Big Ten mailblog

Couldn't get to this Tuesday, but I didn't forget you guys.

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Jesse from Little Rock, Ark., writes: Adam, I cannot disagree with your ranking of the defensive lines until the season begins but I believe by the end of the year Michigan's line will be among the best in the conference. Craig Roh was outstanding as a freshman last year. Mike Martin and RVB will continue to improve and if Will Campbell can turn in a solid year this line could be scary. Just something to keep an eye on this season.

Adam Rittenberg: That's a fair take, Jesse. Brandon Graham really carried the line in 2009, and his production will be next to impossible to replace. But there's some potential up front. Mike Martin needs to have a big year at nose tackle, and he clearly has the ability to take things up a notch. Ryan Van Bergen also has a chance to be very good, and we'll see if William Campbell becomes the star many thought he'd be. Roh is a lineman-linebacker hybrid and likely will spend more time outside a three-point stance this fall. Again, there are too many question marks to put this unit in the top five, but I wouldn't be surprised if the line performs well this fall.

Everett from Philadelphia writes: I thought you might want to reference the new USNews academic rankings that just came out. While not directly football related, the academics did play a part in the decision to admit Nebraska to the conference, so it does seem relevant to follow the release of the most respected rankings. By the way, Northwestern went up to 12.

Adam Rittenberg: Here are the US News rankings, if you haven't seen them. Northwestern leads the Big Ten contingent at No. 12, followed by Michigan (29th), Wisconsin (T-45th), Penn State (T-47th), Illinois (T-47th), Ohio State (T-56th), Purdue (T-56th), Minnesota (T-64th), Iowa (T-72nd), Indiana (T-75th) and Michigan State (T-79th). Nebraska's ranking at No. 104 (tie) has surprised people, although it shouldn't. It's not a huge drop from last year's ranking (tied for 96th). We all knew Nebraska would be at the bottom of this particular gauge for universities. But is the Big Ten seriously compromising its academic standards? I don't think so. Notre Dame, by the way, comes in at No. 19.

Matt from Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: Hey Adam, with the addition of Nebraska, the Big Ten is obviously going to get a little shook up, including potential rivalries lost. Please tell me that none of the Notre Dame rivalries in the Big Ten will be affected, they're my favorite team to hate. On the other hand, how many potential or developing rivalries do you see having the opportunity to become legitimate rivalry games? And can MSU please leave the Old Brass Spittoon and Land Grant Trophy behind? Neither of those games seem to be particularly anticipated by either side. I would much rather see the Spartans have a rivalry with Northwestern or Wisconsin.

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, I don't think you need to worry about any of the Notre Dame rivalries going away. Purdue AD Morgan Burke has said multiple times that as long as he's in his current position, the Boilers will play the Irish every year. Michigan State AD Mark Hollis feels the same way, and Michigan and Notre Dame have a long-term deal in place. Although nine conference games will change how some folks schedule, playing Notre Dame still has a ton of value for those teams, especially Purdue and MSU. I agree with you that Michigan State is in an interesting position when it comes to forming new rivalries. Northwestern and Wisconsin certainly could become bigger rivals for the Spartans, depending on division alignment. Michigan State and Northwestern have played some memorable games in the last 20 years (2007, 2006, 2001, 1997, 1993, 1992).

Brian from Richmond, Va., writes: Adam, just read your article on Robert Marve and how he is progressing at Purdue. I dont think you did enough research on this academic matter. You just took one side of the story from a kid that was very immature while at Univ. of Miami. But the one quote I have issue with is quote, "Marve didn't have those worries at Miami. That was part of the problem." Have you seen Miami's graduation rate and where they stand academically among other D-1 college football programs? The penalty for missing a class is a 1 game suspension under Coach Shannon. Maybe you didnt mean to imply that Miami doesnt care about its players academics but that could be farther from the truth. Thanks, Brian

Adam Rittenberg: Brian, thanks for writing, but I think you misunderstood what I wrote. That line had everything to do with Marve and nothing to do with Miami's program, Randy Shannon or the academic standards there. Marve has admitted that he didn't put enough into his studies while at the U., and being near South Beach as an 18-year-old certainly didn't help matters. But my intent had to do with Marve's mindset at Miami, not the Miami program.

Ben from State College, Pa., writes: Hey Adam, great blog.. keeps me goin through the boring offseason that is college football (with an exception to this year) So I've been hearing a lot about Bolden and Redd having fantastic summers. Do you think they are the real deal and this is a sign of good things to come for PSU? Maybe a 10-2 season or dare i say 11-1 or 12-0?!?! How high should PSU fans get their hopes on these guys?

Adam Rittenberg: Ben, I wouldn't pin my hopes for an 11-1 or 12-0 season based on the preseason performances of two true freshmen. While it's certainly encouraging to hear how Robert Bolden and Silas Redd are progressing, particularly, Bolden, given the situation at quarterback, let's see how they do when things really count. The beauty of Penn State's schedule is that we'll find out pretty soon what these young guys can do. The Lions are at Alabama in Week 2 and at Iowa in Week 5. If Bolden and Redd perform against those defenses, you can start getting excited.

Joe from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Now I may be biased, but you're seriously putting Ohio States linebackers ahead of Michigan State? Excuse me? Returning big ten defensive POY, ranked the number one linebacking core by sporting news, incredible amounts of experience and depth, the big tens freshman to watch. All that and you still choose Ohio State? Michigan State's defense doesnt have much to be proud of, but the linebacking core is one thing we can be proud of... and subsequently one thing I'm a little upset about being considered number two in.

Adam Rittenberg: Greg Jones is the best linebacker in the Big Ten, if not the country. Eric Gordon also is a fine player. But I think the combination of Ross Homan and Brian Rolle, combined with the good players behind them and the fact Ohio State's defense is always rock solid, and the Buckeyes have a slight edge. One other factor is big plays. Homan led Big Ten linebackers with five interceptions last fall. Interceptions is the only knock against Jones, who doesn't have one in his outstanding career. I'm a huge Greg Jones fan, but I want to see him make some game-changing plays this fall. The order certainly could change by the end of the season, especially if Michigan State's incoming freshmen (William Gholston and Max Bullough) perform as expected. But I'm comfortable with Ohio State at No. 1 and Michigan State just behind.