three non-ACC schools you could see joining the ranks of the B1G.
Adam Rittenberg: Nick, I definitely think the outcome of the Maryland-ACC dispute about the buyout will be a major factor in any additional defections from the league. If Maryland indeed has to pay the full $50 million, it might discourage other schools from leaving, although the Big Ten long-term future revenue projections suggest it still might be smart to make the move. I firmly believe when the Big Ten expands again, it will once again look to the ACC. Georgia Tech is definitely on the radar. Virginia could be an attractive candidate and North Carolina is the grand prize, although UNC might not be realistic. We'll see. Outside the ACC, I don't see many realistic candidates. Maybe Kansas, although the Big Ten made a big deal about wanting to have a greater East Coast presence, and Kansas isn't there. Connecticut needs to become an AAU member to gain serious consideration.
Gabriel from Virginia Beach, Va., writes: 1st round pick Lewan vs. Future 1st round pick Clowney: Who wins on Jan. 1st????
Adam Rittenberg: Gabriel, it should be a tremendous matchup in Tampa. It's hard to pick against Clowney, who has been so dominant this season as just a true sophomore. Lewan had some nice moments as well, but as he told me earlier this month, he hasn't seen a pass-rusher quite like Clowney. Michigan's offensive line has struggled at times to generate push in the run game, but it has protected the pocket well, allowing only 15 sacks in 12 games. I think Clowney records at least one sack in the game but doesn't dominate Lewan. I'm really interested to see what coordinator Al Borges has brainstormed for Michigan, which will need a creative game plan against such an athletic Gamecocks defense.
Craig from Braintree, Mass., writes: Troy Stoudemire is very close to breaking the NCAA kick return record. Will he get drafted as a kick returner considering the NFL's kick return rules? Is he the top kick returner in the country? in the B1G?
Adam Rittenberg: Craig, I think Stoudermire has a chance to play at the next level because of his versatility. He has played cornerback and receiver with the Gophers and obviously has talent as a return man, although his production has gone down since the 2008 season. He'll have to show well in the postseason all-star games, the NFL combine and any other pre-draft events, but he has a chance.
2dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
4dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney