NCF Nation: Mailbag 092112

Big Ten Friday mailblog

September, 21, 2012
Wishing you a happy Week 4 ...

Nate from York, Pa., writes: This may sound crazy, but do you think that Badgers QB O'Brien from Wisconsin is having any regrets about not taking advantage of his opportunity to play at Penn State? He couldn't have seen things working out like they are this early during his tenure in Camp Randall.

Adam Rittenberg: Nate, you're not the first person to mention this about Danny O'Brien. Being 116th nationally in total offense isn't how O'Brien or any of his Wisconsin teammates envisioned things going in the first three games. I was at practice in August, and while the Badgers' workout didn't impress me nearly as much as it had the previous summer, O'Brien looked fine and Montee Ball looked more than fine. The early struggles truly have been a surprise. Honestly, I'm not sure O'Brien would have beaten out Matt McGloin, who really has taken his game to another level in Bill O'Brien's offense. It wouldn't have been a done deal for Danny O'Brien to start at Penn State, just as it hasn't been a done deal for him to start and keep the job at Wisconsin. I doubt O'Brien has any regrets, although he has to be disappointed with the situation at UW, and understandably so.

Phil from Lincoln, Neb., writes: I saw the response in your weekly chat about the B1G lacking dynamic pass catchers. While I cannot speak for other teams, I do know that many Husker fans (myself included) feel like our current receiving core is the best in school history (maybe not as impressive as it sounds given our affinity to run the ball). Both Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner can be explosive playmakers while Quincy Enunwa is a great perimeter blocker and he consistently drags around would-be tacklers after he makes receptions. Those three consist of a Junior and two Sophmores. Are Husker fans a little delusional or do you think this group of receivers has the potential to be great? Thanks!

Adam Rittenberg: Phil, while it might be too soon to say "best in school history," the potential is definitely there, and Nebraska fans aren't delusional for being excited about this group. Nebraska and Northwestern have the deepest groups of receivers in the league, followed by Ohio State. While there are no sure-fire All-Big Ten receivers in the bunch, there are certainly guys like Bell who can get there this fall. Bell is a guy who can be a complete receiver for Nebraska, and while I don't think the Huskers will throw it enough to get him 60-70 catches in a season, he should make his mark. I also like what I've seen from Enunwa. There is a lot of hype around Turner, and he has yet to really back it up, but he's still a young guy with a lot of talent. Toss in the tight ends, and Nebraska has a really nice group of pass-catchers for an improved Taylor Martinez.

Drew from Milwaukee writes: Am I wrong in being bewildered that Northwestern isn't ranked? It was just two weeks ago that they beat a Vanderbilt team that was billed as a "quality SEC team" after almost upsetting South Carolina in week one. And with wins over two other BCS conference schools they have a more impressive resume than any other team in the Big 10. Based on three weeks of actual football, how can anyone argue that they aren't one of the top 25 teams in the land?

Adam Rittenberg: Drew, while you can make a good case, as you have, for why Northwestern should be ranked, I don't think it's a capital crime that they aren't. The Wildcats deserve credit for scheduling major-conference teams, but they didn't exactly beat Alabama, Oregon and Oklahoma. They scored good wins, and weren't overly impressive in any of the games. Right now, if Northwestern and No. 25 Nebraska played on a neutral field, I'd take Nebraska. That's not taking anything away from Northwestern, which is a young team that is building toward better things. The fact that the Wildcats are 3-0 despite being so young is a credit to Pat Fitzgerald and his staff. The pool of undefeated teams is shrinking each week, and if Northwestern does what it's supposed to do the next two Saturdays -- beat South Dakota and Indiana -- it will be ranked when it heads to Penn State on Oct. 6. Then again, Northwestern hasn't been good at all when ranked in recent years. Some Wildcat fans would prefer their team stay just outside the Top 25 for a while.

Jim from Dallas writes: Adam, Can you point to some evidence that Notre Dame "sought" the same deal with the Big 10 that it signed with the ACC? I'm happy to learn more, but my understanding is that no such discussions took place. I believe this is Big 10 positioning, and that the Big 10 was never solicited by ND in any way. At best, Swarbrick briefed Delaney on what he was working on -- expressing no interest in full membership in any conference. Can you cite an interview or other journalistic fact that ND sought a deal from the Big 10? Many thanks.

