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Big Ten mailbag

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Krag from Phoenix writes: Adam, LOVE the blog - I don't know what I'd do to fill the seven month gap without it! I'm curious why I haven't see more written about Etienne Sabino, the true Sophomore linebacker for Ohio State. I first saw him play in the Spring Game last year and thought he was quicker than 90% of the guys on the field even then. This year, with some holes to fill at that position for the Bucks, do you see him making some noise?

Adam Rittenberg: Krag, good call on Sabino. Though he only had six tackles last year, he proved to be a nice special teams player and scored on a blocked punt against Purdue. Ross Homan is the only linebacker you can pencil into the starting lineup right now, so Sabino certainly should get a shot. I'd be surprised if Austin Spitler doesn't succeed All-American James Laurinaitis at middle linebacker, but Sabino has excellent athleticism and will be in the mix at the other spot along with Tyler Moeller.


Rob from York, Pa., writes: Adam, You need to immediately stop talking about how the BCS can't have the NCG in a cold-weather place. It will generate money. Have you forgotten that the SUPER BOWL moves all over the country. I believe the last time it was held in cold-weather city, Detroit, it did great and made a lot of money for everyone involved.

Zach from West Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Adam, I feel compelled to respond to your below comment from your recent mailbag -- "But I still have a hard time seeing how a major bowl in Indianapolis or Detroit would generate the same economic impact as games in warm-weather sites". Come on, Adam. Are you serious? One of the 5 things you love about the Big Ten is our stadium size. And you ought to know that the Big Ten has an extremely loyal fanbase that fills up stadiums on a weekly basis. If a bowl game (think Big Ten affiliated bowls) was held in Indy and either PSU, OSU or UM was playing, do you really think that stadium (and town) wouldn't be overflowing? We're used to piling in 105,000 plus every week and what does Indy's new stadium hold, 75,000ish? Please. We'd fill up the stadium and have people flocking to town even if not one southern fan made the trip! Also, bear in mind that the Big Ten knows how to tailgate and cold weather doesn't stop us! I think your affiliation with ESPN as well as your southern fanboy bloggers are clogging your thought process.

Adam Rittenberg: I've received quite a few e-mails like these in the last few days. You guys bring up some decent points about the BCS title game, but I'm still skeptical about the game's success in a cold-weather city if a Big Ten team isn't involved. And would a game in the dome in Indianapolis really provide a Big Ten team a huge advantage? It's not like the USC and the Rose Bowl, a place where the Trojans play once every two years during the regular season.

Maybe you have a point about the national title game. The NFL and NCAA hoops haven't shied away from cold-weather cities for their premier events like college football has. But let's be honest, the root of the issue for the Big Ten is its struggles in the Rose Bowl, particularly against USC. Big Ten teams have won Rose Bowls before, and you can't start using the weather as an excuse when teams have gotten the job done in the past.


Stuart from Gilbert, Ariz., writes: Adam, I know this is late, but it kind of breaks my heart that half of your Big Ten Mt Rushmore is made up of coaches. How about a seperate Mt. Rushmore for coaches and one for players. It would even be interesting to have a Mt. Rushmore for each position or era/decade. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: I don't want to get too carried away with the Rushmores, Stuart, but having two separate league-wide Rushmores for players and coaches is a good idea. It was tough to narrow down the league's rich history to only four faces. As far as players, I'd keep Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski and add Archie Griffin and either Charles Woodson or Ron Dayne. As far as coaches, I'd keep Woody and Bo, of course. The interesting question would be Joe Paterno. He certainly deserves a place on college football's Rushmore, but judging him solely by Penn State's performance in the Big Ten, you might have to look elsewhere. Fritz Crisler deserves a spot, and possibly someone like Barry Alvarez, Hayden Fry, Bernie Bierman or Amos Alonzo Stagg.


Seth from Ohio writes: All this talk about PSU v MSU or PSU v OSU taking over as the new 'game to watch' in the big ten is a little premature don't you think? It wasn't too long ago that [John] Cooper could not beat UM. Yeah OSU has had a leg up this decade, but who's to say that Rich Rod wont turn things around and solidify 'The Game' as the best rivalry in all of sports? Not to mention MSU is notorious for poor production after good years. In my opinion, if UM keeps going downhill and MSU can string a few good seasons together these new OSU v PSU and PSU v MSU predictions could have some validity, but that is a big if.

Adam Rittenberg: I agree for the most part, Seth. Ohio State-Michigan remains one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. Michigan understands the urgency to beat the Buckeyes, and the next few seasons will be interesting to watch. I wouldn't be too sure about Michigan State falling flat, though. Mark Dantonio has brought a different mind-set to the program, and the Spartans should be a first-division team this fall. Penn State-Michigan State should continue to be a nice end-of-season game.

You could argue the Big Ten's premier game has become Penn State-Ohio State. It certainly proved true in 2008 and could once again be the case this fall. And Penn State is the last Big Ten home team to beat Ohio State (2005).


Nathan from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Hey Adam, great job with your column. I have been following Brian Hoyer's stock rise in the NFL draft, and I have to say, maybe us Michigan State fans were hard on him. The fact is our receivers dropped too many passes, our offensive line was not good enough at pass protection, and he likely had to force things. No doubt, he can be very erratic at times but when I watched the Wisconsin game, and I felt Brian Hoyer could have set a Michigan State records for passing yards, and could have had his best game. Todd McShay even rates Brian Hoyer as the 5th best quarterback in this year's draft, over Graham Harell and Chase Daniel.

Adam Rittenberg: Totally agree, Nathan. You look at Hoyer's completion percentage from 2008 (51) and wonder how he managed to get invited to the NFL combine. But Hoyer performed well at the combine, showing good athleticism and finishing among the top quarterbacks in several drills. Brian has a good head on his shoulders, and he proved he can win games in the clutch last season. Michigan State's receivers might have had more to do with his numbers than I originally thought.