Welcome to another edition of the Big East mailblog. I am stepping away from the blog for the next few days, so this is the only time I will open the mailbag this week. That should mean double the questions for double the mailbags when I come back.
Spike McBride in Bee Cave, Texas, writes: Dear Andrea, I love reading your articles about my Pitt Panthers and have a couple of questions for you. 1) Did Ray Graham qualify for a medical redshirt in 2011? If so, how many years of eligibility does he have 2) How is it looking for Ray Graham in 2012? Is he healing up? 3) Will you still cover Pitt in 2013 when they are in the ACC? Please??????
Andrea Adelson: You are too kind, Spike. Thanks for reading! Graham did not qualify for a medical redshirt because he played in way too many games last season. So that means he goes into his senior season in 2012. As for how he is looking, coach Paul Chryst said Graham is on target with his rehab and should be ready in time for the start of the season. So we will know more once fall camp rolls around. Will I still cover Pitt? My assignments have not changed, but if they do you guys will be among the first to know.
Brad in Madison, Wis., writes: Andrea, Love the blog! I am originally from PA and wanted to know what the chances are of Rushel Shell redshirting the 2012 season at Pitt. With Ray Graham back and (Isaac) Bennett tearing it up in spring practices, will the new regime redshirt Shell to give him time to learn the offense, adjust to the speed of the college game, and give him potentially 4 years of eligibility as THE running back of the future? Thanks!
Adelson: Wow, I am 2-for-2 today with AA fans. Thanks, guys! That is a great question, Brad, and one we will be sure to monitor once fall camp begins. Anybody who has seen Chryst at Wisconsin knows he is not afraid to play three running backs, so my guess on what they do with Shell really depends on how ready he is to contribute right out of the gate. We have no idea what shape Graham is going to be in when he returns, so that is also a major question mark. But given the way Pitt wants to run the ball this season, I think there is more than enough room for Graham, Bennett and Shell. You can't just have two running backs ready to go anymore.
John in Woodbridge, N.J., writes: Andrea you look really good on the national perception of the Big East video! Great job. My problem is the teams like Rutgers and Louisville need to start having 10-plus win seasons (just like West Virginia) year in and year out. On top of that winning the BCS game and Champs Bowl in impressive fashion. Then things will change. What is your outlook?
Adelson: 3-for-3, a gal's dream! Thanks, John. You are on point with your assessment. I have had various league coaches say the same thing -- there has to be a consistent winner that separates itself at the top of the league for perception to change. Being competitive top to bottom is great, but an upper echelon must be developed.
Mr. P in West Chester, Ohio, writes: Andrea: I watched your video on the national perception of the Big East. "Baloney." Talk is cheap. One game is worth 10,000 words. The Big East will do just fine in football, just like we do in basketball. OK, big boys just come play us at Nippert Stadium on a home and home contract and let's see how we do. Andrea you are walking the ESPN party line and that is sad. I was an Andrea fan. That's terrible reporting based on feelings and perception. The game is played on the field, but the Big Boys won't come here and play us. They always want us to play in their sand box. Good Luck in the future. Yes, I'm mad.
Adelson: Well, the winning streak couldn't last, and now I have ticked off one of my most loyal readers. I am sorry, Mr. P. You know as well as I do that pundits and fans do not look at the results. They look at a league that has had interchangeable parts for teams since 2004. It is hard to argue against the notion that the Big East is the Rodney Dangerfield of college football. Go ahead and look at what every other outlet writes about the Big East, or even the rankings. If the Big East has two teams ranked in the preseason Top 25, it will be a minor miracle. You are right that the big boys do not want to play home games against Big East teams, and I totally understand the frustration with that. But that also has a little something to do with perception. Big teams don't see much value in playing at a Big East venue. Unfortunate, but true. So now, Big East teams have to do what West Virginia did to Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Win big on the national stage. If Rutgers beats Arkansas on the road or if Syracuse stuns USC and Missouri -- imagine how far wins like that would go toward flipping the tired script that always accompanies the Big East.
David Patterson in Baltimore writes: AA, with Navy coming into the BE in 2015, do you see any more additions to the conference before then? I'm curious as the Mids have developed a nice rivalry with East Carolina since 2006. Being four hours apart, it has become a nice additional rivalry especially from a fan perspective as ECU brought over 4,000 fans to Annapolis last year and ECU has a good presence in the Baltimore - Washington area. The year before, the Mids spanked the Pirates in front of over 50,000 down at their place with several thousand Navy supporters as well. With so much Naval presence in Virginia Beach and Eastern NC, I'm at a loss on why ECU has not and could not be added. I think the Mids will have good rivalries with Temple and Rutgers as well but neither seem to travel as well as ECU.
Adelson: David, if the Big East does get to 14 teams, it is going to have to add another West team to help balance the divisions and create another travel partner for Boise State and San Diego State. I wouldn't be surprised if the league tried to make another run at Air Force. As for East Carolina, I know the Pirates are desperate to get in, but they just don't fit the profile.