Adam Rittenberg: Jim, I can't cite a specific interview, but I've spoken with folks within the Big Ten who have told me the idea was out there from Notre Dame in the past and obviously never got very far with the Big Ten. The point is that the Big Ten wouldn't have done what the ACC did. That's not to rag on the ACC, but the people saying this is a dark day for the Big Ten and Jim Delany aren't paying attention. Joining the Big Ten as a partial member (without football) never was realistically on the table. Notre Dame got the deal it wanted elsewhere, and it looks like a win for both sides. But for some to say the Big Ten has been courting Notre Dame forever and somehow lost out on the Irish simply isn't true.

Ryan from St. Paul, Minn., writes: Hey Adam, So I see you and your cohort have both selected Syracuse over Minnesota this week at TCF Bank. While I agree it will be a good contested game, I'm going to disagree with your score prediction. Weather forecast says it may rain Sat night in the Twin Cities and with a full house on hand under the lights I think Minnesota's defensive pressure gets to Nassib in less than ideal passing conditions. Do you want to change your prediction perhaps? I like Goldy this week in a grinder, 31-21.

Adam Rittenberg: Good call on the weather, Ryan, as rain certainly would favor Minnesota. Syracuse has the better quarterback in Ryan Nassib and a passing game that will really test the Gophers' secondary, but if it's windy and rainy at TCF Bank Stadium, he'll be affected. This one could go either way, and for the Big Ten's sake, it'd be great if both of us were wrong on our predictions. But I think Syracuse is a big step up for Minnesota, which will miss MarQueis Gray a bit. While the defense has been good, Nassib is by far the best quarterback the Gophers have faced (Western Michigan's Alex Carder seems to have regressed).

Franchise from Knoxville, Tenn., writes: Adam, B1G guy who's been displaced to SEC country here. I have kept my mouth shut on this for years now, but I can't take it anymore! I have a proposal, regarding Weekly Predictions: We are no longer in 5th grade, and therefore you and BB are no longer allowed to share answers!! I understand the unique situation we have in the B1G blog with two bloggers making predictions, and I'm not exactly sure how you exchange them (I know, I'm sure you've explained it before), but I KNOW I can speak for many readers when I say that I've grown weary of seeing a majority of predictions that differ by only one or two field goals either way! Can't you guys make your picks separately, and originally, instead of comparing notes? Otherwise, keep up the great work! Go Lions & Vols!

Adam Rittenberg: Nice attempt to figure out how the predictions work, Franchise. Here's how it actually goes down. We make the picks separately and go back and forth on instant messenger while one of us plugs the text and scores into the predictions post. We pick what we think will happen. It's nonconference play. Most games are garbage, and we're going to have similar lists. We're not going to be different for the sake of being different and look dumber than we already are. There should be a lot more variety in picks and scores when league play begins next week. Hopefully, you'll enjoy them more then.

Carl from Lubbock, Texas, writes: In your article "Denard Robinson is ... ND's nightmare" I think you failed to note Notre Dame was an 8-5 team those two years as Brian Kelly started his rebuild. I think Denard and the Wolverines will have a little more to handle this year, and will have to do more then eek out a couple close wins.

Adam Rittenberg: Carl, I completely agree Robinson will face a more formidable Notre Dame defense this year than he did in 2011 or 2010. Then again, the 2010 Irish defense wasn't too shabby -- 23rd nationally in points allowed -- and he torched them for 500 yards. The guy has been magical in this rivalry so far, but he hasn't seen a defense like the one the Irish will have on the field Saturday night. The interesting thing is, I think Robinson will have to be more effective with his arm -- and attack a young Irish secondary Michigan State didn't test last week -- than his feet for Michigan to win.

Stephanie from Denver writes: Not saying that the team is good (b/c the tackling is bad), but is Ohio State being judge overly-critical in relation to other schools ahead of them in the polls, just basically because it's Ohio State? To comment on TOSU's competition, LSU, Florida State, Oklahoma and others have had an easier schedule (according to Sagarin).

Adam Rittenberg: This is the problem with early season polls, Stephanie, and while I feel there should be no polls until at least Week 6 or 7, when everyone has played at least two conference games. Ohio State hasn't looked overly impressive against decent competition. Other schools have looked really good against woeful opposition. It's hard to know who goes where. The rankings are based heavily on what people think they know (i.e. how teams looked coming off of last season and heading into this one) and less on what they actually know with limited on-field evidence. My advice: don't pay too much attention to the polls until the middle of October.

Big East mailblog

September, 21, 2012
Time to open the ol' mailbag.

Nick G in Manchester, Conn., writes: Andrea, we all know about UConn's O this year and how it's been miserable. Last year, we had a pretty bad QB in Johnny McEntee and in the Western Michigan game, he threw for over 300 yards and 4 touchdowns. Do you think this could possibly be a comming out party for Chandler Whitmer against the same team??? I think he has what it takes, good arm, decent accuracy, great feet. Only issue is he tried to take to many chances. ... Your thoughts?

