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Big Ten mailbag Part I

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It's a bit of a slow week around the blog and you guys have a ton of questions (well done, folks), so this will be the first of two Tuesday mailbags. Let's get it going.

John from Austin, Texas, writes: Adam, First off, congrats on a great year with the blog! Its been a pleasure having someone cover the Big 10 as well as you do. My question is: What the heck is keeping Mike Locksley at Illinois? His name was mentioned for a few of the higher profile head coach jobs this season, but never seemed to get past the first interview. I can understand why he might be shy about an SEC job, but what else is keeping him from going to the next level?

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks for the kind words, John. Locksley is definitely holding out for a BCS-conference head-coaching position, ideally on the East Coast near his recruiting hub of Washington, D.C. He did talk with Clemson but didn't have a great chance to get that job. Other than Clemson, it has been reported that he interviewed at Syracuse as well. Locks gets paid well at Illinois and has no need to leave for a non-BCS job if he doesn't want one. He'll be a frontrunner for the Maryland job whenever Ralph Friedgen moves on, and he should get a close look for Syracuse. Locksley definitely has the personality and recruiting clout to succeed as a head coach on the highest level.


Rob from Philadelphia writes: I've been reading the national media since Oregon State lost and (most likely) gave USC a Pac10 championship and a Rose Bowl birth. Most people of the opinion that it's very unfortunate that USC is resigned to destroying Penn State. Some USC players are acting like they've already won the game. Defense aside, what is the basis for the Trojan's status as a national media darling this year?

Adam Rittenberg: The national media loves teams that dominate November and win bowl games, and USC does both. After watching the USC-Notre Dame game on Saturday night, I'll admit I bought into the hype quite a bit as well. The Trojans' defense is merciless, and it will be tough for Penn State to score points. That said, USC's offense is nothing special, and this team falls short of previous editions with Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. Penn State has a strong bowl record and doesn't seem like the type of team to play itself out of a game. I'll have a hard time picking against USC, but it won't be a rout.


Ian from Hartford, Conn., writes: It's not necessarily big ten related, but who would play in the national championship game should OU get knocked off by Missouri this weekend. Texas is still ahead of USC in the BCS, but would they take a team that didnt win their conference? If USC does get bumped out of the Rose Bowl in favor of the title game, does Oregon State take their spot or another BCS team maybe OU or Texas?

Adam Rittenberg: If Missouri wins, I'd expect Texas to get the nod and play the winner of the SEC championship game in Miami on Jan. 8. USC might get bumped to No. 2, but the Trojans really lack quality wins, while Texas has beaten Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Missouri. Texas absolutely deserves to go over the Trojans, who needed a marquee win down the stretch and couldn't get one because of the competition. Should USC jump into the title game, the Rose Bowl likely would take a team not from the Pac-10 (Texas would be my guess). USC, of course, also has to take care of business against UCLA.


Cameron from Phoenix writes: Adam- i know its very difficult to tell but what do you think the chances are of Ohio State coming out here for the Fiesta bowl? You dont think they would take an undefeated Utah team who would travel better with it being in AZ rather than the sugar? I SURE HOPE THEY TAKE THE BUCKS THOUGH! thanks for your time.

Adam Rittenberg: Most of the bowl predictions, including those from our own Mark Schlabach and Bruce Feldman, have Ohio State going to the Fiesta Bowl to face a Big 12 opponent (Texas or Oklahoma). Boise State has a strong case, but I can't see the Fiesta Bowl, which selects first, passing up a potential Ohio State-Texas or Ohio State-Oklahoma matchup. Those are powerhouse programs that bring hordes of fans and drive TV ratings. The Fiesta picks before the Sugar this year, so I'd say there's a much stronger chance of the Buckeyes heading to Arizona than New Orleans.


David from Parts Unknown writes: Adam, Does the fact that South Carolina and LSU are not ranked in any of the polls help Northwestern get in to the Outback vs. Iowa? Would that bowl really want 2 unrtanked opponents, albeit "big" schools?

Adam Rittenberg: Some bowls care about rankings and records more than others. Most bowls could care less as long as the teams bring fans to their game. By any measure on the field, Northwestern deserves a bowl berth over Iowa. The Wildcats have a better overall record and beat the Hawkeyes on their home field. Iowa finished a little stronger, but both teams won three of their last four. That said, I'd be surprised if the Outback doesn't select Iowa, which travels better than almost any Big Ten program and boasts a star player in running back Shonn Greene. Iowa vs. South Carolina is likely to pack the place in Tampa. I will say if the more prestigious Capital One Bowl was making the selections, rankings and record would mean more. But most bowls aren't about selecting the most deserving teams.


Vince from Los Angeles writes: People are asking for Boise State to get a BCS bid over Ohio State, joining Utah. Do people not recall Hawaii getting destroyed by Georgia? Two teams from the WAC and MWC may be too much.

Adam Rittenberg: Vince, I think it's unfair to generalize a conference based on the performance of one team against another team that was arguably playing better than anyone at the end of last season. Boise State has held its own in a BCS bowl (2007 Fiesta Bowl) and boasts a strong squad led by a dynamic young quarterback (Kellen Moore). I will say I don't think Boise State, Utah, TCU or the other non-BCS big boys are at the level of past non-BCS powers. The bottom line is 10-2 Ohio State will be a better draw than 12-0 Boise State, and the Buckeyes will get the nod.


Carl from Jackson, Tenn., writes: has there been any talk about ken O'keefe going to a mid major school? i am sure ready for him to leave iowa. he sucks as an offensive cordinator and as a qb coach. more importanly he cant develop talent. and i know the only way he leaves iowa is under his own wishes, cause kirk wont fire a good friend(even if he does suck)

Adam Rittenberg: Carl, I really don't understand all the vitriol for Ken O'Keefe. Sure, Iowa fans had a right to be upset in the middle of the season when the offense was sputtering. But the unit picked things up toward the end and finished with a 55-point explosion at the Metrodome. Lousy quarterbacks coaches don't have a guy like Ricky Stanzi blossom toward the end of the season. It seems to me that besides touting their team as the greatest 8-4 squad ever, Iowa fans love to dump on O'Keefe. Give the guy a break. He did his job down the stretch.


Brent from State College, Pa., writes: Hi Adam, Since I'm not a Pac-10 guy, can you tell me how exactly the Beavers win a 3-way tie in the Pac-10 (if USC loses this upcoming weekend)? Can't be head to head, can it, si
nce each team lost to one of the other teams...? Thanks, Adam. Brent

Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Brent. I was curious myself. The Pac-10 tiebreaker goes like this: When all three teams are tied with identical records against each other, they are then compared with the next best teams in the conference standings. Cal would be next, and the Bears beat Oregon and lost to both USC and Oregon State. Oregon would be eliminated, and the two-team tiebreaker would then take effect between USC and Oregon State. The Beavers won the head-to-head matchup, so they would go to the Rose Bowl.