Big Ten mailblog

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

I'm officially changing this from a mailbag to a mailblog because, well, it sounds cooler and everyone else is doing it. Yeah, yeah, I'm a conformist.

Adam from East Lansing, Mich., writes: As a big college football fan, all I hear about is how facilities are a major factor in bringing in the recruits, especially lately as many say Michigan State (my university) rivals Ohio State for the best facilities in the Big Ten and that we have passed little sister. But as a college student I don't get the chance to tour the Big Ten. So I was thinking that a cool idea would be to rank the big ten facilities (preferably with two separate rankings, Stadium rankings and all other facilities such as practice fields or the Skandalaris building at Michigan State for example) This way we could all gauge where we are in recruiting. Love the blog, keep up the good work, and remember. GO GREEN!!!

Adam Rittenberg: Like the idea, Adam, and I might do a modified version of it in the near future. I haven't gone on extensive tours of every team's practice/weight room facility, so it'd be a bit unfair to rank all of them without doing so first. I will say that the Skandalaris Football Center at Michigan State is very impressive and a major, major upgrade from what the school had before. The new facility undoubtedly has helped Michigan State become a bigger player in recruiting, especially in the Midwest.

Billy H. from Boston writes: Hey Adam -- congrats on the recent marriage and keep on doing an excellent job on the blog!! My question revolves around rating how good college offensive linemen are. Preseason or postseason, stats are never mentioned. It's a feeling of, "Ok, he's there so he must have been good." As a result, they end up being rated by reputation, experience, and physique. However, this is hardly accurate. A great example is former Buckeye Alex Boone. I love the guy, but the three-year starter underachieved his senior season BIG TIME. What do you think can be done to correct this inaccurate science of rating the most abundant position on the field?

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Billy. I agree that it's tough to effectively rate offensive linemen without breaking down a ton of film on their footwork, blocking techniques, etc. But one way I gauge a lineman is by how he leads the unit. No position group demands chemistry more than the offensive line, and the truly great linemen are also tremendous leaders. Penn State center A.Q. Shipley was an excellent example last year, a guy who led one of the nation's top lines on the field and also did his own job extremely well. As for Alex Boone, he probably took more heat than he deserved for his own performance last year. But the fact that the entire Ohio State line struggled so much does fall in his lap as the unit's most experienced and decorated member. Leadership didn't seem to be Boone's strong suit, and Ohio State suffered because of it.

Grayson from Miami writes: Hey Adam, it's rumored that incoming defensive lineman John Simon of Ohio State broke the NFL Combine record for bench pressing 225 lbs at Youngstown Cardinal Mooney with 48 reps (and it was witnessed by many). You went over the list ranking Big Ten players, who do you feel is the strongest in the weight room (not that it matters on the field)?

Adam Rittenberg: I've heard those rumors, Grayson, and that would be awfully impressive if it actually happened. As far as weight room warriors, there are a few around the Big Ten. Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson, Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham and Indiana linebacker Matt Mayberry certainly qualify.

John from NYC writes: Penn State's secondary struggles are well-documented at this point, and as a Penn State fan, I've been searching for reasons why. Could it be a coaching problem? Kermit Buggs took charge of coaching safeties last season. Tom Bradley is listed as the cornerbacks coach, but that job is likely his third priority behind being defensive coordinator and de facto head coach. The on-field talent good enough that the secondary shouldn't be a point of weakness. Should Penn State hire an additional coach to take over CB duties from Bradley? Could Buggs be a problem? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

Adam Rittenberg: That's a very intriguing question, John, and one that has both short- and long-term value, given Bradley's potential as Penn State's next head coach. Penn State's defensive scheme belongs to Bradley, and he took plenty of heat for sticking with the Cover 3 so long against USC in the Rose Bowl. I agree that Penn State should be better off in the back half with the talent on the field, and no secondary with as much experience as the Lions had last year should be exposed like they were in Pasadena (not to mention the fourth quarter at Iowa). If Buggs is unable to coach the entire secondary, perhaps Penn State should bring in someone who can. But it's certainly a valid point after the unit's struggles last year and the potential for struggles this fall.

Sam from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Adam, I have found a common error among Iowa's 2008 average of points allowed by their defense. In Iowa's loss to Illinois, the Hawkeye defense only gave up 20 points, with 7 points of Illinois' total score coming from a fumble recovery and subsequent touchdown scored by Illinois' defense. That being so, Iowa allowed only 162 points on the year, not 169. And 162 points/13 games is 12.46. Now, it may be the case that you writers round up, even if it is below the half-point margin...but...If I were a writer, I'd pay the 2008 Hawkeye defense its due credit and say they only gave up 12 ppg. I don't know if that moves them up in the national rankings at all for the year, and in general this is not a huge issue, but I just thought you'd like to know. CFN.scout.com also made this error.

Adam Rittenberg: Sorry, Sam, it doesn't work that way. Scoring defense is simply the total points allowed -- no matter how they were allowed -- divided by the number of games played. It's not really fair to the defenses, but every team is judged that way in the national statistics. Even if Iowa's offense had four fumbles returned for touchdowns, the points would be charged to the defense. It's not an error on the writers' part, and we would round down if the actual average was 12.46 and not 13.

Dan from Chicago writes: Adam, Michigan State has a huge decision to make as far as the quarterback situation goes. Just the other day I heard the saying "If you have two quarterbacks, you have none" (I'm pretty sure I butchered that but you get the drift)Do you believe in that theory or do you think that both Cousins and Nichol can successfully co-exist like a Henson-Brady did until someone pulls away? Does Dantonio want to make a decision before the season starts? Also, do you believe that there will be biased towards Cousins because of the fact the Nichol originally committed to Oklahoma? Lots of questions but I'm just trying to get a feeling of what is going on in that close competition for the starting QB spot. Thanks

Adam Rittenberg: Often times the two quarterbacks=none equation turns out to be true, but Michigan State truly believes it has two viable options in Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol. I do think it would benefit the Spartans to have a clear starter by the start of the Big Ten season, but there are ways to play two quarterbacks effectively, especial
ly if they're different in styles like Cousins and Nichol. Don't worry about a bias against Nichol because he went to Oklahoma first. He paid his dues on the scout team last fall and performed extremely well. The coaches will start him if he's the best option. Mark Dantonio is willing to be patient and let things play out through September if need be, but I think he'll make a decision on a starter sooner than that.