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Big Ten mailblog

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Time to catch up on some of your questions.

Joe from Des Moines, Iowa, writes; This question seems very premature, but looking into the future I have been wondering if there would be any possible return to Iowa for Bret Bielmema. It's been well documented that the lack of success in the badger state has come down on his head. There is obvious ties to the Hawkeyes. Could he be a new "head coach in waiting?" Norm Parker is loved by Hawks fans and no one can dispute how he has had an effect on the defense, but how many 70 year olds can keep up this pace? Would Bielema accept a demotion (?) back to defensive coordinator if removed from Wisconsin or is it more tempting continue running his own program somewhere else? Is this a story line 4-5 months from now?

Adam Rittenberg: I wonder if there's an unwritten rule about how many schools someone can be tabbed head coach in-waiting. After all, Bielema already held the tag at Wisconsin. Though there does seem to be increasing outside pressure on Bielema, he would really need to struggle this season to lose his job. Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez hired Bielema as his own successor, and Alvarez would need to be pushed heavily by his bosses to make a change. Norm Parker won't be succeeding Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, but neither will Bielema. It's an interesting scenario you present, but a highly unlikely one.


Adam from Ypsilanti, Mich., writes: Who will start for UM at safety this year and how do you expect them to perform?

Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Adam, and I doubt even the Wolverines coaches know at this point. Stevie Brown was used as a linebacker-safety hybrid for most of the spring, and he'll likely spend more time in the box than in the secondary. Troy Woolfolk should be one of the starters at safety, most likely at the free position. Mike Williams appears to be the frontrunner at strong safety, but several other players (Brandon Smith, Jared Van Slyke) also are in the mix. But you could say safety is Michigan's biggest concern on defense heading into the fall.


Jared from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Hey, love the blog -This probably isn't the only mail you've gotten on the subject, but you were talking about Big 10 rivalries in the Big 10 video - and you *didn't mention* Michigan-OSU? Are you serious?The greatest rivalry in all of sports? Are you nuts?Then you mention Penn St-Iowa over that too?Look, I know Michigan is coming off the worst season in program history, but it's still the winningest program in College Football with one of the now most experienced offensive lines in the conference, a talented RB, promising QBs (if untested on this level), an under-rated group of recievers, and a defense that has at least as much potential as any in the conference with the exception of perhaps Iowa, compared to an Ohio State team that graduated a lot of it's talent on both sides of the ball this past year. How can you possibly put anything else above "The Game", particularly given the "Betrayer" Justen Boren drama and the history of the Rich Rodriguez second-year recovery?Sure, OSU-Penn State is going to be a great game, and Iowa-Penn State may be good too if Iowa somehow pulls offensive capability out of next to nothing, but when it comes to true rivalries, how can anything beat Ohio State-Michigan? Seriously.

Adam Rittenberg: Here's the deal, Jared (and the rest of you who e-mailed on this subject). The video was about the hottest Big Ten rivalries for the 2009 season. We weren't trying to break down the greatest Big Ten rivalry ever, which is obviously Michigan-Ohio State. But you can't honestly put The Game at the top of the list of rivalries for this fall. Michigan is still rebuilding, and Ohio State has won five consecutive games in the series. Right now, Penn State-Ohio State has to be the top rivalry entering 2009. Iowa-Penn State also is gaining momentum after last year's dramatic finish. Michigan-Ohio State could prove to be a hot game as well, especially given the Justin Boren factor, but I need to see much more from Michigan before I put the game at the top of my must-see rivalries.


Ben from Madison, Wis., writes: Hey Adam-I'm a pretty avid reader of the Big Ten blog and was just wondering if you could clear something up for me. The Badgers biggest question mark the past couple seasons has been quarterback play. Yet it seems that Brett Bielema has Dustin Sherer (a senior, middle of the road quarterback) as the front-runner to start the 2009-10 season. Do you believe that starting the presumed no. 2, Curt Phillips (four star recruit, red-shirt freshman), would be a smarter move seeing as he could at the very least gain valuable game-experience?

Adam Rittenberg: No doubt this is THE question in Madison heading into 2009, and there's not an easy answer. Obviously, it would benefit Wisconsin to have a multi-year starter at quarterback, and Phillips certainly could be the solution. But if he's not the best player, you would do a disservice to Sherer and the rest of the team not to play Sherer. Wisconsin has the type of schedule that can translate into a lot of wins even if the team isn't that good. If Sherer gives the Badgers the best chance to win every Saturday, he needs to get a chance. But he should also be on a short leash. If Sherer and Phillips are dead even in performance, I would definitely go with the younger player to build some continuity for the future.


Jake from Indianapolis writes: Adam, Last summer Jerimy Finch( class of '07 #1 SS rivals, top 100) decided to transfer from Florida and come back home and be a hoosier. It drove me absolutely insane last year watching IU play and seeing Finch on the sidelines, he played kick offs, punts, and field goal block. I have seen the kid play in person dozens of times and I know he is the most athletic player we had on D last year. The kid started a few games when he was a true Freshman at FLORIDA, he comes to IU and we cant find a spot to put him on the field??? You got to be kidding me....him not playing was nothing but awful awful coaching. Why was it such a challenge for Lynch to start him on D? Do you think he will be a special teamer only again this year?!

Adam Rittenberg: I'm with you, Jake. I was also surprised that Finch didn't get more playing time, especially for a defense that has dragged down the Indiana program for most of the decade. I know the circumstances of his transition from Florida to Indiana weren't entirely smooth (personal issues), but he obviously has a lot of ability. I would imagine he'll play a much bigger role this fall, especially as starting safeties Austin Thomas and Nick Polk come off of injuries.