Big Ten Friday mailbag

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

If you don't have anything nice to say ... write to me.

Jerry from Lansing, Mich., writes: Given that Iowa has: the bulk of their highly ranked D returning from last year, a more mature QB in Stanzi operating behind their usual stallwart O-line; if Jewel Hampton is a servicable replacement for Shonn Green, aren't the Hawkeyes clear front runners for the conference title along with Ohio State, regardless of their tough road schedule?

Adam Rittenberg: You just can't dismiss the road schedule, Jerry. Most teams would be happy to split those four away games (Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin). I can't see the league title going to a team with more than one loss. The key game will be Penn State. If Iowa can topple the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley, it will have the confidence to do the same to the other three teams. No way the Hawks go 4-0 in that stretch, but 3-1 isn't out of the question and could put them in the title mix.

Bert from Portland, Ore., writes: Regarding the talk about adding a twelfth team to the Big Ten, I looked as Syracuse's nonconference schedule today and saw the following: Minnesota Penn State Northwestern Maine Could this be an indication that Syracuse is trying to make a statement about its suitability for the Big Ten Conference. If not, do you know what accounts for the dominance of Big Ten opponents for the coming season? Thanks.

Adam Rittenberg: It's certainly unusual for a BCS team to play three nonconference games against foes from another BCS conference, but I don't see it as a push to join the Big Ten. Syracuse seems happy in the Big East, particularly from a basketball standpoint. It'd be hard to see the Orange give up the Georgetown, UConn and 'Nova rivalries in hoops to play in a better football league. The Penn State series is a long-standing rivalry, while Northwestern and Minnesota are more coincidence than anything else. But it is an interesting scheduling situation.

Shawn from Tampa writes: Hey, Adam. I've been reading your blogs every day for as long as I can remember now. It's the highlight of my day reading new Big Ten material. You need to visit and write about Penn State just a little bit more, though. Preferably NOT about any more arrests, though. Anyway, to my question: Since the Big Ten isn't currently considering expansion for whatever reason(s), can't they just add another game to the end of their schedule, so they end at the same time and have one more game under their belt going in to the bowl layoff?

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Shawn. I'd say Penn State gets more than its share of coverage here, both with the good and bad news. Onto your question, the Big Ten will add a permanent bye week beginning in 2010, which will extend the regular season another week (last weekend of November). Teams are limited to 12 regular-season games for the most part, and I don't see the commissioners and presidents approving a 13th game any time soon. One thing you might see more teams do is add a second bye week during nonconference play to finish the season on the first weekend of December, like Illinois will do this fall.

Jason from Fort Worth writes: Adam, love the blog! I'm a HUGE OSU fan and I have trouble keeping up with my team when I'm deep in the heart of Texas. I was just thinking about the discussion about the Big 10 finishing up to early. Do you think it might be a good idea to delay the Michigan vs. Ohio State game one week to keep us in the minds of voters/fans? This would give both teams two weeks to prepare for THE game plus see to it that we don't finish the season so early compared to the other big conferences. Would love to hear your thoughts! Thanks again for your hard work! GO BUCKEYES!!!

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Jason. I like where you're going with this, especially since the Big Ten has no immediate plans to add a 12th team and a championship game. Why not put your premier end-of-season game on the same day as the SEC and Big 12 championship games, not to mention USC-UCLA? If USC and UCLA do it every year, why can't Ohio State and Michigan? I know the traditionalists want the game played before Thanksgiving, but starting next year, that's not happening any more. Another week wouldn't hurt. Sure, it would be cold, but who cares? Good call.

Jorden from Cedar Falls, Iowa, writes: just a little fyi about marvin mcnutt from iowa..you have to realize how iowas depth charts are written pencil for a reason. mcnutt will not start at wr. ferentz uses this as motivation or to commend hard work..djk and stross will start..watch penn state iowa and iowa minnesota for and example why..i honestly dont see mcnutt playing much at all with incoming wr keenan davis. have a good one

Adam Rittenberg: Some interesting thoughts here, Jorden. I don't doubt that Kirk Ferentz uses the post-spring depth chart to light a fire under some players, but I also wouldn't discount what McNutt brings to the table. Iowa doesn't exactly have world-beaters playing wide receiver, and McNutt's size and athleticism should earn him some playing time. I liked what I saw from Derrell Johnson-Koulianos down the stretch last year, but he's got to bring it from the start of the season. Trey Stross is OK, but wide receiver is far from an open-and-shut position. You're right about the freshmen being in the mix immediately.

Ethan from Canton, Mich., writes: I look at Michigan's schedule thiss year and i think it is one of the easiest they have had in years. I thought teir chances were good of winning their first 4, but all of the talk on College Football Live says that Notre Dame would win all except the USC game. Do you think that Notre Dame is out of Michigan's league this year?

Adam Rittenberg: Absolutely not, Ethan. I don't really understand the love for Notre Dame. Until the Irish prove they're a tough team that can, you know, actually run the ball from time to time, I'm not buying in one bit. Michigan will have a shot in that game, no doubt. And if the Wolverines pull the "upset," a strong start is certainly within reach. There are still a ton of questions about Michigan, but I don't see as big a gap with Notre Dame as many others do.