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Big Ten Friday mailblog

En route to West Lafayette to watch Purdue's afternoon practice. Also monitoring Joe Paterno's news conference in State College.

Send in those questions for Tuesday's mailblog, and don't forget: I'm on Twitter.

Chad from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: I personally count Iowa lucky to have the opportunity to play OSU in 2 years instead of having to wait for four. I understand and know that in order for us to take the next step towards being a team that can be considered "great" we need to be able to play them. My real problem comes with the fact that because of this situation, we won't have played illinois in each of the last 2 years due to having them off our schedule with the old Big 10 scheduling process. And Now they are the team that won't be with us for 4 years? There is no way, at any point in the Big 10, that teams should go 6 years without playing each other, even if this is the only time it ever happens. This is the ultimate lack of intimacy in the league if you don't see a team for 6 years. Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Chad, I like your attitude toward the Ohio State series. To be an elite team in the Big Ten, you have to beat the Buckeyes. The Iowa-Illinois hiatus is unfortunate, and fan bases on both sides aren't pleased. It has to do with two different scheduling models (pre-expansion, post-expansion) having to blend, and the likelihood of the Big Ten going to a nine-game league schedule. The Iowa-Illinois no-plays in 2009 and 2010 were part of the old model. If Nebraska didn't enter the league and there weren't divisions, protected crossovers, etc., Illinois would be back on Iowa's slate this fall. But expansion changed the schedule situation and created new no-plays with the divisions. The longest you'll see teams not playing with an eight-game Big Ten slate from 2011 onward is four years. If the Big Ten goes to a nine-game slate -- I really think this will ultimately happen -- the gaps will be shorter. I know this doesn't help Iowa players who arrived in 2009 or 2010, but this situation is unique.


Craig from Madison, Wis., writes: I agree with you completely about Wisconsin having its home opener on Thursday night instead of sometime on Saturday afternoon. It provides national exposure to a game that most people wouldn't watch but will because they will want to watch any football they can. How do you see the Badgers handling the key players they lost, and (I know its wayyyyyyy too early) how do you see them faring in the Leaders (or whichever one it is) division?

Adam Rittenberg: You're absolutely right about the Thursday night opener, Craig. You put Wisconsin-UNLV among a bunch of noon ET kickoffs on Sept. 3, and it gets lost in the shuffle. Exposure is minimal. When you isolate the game on a Thursday night, many more people will watch. One added benefit I didn't mention Thursday is Wisconsin will have two more days to prepare for Oregon State on Sept. 10. ... As for the Badgers, they lose a lot, and I think quarterback Scott Tolzien and defensive end J.J. Watt are the most damaging departures. Sure, Wisconsin will run the ball well, but this isn't an offense that can afford mistakes from the QB spot, and Tolzien made very few last season. This will be a true test of Wisconsin's recruiting and player development. If the Badgers can reload, they absolutely will challenge for the Leaders division crown.


Boulder Buckeye from Boulder, Colo., writes: Hey Adam, You never post my questions so I am not actually expecting an answer but what the hey. I am writing to ask why you are not covering the buckeyes spring practice and instead chose to attend Northwestern's. I know you are an alum and Northwestern did have a decent season last year but come on. I bet there are about 5,000 buckeye readers to every one Northwestern reader. Also by "covering" the buckeyes I am not asking for you to detail suspensions and speculate on Coach T's potential NCAA sanctions. A little buckeye love goes a long way

Adam Rittenberg: Boulder, I think the Buckeyes get their share of coverage on the blog, although you may disagree. There are certain factors that go into when I visit a certain campus. A big one is access to players and coaches. Ohio State's first spring practice Thursday was only open to reporters for 30 minutes, and no players or coaches were available for interviews afterward. As my guy Ken Gordon points out, "When you only have 30 minutes, and it's the first practice of a spring, and the guys are not in pads, you can't possibly make any intelligent evaluations of individual players." So while I understand the excitement of Ohio State fans for the first practice, it doesn't benefit me much to go that day. Northwestern, meanwhile, had a completely open practice in full pads, and I had the chance to visit with head coach Pat Fitzgerald, both coordinators and a bunch of players afterward. The choice had nothing to do with where I went to school and everything to do with access. The good news: I'll be in Columbus next week, where I'm looking forward to catching up with the Buckeyes and (hopefully) watching a practice in pads.


George from Champaign, Ill., writes: Adam, In today's blog (March 31) you put that Nebraska hasn't played any Big Ten teams since 2003 when in fact you sir are wrong the last time that Nebraska play a Big ten team was 2005 when it played my Michigan Wolverines in the Alamo Bowl.

Adam Rittenberg: George, you've got to read the fine print, my friend. I wrote that Nebraska hadn't played a regular-season game against a Big Ten team since 2003. I used this to indicate that the Huskers haven't actively planned to play a Big Ten squad for some time. You're right about Nebraska's last meeting with the Big Ten (2005 Alamo Bowl). The Huskers actually played three Alamo Bowls against the Big Ten in the 2000s, winning them all. Here's a breakdown of Nebraska vs. the Big Ten.


Chad from Allegan, Mich., writes: Today I spent about an hour or so watching Michigan spring practice videos, reading coaches comments, and looking at the spring roster. I feel like I've done a pretty good job of creating a projected Depth Chart based. People have asked you before if Mattison and the 4-3 scheme could really make a huge difference. Based on what I've come up with, I'd say yes. If you look at projected starters, there are 6 4-star prospects, 1 5-star prospect, and 4 3-star prospects (2 of the 3-star prospects are Troy Woolfolk and J.T. Floyd.) And behind those projected starters is a ton of depth of 3-star and 4-star prospects. The talent is there. Mattison just said they are behind in the fundamentals and techniques aspect. If fundamentals and techniques are the issues because of poor coaching under Rich Rod and Greg Robinson, those can be fixed, whereas lack of talent cannot. Do you see Michigan as having a middle-of-the-pack defense this year, to go along with good and talented offense, and finish... let's say... 9-4 or 10-3?

Adam Rittenberg: Chad, it's possible, but Michigan has some significant work to do to become a middle-of-the-pack defense. I agree with you about the talent being in Ann Arbor, but the coaches have to evaluate who best can help them and at what spots. I think Michigan stuck with the 3-3-5 too long last season, and it might not have been all Greg Robinson's fault, from what I've been told. It's important to have realistic expectations with the secondary. Although Woolfolk and Floyd returning helps, the group has a long way to go. I'm really interested in whether the line takes a step forward. Michigan has a great piece to build around in Mike Martin.


Billy G. from Philly writes: If the Vest calls it a career, do you think Buckeye fans would prefer Fickell take over or going out and getting Urban Meyer? Urban's a name brand, but after years of loathing him, do you think they would ever welcome him with open arms? As a Viking fan, reminds me of being forced to support Favre after 18 years of thinking he was a phony and self absorbed schmo. I couldn't do it. but seems like Buckeye fans would take whoever can get them a BCS title.

Adam Rittenberg: Billy, I like the Vikings-Favre analogy, although there probably was more hatred for No. 4 among Vikings fans than there is for Urban Meyer in Columbus. My take on Ohio State's coaching situation has been the same long before Jim Tressel's transgressions. When this job opens up, Ohio State must do a national search and open it up to all the excellent candidates who could have interest. This is one of the best jobs in the country, and Ohio State shouldn't limit itself to a candidate, whether he's Fickell or Meyer. Open the job up, see who has genuine interest and conduct a thorough search. If Ohio State does this, it should end up with a very good coach.