Big Ten mailblog

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Big Ten media days bogged down the blog on Tuesday, so your mail comes a little later than usual. Lots of good questions this week. I can tell the season is getting closer.

Ben from Los Angeles writes: In your posts "Big Ten bashing unites league's players, coaches" and "Minnesota craves the spotlight with strong schedule". I noticed that USC's name was mentioned 6 times and was listed as a keyword on both posts. Do you think that USC has become the ultimate litmus test for the Big 10 conferenceâ??s combined strength? Do you think that one Big 10 victory over USC will cure the conferenceâ??s credibility issues? Do you think that a team will dethrone USC this year (OSU or at the Rose Bowl)? Could credibility be restored without a win over USC?Thanks Adam!

Adam Rittenberg: You're absolutely spot on, Ben. USC has done more damage to the Big Ten than any team, or any league, for that matter. I hear the Big Ten-SEC debate all the time, but if the Big Ten simply beat USC once or twice this decade, the league would have a better national reputation. The Big Ten wouldn't have such a long losing streak in the Rose Bowl if other Pac-10 teams would qualify for the game more often. So yes, I would say beating USC is a critical step for the Big Ten to restore itself, but it's not the only step. A nonconference win against the Trojans on Sept. 12 will help a little, but it really comes down to whether the Big Ten wins at least one BCS bowl game in January.

Dave from Charlotte, N.C., writes: I saw that there is a new rule in the BCS selection process this year involving the Rose Bowl. From what I understand, it states that if the Rose Bowl loses either the Big 10 or Pac 10 champion to the Championship game, and if a non-BCS conference team qualifies for a BCS bowl, the Rose Bowl is then required to pick that non-BCS team.Questions:1. Does this mean that another bowl can not pick the qualifying non-BCS team, if they come before the Rose Bowl in the pick rotation?2. Are the non-BCS conferences still limited to only 1 qualifying team?3. Did the Big 10 and Pac 10 get screwed, ultimately? Have the 2 conferences just lost out on opprtunities for 2 teams in the BCS bowls?Please try to explain how this new ruling will, and can affect the Big Ten and Pac Ten conferences.Thank you.

Adam Rittenberg: Good questions here, Dave. The only time a non-BCS team can be selected by the Rose Bowl is when the Rose Bowl has the first at-large selection, by virtue of losing either the Big Ten champ or the Pac-10 champ to the national title game. This selection would be made before all the others. The Big Ten obviously didn't favor this move. I look at it more as the Rose Bowl needed to share in the non-BCS selections because the Sugar and Fiesta bowls have already done so. The Big Ten will always have a team in a BCS game, and the key thing to remember is that this new rule can only happen once during a four-year BCS cycle, so it's not as if the Big Ten will lose out on the Rose Bowl every year.

Nick from Dublin, Ohio, writes: Tim Brewster mentioned he cannot wait for another team to be added to the Big Ten. Why doesn't the downside of expansion ever examined? The conference usually benefits from having two teams in BCS games and sometimes getting an undefeated or one-loss team into the championship game. That's a lot of money to conference members.A team that loses in a conference championship game sometimes gets knocked out of a BCS or championship game berth. Plus, money has to be split another way.Why doesn't anyone ever look at the downside and isn't extending the season by adding another conference game more realistic and better?

Adam Rittenberg: You sure this isn't J. Delany from Park Ridge, Ill., writing to me? Just kidding, Nick. You bring up some excellent points, which feed into Jim Delany's argument against expansion. A championship game could cost the Big Ten a second BCS bowl selection and a lot of money. Now I'm in favor of expansion, but people need to remember that the Big Ten has had more BCS entries than any other league (and generated more money from those games). While a Big Ten championship game would give us a clear champion -- no more of this co-champs garbage -- and generate revenue for the league, it could come with a cost. Seeing as though expansion isn't imminent, it seems much more likely the Big Ten will add a ninth conference game -- mathematics be damned -- or see more teams adding nonconference games at the end of the schedule like Illinois and Wisconsin this fall.

Philip from Piqua, Ohio, writes: Hey Adam, what do you think Brandon Saine's chances/future is with Ohio State? I think people have given him a rough deal when it comes to their opinions on him. He's had it rough but he seems to not want to give up? What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: By all accounts Saine looked better this spring than he ever has at Ohio State, and this could be a big season for the junior. Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel made it pretty clear at media days that Saine and Dan Herron will carry the load at running back this fall, at least early in the season. Saine has had a rough time with injuries, but if he can stay healthy, he'll be an asset both as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield. I'm excited to see what both Saine and Herron can do this fall.

Matt from Pensacola, Fla., writes: It looks like you've been pretty busy at media days! Great job keeping everyone informed. Well, you said you would comment on how big Daryll Clark is. Does he look bigger or was it just a bunch of hooey from someone who never saw him in person before? I still think he's a beast of a QB, but I never thought he would be the muscle-monster he was made out to be in that article.

Adam Rittenberg: Clark looks no bigger than he was last year, Matt, although he is and always will be a big quarterback. Here's what Daryll had to say when asked about his supposed weight gain. "I'm about the same," he said. "I'm 235 pounds. I worked on my arm strength, really hit the weights hard this summer. I really haven't seen a difference. I'm a little stronger, no question, body's a little more defined. But I'm still the same weight." Penn State fans shouldn't worry much about Clark's size. The bigger concern is whether the line can keep him healthy this fall. No Big Ten player means more to his team than DC.

Greg from Chelsea, Mich., writes: Hi Adam, I read the blog every day, keep up the great work. Two questions for ya, who do you see stepping up on defense besides Big Brandon [Graham] in order for Michigan to have a good season? and whats your take on Michigan's chances vs Notre Dame, what do we have to do to win?

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Greg. I'll have more on this later, but I really think cornerback Donovan Warren is poised for a big year. Teams might not throw to his side of the field much, but he really seems to like the changes in Greg Robinson's defense and the improved communication in the secondary. I'd also look for another solid season from linebacker Obi Ezeh, while a healthy Jonas Mouton should really help there. As for the defensive line, tackles Ryan Van Bergen and Mike Martin are a year older, which should definitely help. I'm very excited to see if true freshman William Campbell gets some playing time insid
e as well.