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Friday, December 14, 2012
Big Ten Friday mailblog

By Adam Rittenberg

Hoping you have a great weekend.

Gary from Olathe, Kan., writes: I know I'm in the minority, but I'm starting to think the so called "super conferences" are a good thing. Say the B1G goes to 16 teams. We'll basically have two 8-team conferences (does the Big 8 ring any bells) that have a television and scheduling agreement with another 8-team conference. It seems to be a more formal version of what the B1G and PAC tried to do earlier.

Adam Rittenberg: Gary, this is an interesting way of looking at it. A key question is whether the Big Ten divisions into two eight-team divisions or four four-team pods, which might preserve rivalries a bit better and create some nice scheduling flexibility. I know the Big Ten wouldn't look at it like that -- two separate conferences -- and if there were two eight-team divisions, the number of crossover games would be minimal (two or three). But you would have more teams in the group and a chance to make more money. My big concern is whether further expansion kills some of the exciting non-league matchups (Ohio State-Texas, etc.) we've seen in recent months.


Rich from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Adam, Would it make sense for Alvarez to coach a year or two and then bring in Chryst? What is the appropriate waiting period in this situation before Wisco brings in the People's Choice as coach? Thank you.

Adam Rittenberg: Rich, I've thought about this very possibility this week as Wisconsin's search twists and turns. I don't know if Alvarez can take such a presumptive approach, as who knows what will happen with Chryst at Pitt. He could struggle there. He could do so well that he gets an NFL job. Who knows? I do agree that the timing was off to bring in Chryst to Wisconsin right now, after only one year at Pitt. And he definitely makes the most sense for the UW job. I think Alvarez would be fine coaching for a year, although recruiting could be affected if there isn't a long-term plan. As for the appropriate waiting period, I think another year or two would create a different situation for Chryst, but again, you can't assume he'll take the job.


Kyle from Denton, Texas, writes: Adam,With what happened today with the catholic schools in the Big East is this a prime opportunity for the Big Ten to maybe capitalize and go to 16 schools? South Florida would be a great addition. Sure they aren't an AAU member, but that is an overrated thing by the Big Ten. By adding South Florida the Big Ten would have a recruiting presence in the Midwest (Nebraska), Iron Belt (original Big Ten schools), North East (PSU, Maryland, and Rutgers), California (Rose Bowl), and Florida (with SFU). The only area the Big Ten would not be in is the deep south and Florida. They could then try and go for a school like Georgia Tech to get into the deep south, or even go after a school in Texas ... just seems like the best opportunity to expand the Big Ten's footprint.

Adam Rittenberg: Kyle, you couldn't be more wrong about the AAU status being overrated in the Big Ten. It's incredibly important to Big Ten presidents. I've talked to several league sources who say Nebraska might not have been admitted into the conference if it had lost its AAU status at the time of admission. Big Ten presidents aren't pleased that Nebraska is no longer an AAU member (although it could regain the status in the future). But you're deluding yourself if you dismiss the AAU/academic component of this. That's a long way of saying the Big Ten won't add South Florida. Georgia Tech? Definitely in play. Other ACC teams with AAU status like Virginia and North Carolina? They're on the Big Ten's radar. But South Florida isn't happening.


Jay from Arlington writes: While your selection criteria limits the ability to praise Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden (the two best position coaches in the country) after their units excelled as usual, you missed out on Mac MacWhorter. He turned the smartest football player in the country (John Urschel) into an all Big Ten selection. Elevated Stank's game, put together the best pair of starting tackles in the league (with depth) while putting together a unit that was a team asset.

The Dave from Sarasota, Fla., writes: I will refrain from casting personal aspersions because I think you are very tolerable overall, but how could you leave Greg Mattison off your best assistant list and still look at yourself in the mirror? Who has done more with less talent and depth? Who has completed a bigger turn around? With less talent than Narduzzi his unit plays better more sound D.

