As promised, we'll begin the mailblog with a few takes on the Purdue Pete makeover and move on from there.
Craig from St. Paul, Minn., writes: In high school I worked as Bugs Bunny for the Warner Brothers Studio Store. Do you know how many children broke into tears when their parents brought them anywhere close to me? Hundreds, and I was dressed as Bugs Bunny. Doesn't get less scary than that.Purdue is overreacting to a bunch of overprotective parents that can't have their precious little snowflake unhappy for even a millisecond.
Daniel from Lakewood, Ohio, writes: Purdue Pete is there to scare the children away from going to Purdue so that they go somewhere more fun. He serves an important purpose. Sparty is still the king of mascots.
Adam Rittenberg: I don't see a pressing need for a change, but I'm not getting tons of phone calls like AD Morgan Burke. As long as Purdue Pete doesn't lose his sledgehammer -- which he reportedly will keep -- I'm willing to wait and pass judgment later on the new design.
Peter from Stamford, Conn., writes: Adam - anyone who lives in the New York City area knows that NO one in Manhattan cares about Rutgers football except their alums. And even many of their alums don't care. NYC is a pro football town, they don't care about college. So why does the Big Ten keep insisting that Rutgers "brings" the NYC television market?
Adam Rittenberg: Rutgers is a strong academic fit for the Big Ten, and its location near the New York City market certainly appeals to some folks in the Big Ten. But I still look at the entire Rutgers athletic program, and even the school's limited positive history in football, and wonder if RU is the best single, realistic addition for the Big Ten, as both Notre Dame and Texas seem to be off the table. Greg Schiano has got a good thing going in football, and the women's basketball program has done well, but I'm not sure the entire department could cut it in the Big Ten. Rutgers has finished 92nd and 126 in the Directors' Cup in the last two seasons, well outside the Big Ten's range. Some will argue, "Who cares about the department if Rutgers football is a strong fit?" They might be right, but I tend to agree with Peter that Rutgers will have a hard time consistently capturing the New York market.
Peter from Arlington, Va., writes: Why is Maryland never considered for Big10 expansion? Its a good school, borders PA, and draws the DC/Baltimore TV audience?
Adam Rittenberg: I've wondered the same thing at times, Peter, but Maryland has expressed no interest in leaving the ACC, where it has a lot of traditional ties. Plus, Maryland's football program hasn't been able to sustain success, and football drives the bus for most of the Big Ten expansion candidates being mentioned. There would be a natural tie with Penn State, and Big Ten coaches would love another reason to recruit the DC/Maryland area, one of the top regions for high school talent. I wouldn't totally write off Maryland, but I doubt the school is high on the Big Ten's list of candidates.
Ron from Madison, Wis., writes: Please explain all the love for Iowa for next season. I understand that their defense will be good again, but their scoring offense ranked 10th in the conference last season and Stanzi threw as many INTs as TDs, so I can't imagine they'll improve with 4 new starters on the O-line. Considering that Iowa's last second wins against the Spartans and UNI could easily have been losses, I see them losing a couple more games next fall after their usual losses to Northwestern and Ohio State. How about you?
Adam Rittenberg: Iowa will have arguably the best defensive line in America next fall, and the Hawkeyes remain very strong at several skill positions, namely safety, running back and wide receiver. Ricky Stanzi's roller-coaster play is well documented, but the guy wins games and steps up in the fourth quarter. You do raise an excellent point about the offensive line, and if Iowa doesn't reload there, nothing much else will matter. But you also need to look at Iowa's history at offensive line under Kirk Ferentz. Aside from the miserable 2007 performance, the unit has performed good to great in recent years. Iowa has two players with significant experience in Riley Reiff and Julian Vandervelde. Building around them will go a long way toward determining success or failure in 2010. Also remember that the schedule flips, so Iowa gets to host both Ohio State and Wisconsin (and Penn State) this fall.
Steve from Chicago writes: Hey Adam,How important is NU returning its entire offensive line to helping improve our terrible running game? Obviously we need one of our current players or new recruits to step up, but will the veterans on the OL be able to give them a boost?
Adam Rittenberg: It's very important that Northwestern has a lot of experience back, but those veterans need to start performing like it in 2010. Pat Fitzgerald really challenged the group in 2008, but the run game never really got going. Someone certainly needs to emerge from the running back pool, but NU's line needs to make rushing the football a point of pride. Former head coach Randy Walker was known for producing 1,000-yard rushers, but he did arguably his best working challenging the offensive linemen and their position coach, who would put extra pressure on them to step up. With so much uncertainty at QB, WR and RB, Northwestern's offensive line must carry the unit early in the season.