Big Ten Friday mailblog

Enjoy the weekend.

Everett from Philadelphia writes: Adam, I know you have heard a lot about expansion, so what do you think the chances are that Maryland joins the Big Ten? Ok, hear me out. Maryland has no true rival in the ACC besides duke in basketball, and they could play that game OOC. Though one-sided, Penn State-Maryland had a rivalry that went 36 games. Unlike Pitt, they bring in a new media market and I think Penn State is better suited to have a rivalry with the flagship school of another state. The conference could go to 14, having the two 7 sided divisions, by adding Rutgers, Maryland, and Syracuse.

Adam Rittenberg: While I don't think Maryland is in the top tier of Big Ten expansion candidates, the Big Ten shouldn't dismiss the Turtle (and start fearing it, dammit). The Penn State rivalry certainly would heat up again, and Maryland brings a name basketball program to the Big Ten. What Maryland lacks is super strong football tradition, although the program has had its high points. And while the Washington market isn't New York in terms of size, there seems to be a stronger interest in college sports in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area. It's a good point to bring up, Everett.

Phil from NYC writes: Did you ever ask Coach why he doesn't try harder to recruit/replace Demos with a RELIABLE placekicker.He has cost us the last two Bowl games- 2010 being the most egregious. I don't understansd why Coach seems so enamored with him/his failures!!!When I watch Greatest Games (from 2000), Long was a key ingrediant in winning many iof those games (e.g., see MI game, which I was lucky enough to attend)

Adam Rittenberg: Tim Long's biggest kick in 2000 actually came at Wisconsin, as it sent the game to overtime and led to the first of several dramatic wins that year. I also remember writing a profile for the student paper on Long, headlined, "Kind of weird in the head." Ah, the college days ... Back to your question, Stefan Demos. I know the bowl struggles stand out, and Northwestern's special-teams woes always seem to surface at the worst possible times. Certainly punting the ball directly to Jeremy Maclin right before halftime at the Alamo Bowl was an egregious mistake. But overall, Demos did a really nice job last year. He kicked had game-winning field goals against Eastern Michigan and Indiana and made several other big kicks, including one at Iowa. He was a second-team All-Big Ten pick behind Brett Swenson. So there are some legitimate reasons behind Pat Fitzgerald's loyalty. Demos has done an above-average job overall, and he shouldn't have to handle the punting duties as well. Northwestern hasn't done a good job with the punting situation and needs to take that off Demos' plate this fall, if possible.

Pete from Chicago writes: I know you routinely denigrate Illinois for athletic acheivement but under any rating system you can name Illinois is head and shoulders better academically than Penn State and easily in your top four group. Try to be a little more objective next time. OK?

Adam Rittenberg: Always objective, Pete, but I do owe you and other Illinois fans an apology. Illinois is right up there academically with the best of the Big Ten. I should have included Illinois with Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan. It was an oversight, but no ill intent. Really, all the Big Ten schools are solid academically, which is why the league won't add an institution purely based on its athletic success or market value.

Evan from Atlanta and Cleveland writes: Hey Adam, Still lovin' the blog... From an economic and talent perspective, wouldn't the Big Ten benefit even more from "poaching" a team from both the Big 12 and Big East during Expansion? Everybody always talks about getting the Rutgers and Syracuse schools, which brings the NY television market, or perhaps the Nebraska and Missouri contingent, which brings a smaller market (who lives in Nebraska??), but a fertile recruiting area. Assuming Commissioner Delany can't attract Notre Dame, why wouldn't he try to get at least one school from each region? In doing this, the Big Ten has thousands more players to recruit and even thousands more homes to fill with the BT Network. ... The only reason I bring this to your attention is because I feel like most stories and opinions only discuss attracting one region or the other, as opposed to getting the best of both worlds.

Adam Rittenberg: Totally agree with you, Evan. If you're going to do a major expansion like five teams, why not go both East (Big East) and West (Big 12)? And I think ultimately, that's what the Big Ten will do if it becomes the Big Sixteen. In my view, there's no need to add more than two teams from the Big East. Provided Notre Dame isn't in the mix, that leaves at least one spot for a Big 12 school, or potentially three more spots to fill. The Big Ten should absolutely go after both Missouri and Nebraska -- really, really like the Nebraska addition -- if it wants to go to 16. As you say, it's the best of both worlds.

Seth from Baltimore writes: Re: "Penn State to pump up the volume in 2011"Adam - I think we all know that this move has nothing to do with noise and is all about money. As one matriculates at PSU, not only does your intellect improve but so do your seats at Beaver Stadium. The senior section of student seating is practically on the 50 yard line. By moving students to the south end zone, those prime seats are now available to be sold to alumni at exorbitant prices. The enthusiasm of the PSU student section has generated great interest (and revenue) for the football program in recent years. It is sad that this is how they are being repaid.

Adam Rittenberg: Seth, thanks to you and others for pointing this out. Sounds like the students are getting shafted a bit here, which isn't a major surprise. I wonder how this would go over if Penn State didn't have such a tremendous student section (best in the Big Ten with Wisconsin and Michigan). Now a lot of students don't get the best seats -- most of Wisconsin's students are behind the north end zone at Camp Randall -- but this certainly seems like a downgrade for the PSU students.

Alex from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Hey Adam, Can we expect another strong bowl performance from the Big Ten this year? Which non-conference games should we pay particular attention to for a good gauge as to where the Big Ten stacks among the other conferences?

Adam Rittenberg: Alex, it's way too soon to tell about the Big Ten's bowl performance, especially without seeing the matchups and locations for the games. But I can help you with top nonconference games to watch. Here are a few: Illinois vs. Missouri (Sept. 4), Connecticut at Michigan (Sept. 4), Miami at Ohio State (Sept. 11), Penn State at Alabama (Sept. 11), Iowa at Arizona (Sept. 18), USC at Minnesota (Sept. 18) and Arizona State at Wisconsin (Sept. 18). I'm not sure how good Notre Dame will be this year, but the three Big Ten games vs. ND -- Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue -- can sometimes provide a good gauge.