Andrea Adelson: I am not sure last year's game is going to have any bearing on what happens this weekend. I think the bigger problem for UConn has been its offensive line, to be honest. The unit is not playing as well as it did last season, and that has led to a pretty ineffective running game. I don't think UConn has the type of offense that can survive without the threat of the run. So again, I think the Huskies will try to get Lyle McCombs going and try to avoid getting into a shootout!

Patrick in Monterey, Calif., writes: Hey Andrea, Hope your week is going well. I watched the Louisville-NC game on ESPN 3 and have to say, even as a devoted PITT fan, the first half of that game I couldn't think of a better team, outside of maybe Alabama and Oregon, that I've seen play better football! Too bad it was only for that one half and a few minutes of the third. Anyway, my question to you is - how is it even possible that so many press type folks around the country can ignore how dominant this guy Teddy Bridgewater, his coach Mr. Charlie Strong, and the rest of that team have been? I love PITT, but I love good football better, and Louisville football, this year at least, is darn good football! They need more recognition. Don't you think?

Adelson: Any time you get a team that is not one of the national "brand" names, it takes longer for there to be instant recognition. But I actually disagree with your assessment. If you look around the Web this week, Teddy Bridgewater has received a lot of Heisman attention. He got more votes this week in the ESPN Heisman poll and is in seventh place. That means people beyond myself and Matt Fortuna are voting for him. Stewart Mandel over at also has Bridgewater on his early Heisman radar. And Louisville is ranked in the Top 20. All of that leads me to believe people are taking notice of what is developing in Louisville this season.

Ryan in Johnstown, Ohio, writes: AA-- Here is a sane, level headed approach to the 14th member problem. For the love of all things holy feature it in the mailbag. None of the target schools (AFA, BYU) are ready to take the plunge and become full members so lets make an offer similar to the Notre Dame/ACC relationship: offer BYU a contract to play 4-6 BE schools a year out of conference. These could be on a rotational basis or we could give BYU games against San Diego State and Boise State because that just makes sense. Games played at BYU could still be part of their ESPN deal. I would also see if Navy would like a similar arrangement as it would give them greater scheduling flexibility and they would have a better shot at reaching bowl eligibility than as a full member. It would also level Big East football membership at 12, which is a good thing. Throwing in access to Big East bowls would probably be a good thing for both parties.

Adelson: Perhaps commissioner Mike Aresco is reading this very mailbag right now. I actually do agree that Navy would be better served if it tries to stay quasi-independent. I have never felt greatly confident in Navy being an annual bowl team as a member of the Big East. But to your larger point, the Big East is trying to bolster itself to be sure it can survive and thrive into the future. I think you know what I am getting at. If there is another wave of realignment (that is to say if the Big 12 decides to grow), there might be designs on Big East teams. If there are, the goal is for the Big East to have more than enough members to survive.

BearCats Winning in Amelia, Ohio, wrote: I watched the Pitt/VT game to see what my Bearcats might be facing with VT. I found myself actually cheering for Pitt and seeing the Pitt team that everyone had been writing about all spring! Pitt played a great game and put it to VT. As for my Bearcats, Munchie needs to start sleeping with that football. A former Bearcat did when he couldn't hang onto the football! Butch Jones will do all he can this off week to get the team back to taking care of the ball. Munchie needs to start doing that now! I still don't understand since UC was ahead and Munchie couldn't seem to move the team, Jones didn't put in the backup quarterback and give him some work. But of course I am not the coach. Still?

Adelson: I think that was largely a function of wanting to see some consistency out of his starting offense, particularly with a big game looming following the bye. Cincinnati did not look great out there, and I am betting Jones wanted to get them as much playing time as possible because of this strange setup with two byes in the first four weeks of the season. Virginia Tech will have played four games going into next week; Cincinnati only two, one against an FCS opponent.

Greg in N.J., writes: Andrea, please illustrate how the upcoming game between Rutgers and Arkansas is a lose-lose for the Big East. An RU win would result in "it's a down Arkansas team, this doesn't mean anything" or "same ol' big east, can't beat middle of the pack power conference opponents." Your thoughts?

Adelson: I completely understand that assessment. As I wrote this week, Rutgers doesn't have as great an opportunity to make a splash with Arkansas completely unraveling. But I am trying not to take the cynical view. I do think a win would count for something, particularly since it is coming on the road. It might not be as great as beating the No. 8 team in the nation, but this would be its third road win in September. That is pretty impressive.