Adam Rittenberg: Jay, I strongly considered including McWhorter on the list. Ultimately, we had to cap it somewhere and he didn't make it, but he did a terrific job with a line that entered the season with some major question marks. Honestly, we could have included all of Penn State's offensive assistants, as they really improved the unit in 2012. You also can't minimize the head coach's impact on the group as well.

As for Mattison, he had another great year for sure, but I wanted to spread around the credit a bit to coaches who don't receive as much. Those who read the blog know what Brian and I think of Mattison, and we praised him repeatedly last season as he transformed the Michigan D. For this post, I wanted tor recognize Curt Mallory, who doesn't get nearly as much credit, for doing what he did with the secondary. This isn't a Mattison vs. Narduzzi debate. Michigan State didn't have one position coach that, to me, stood out as much as Narduzzi did with the entire defense, so that's why he was listed.


Kevin from Rochester writes: I know you say that Northwestern is better off playing in a smaller bowl to get a win but Id rather them win as an underdog. They have been known to pull off big upsets and ruin teams goals such as big ten titles. They pulled off the win against Ricky Stanzi #4 Iowa a couple years ago and ruined Nebraska's big ten hopes late last year. Id rather have them break they're bowl streak by winning a bowl game thats similar to their identity which is pulling off an upset. Am I wrong to think this way. I really think they could have pulled off an upset and kept the game interesting if they played in the Capital One bowl against Johnny Football and A&M

Adam Rittenberg: I think Johnny Football and A&M would have destroyed Northwestern, and extended the bowl streak and all the chat about how the Wildcats can't get over the hump in a bowl. Northwestern hasn't won a bowl game since 1949! You really care how the streak ends at this point? The underdog wins tradition is nice, and Northwestern almost pulled off a nice upset of Missouri in the 2008 Alamo Bowl. But the poor bowl matchups are a huge reason why Northwestern keeps losing.The most important thing here is a win, and Northwestern has a much better chance against Mississippi State than Texas A&M or Georgia or South Carolina. I just don't understand your mind-set. A bowl win would change the narrative about Northwestern and resonate throughout the offseason before a potentially huge 2013 campaign.


Nate from Council Bluffs, Iowa, writes: Adam, As a Hawkeye fan I entered this season only expecting a 6-7 win season, with big coordinator changes, the question mark at running back, and favorable schedule. I never expected this outcome though. Now thinking ahead, because that?s all we can do at this point: With all the returning starters next year, and all the underclassmen who got playing time this year (Also if AIRBHG stays out of Iowa City this offseason!!), is there light at the end of the tunnel for next season?

Adam Rittenberg: Nate, there's definitely hope when a team returns a lot of core players and won't be going through another staff transition like Iowa went through last winter. My concern, however, is the Legends division. Who do you see getting worse so Iowa can rise up? Nebraska returns virtually its entire offense, led by quarterback Taylor Martinez. Michigan State might lose running back Le'Veon Bell, but its best defenders return and the offense should be at least serviceable in Year 2 with Andrew Maxwell at quarterback. Northwestern returns virtually everyone from a 9- or 10-win team (depending on the bowl game). Brady Hoke will have more of his recruits in key positions at Michigan, and Devin Gardner's emergence down the stretch raises hope. Minnesota just went from three wins to six wins. My point is that while Iowa shouldn't be this bad again, the division is only getting tougher for the Hawkeyes.


Fred from Spokane, Wash., writes: For programs on the rise, such as Minnesota, does it help the program to go to a bowl game and get blown out? Does a blow out help or hurt recruiting?

Adam Rittenberg: Fred, in Minnesota's case, the bowl game itself is secondary to the bowl practices. The fact Minnesota gets 15 extra practices is huge, especially with a true freshman (Philip Nelson) at the quarterback spot. It gives coach Jerry Kill and his staff more time to evaluate younger players who will play bigger roles in 2013. Although there are quite a few seniors on defense, the offense is very young for the most part, and that's the unit that must make significant strides for next season. Minnesota can sell the bowl appearance to recruits and the fact it doubled its wins total in Kill's second season. The outcome of the game itself, even if bad, shouldn't impact recruiting too much.