Michael in Louisville writes: AA says "Bridgewater is third overall on my Heisman Watch" But he is second on your list of best QBs in the Big East. OOOOOH BIG GUNS! Myself and so many others tried to save you from having to wipe that egg off of your face. Once a BJ Daniels always a BJ Daniels. QBs who have been erratic for their entire careers virtually never pull it all together just because they become a senior. But you are young and you will learn from this. Now I know you are going to say "nobody" expected Teddy Heisman to perform the way he is, and that is sort of true, but there was a lot of solid information coming out before the season started indicating this was in fact likely. We Louisville fans tried to tell you it was coming.

Adelson: You are right, Michael. I deserve to be mocked into eternity.

Friday mailblog

September, 21, 2012
I know FSU has a defense, guys, I know ...

Scott in Tallahassee writes: HD, I said last week that you weren't giving fsu enough credit and they would handle WF much more easily than your score prediction indicated. I said 38-3 or something pretty close to that. I don't think you fully appreciate how good this defense is and it's affecting your predictions. Maybe after this week you will see the light. The D line will assert itself while Rhodes and Joyner relieve Clemsons O coordinator of his misconception that they match up well. Fsu 38-10.

HD: Yep, you were right. That D dominated, but I'm telling you, the dream is over this week. Florida State's defense will win up front, but Clemson's offense is going to score. It's going to make plays in space. The Noles will finally meet their match. They'll win, but they'll also be humbled a bit.

Mike in the Carolinas writes: Do you know if the ACC still plans to go to a 9 game conference football schedule in football in 2013 now that Notre Dame will be playing 5 ACC teams in a couple years?

HD: Yes, Mike it does. ACC commissioner John Swofford has said that if the athletic directors want to revisit the issue, they're more than welcome to. It wouldn't surprise me if they did, considering the coaches aren't thrilled about the nine-game format. There hasn't been any talk of it changing, though.

Van in San Clemente, Calif., writes: Hey Heather! Is it to early to be considering Duke Johnson for the Heisman? He is averaging 212.67 yards a game and has six touchdowns, both are second best in the nation. He is also averaging 9.2 yards a carry rushing. The only other person that has comparable numbers is De'Anthony Thomas and he is getting a lot of hype. Duke is pretty much the sole reason why the Hurricanes have two wins. Any love for the Duke?

HD: Lotta love for the Duke, Van, but no Heisman love just yet. If Sammy Watkins didn't get it as a true freshman playing for the ACC champs, Duke certainly isn't going to get it playing for a probably bowl-less Miami team. He'll get his due, though, it's only a matter of time. He's certainly in the lead for the ACC's Rookie of the Year Award, at least on my ballot.

Zach J. in Jacksonville, Fla., writes: Comparing FSU's defensive depth chart against Clemson for 2011 vs 2012, the only major difference is that they're missing Jenkins and Reid. Is there really that much of a question that Clemson can match them point for point against arguably the same D (minus their two best defenders)? This game scares me as a Clemson fan but a little less now that I looked a little more into it. Your thoughts?

HD: That's not the only major difference -- Clemson's offensive line and its depth is a major difference. The guys who started against Auburn are healthy and expected to start against the Noles, but they are still a question mark in Dabo Swinney's book.

Jeff in Clemson, S.C., writes: So are you done sipping on the Logan Thomas Cool-Aid or are you going to make a new excuse for him this week? It has been blatantly obvious to anyone not wearing and maroon and probably a lot of people wearing maroon that Logan Thomas is just your average, middle of the road ACC quarterback. Time to drop the hype and face reality. He is nothing more than a tight end playing quarterback.

HD: Nope, not buying. Still think he's one of the best in the league.

Sean in Mullica Hill, N.J., writes: Heather,I think most Hokie fans think Logan will be fine and continue to great things. 8 new starters on offense, yes, but it's not like they are true freshman. Many of them have been in the program for well over a year. That's what practice is for and that's the coaches jobs to ensure they are ready when it is their turn. Every year we lose to a team we shouldn't lose to, and lose a game we need to win. We(Hokie fans) know we have a consistant program, for the most part, and we are always in the hunt, but the question is, when will we take the next step and get it done when we need to, rather than just make excuses for loses we shouldn't be losing??

HD: Yeah, but see, to me, eight new starters is a significant hurdle. Look at what's going on at Miami. They're having similar struggles. I'm not saying it's an excuse -- VT should not have lost to Pitt. I'm just saying that maybe expectations were too high to begin with.