Other engagements prevented me from posting the regular Friday mailblog, but I didn't forget you guys. We still will have a regular Tuesday mailblog, so send in those questions.
One other programming note: This week's Big Ten chat will take place at noon ET Thursday because I'll be at the spring meetings Wednesday. Be sure to join me.
David from Delaware writes: Based on your polling, there is really no chance Penn State is any good this year. They weren't even a candidate to win the conference and were only an option in the "most likely to disappoint" category. Should I even bother to watch my Lions this season? Are they destined to be a non-factor again this year?
Adam Rittenberg: David, I wouldn't overreact to the polls. I only had five choices, and the top four are pretty set (Ohio State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan State). I'd put teams such as Penn State, Northwestern, Iowa and Michigan in that tweener category, teams that could make a run for the Big Ten title and also could fall short of expectations. I actually like Penn State's chances to take a step forward this year, but there are several issues to resolve (QB, DE, TE).
Craig from Bowling Green, Ohio, writes: Adam,Do you think that the OSU coverage would be this intense or long lasting if this had happened right in the heart of the season. It seems at some points the media is beating a dead horse, though I know that beating is warranted given the situation. I just was wondering if you think this situation would be well behind OSU if it had all broke in September and not March?
Adam Rittenberg: Craig, you bring up an interesting point. At least some of the focus would be devoted to matters on the field if this broke during the season. But the nature of this situation, which will drag on until there's an NCAA ruling and probably beyond that point, facilitates all the coverage. There's also the belief that more information will be unearthed about Jim Tressel and Ohio State, so media folks will keep digging. Until we have a resolution on penalties and Tressel's future, this will continue to be a top story.
Nick from Columbia, S.C., writes: Is it just me, or do I see an emerging rivalry between Kirk Ferentz and Mark Dantonio? First, The series is pretty even between the two teams, with 3 of the last 5 coming down to the last play of the game. Second, when Iowa was happy to run the clock out at the end of the first half of last season's game, MSU called timeout, so Stanzi threw a long pass to Brad Herman coming out of the timeout which ultimately resulted in a touchdown. Not to mention that Kirk waited longer than usual to call off the dogs in that game. Third, the two coaches often recruit the same players, and Dantonio was rumored to use negative recruiting against Iowa this past signing period. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg: Nick, I think there's certainly potential for a rivalry, especially given the recent games. Dantonio has looked at Iowa as a model for Michigan State as he tries to make the Spartans a more consistent contender in the Big Ten. I wouldn't want to speculate on negative recruiting rumors, as it seems like both coaching staffs have a lot of respect for one another. There was some talk after last year's game about Ferentz leaving his starters in too long, but I didn't think too much of it as that talk always seems to surface after blowouts. But this could be a budding rivalry, especially since the teams are in the same division.
Scott from Quad Cities, Ill., writes: Adam - I do like the new polling feature on the Blogs. In your article this morning you stated that some people were ticked off regarding the choices on some of the polls. I for one felt that way on a number of them. I know that you cannot always list all possible candiates, but could you at least at put a "None of the Above" or "Other" option on the open ended polls? That would at least give voice to the rest of us on the Blog that do not believe the right choice is on the list (and may also give you insight that the list may be off target altogether).
Adam Rittenberg: Scott, this is a good suggestion and one I'll definitely try to incorporate in future polls. Like a lot of things, the first go-round isn't perfect and needs some tweaks. Hopefully, more of you will enjoy future polls because they're a fun feature for the blog.
Chandler from Chicago writes: Hi Adam - We all respect your effort to try to make the Big 10 seem like there's a true balance of talent, but let's be real: somewhere between 10 - 15 of the most talented athletes in the conference play for Ohio State, and realistically most OSU backups could start at any other Big 10 program. Acklowedging the true discrepency in talent between OSU and the rest of the conference doesn't undermine your cred as an imparital conference blogger, and probably ups your authenticity. You know as well as all fans that every other program builds to challenge OSU, but you only win 6 stright B10 titles by having a vast talent advantage, right?
Adam Rittenberg: Chandler, I think I've acknowledged Ohio State's edge in talent quite a bit, even in recent posts detailing how the Buckeyes could overcome all the adversity this fall to win the Big Ten again. People need to remember Ohio State's personnel strengths as they size up the Big Ten race. That said, Ohio State doesn't win on talent alone. The Buckeyes make fewer mistakes than their opponents and typically win the critical components of games (i.e., special teams). I don't know if the overall talent edge is as wide as you suggest, particularly on offense, but Ohio State's success both in recruiting and player development cannot be denied.
Brent from Omaha, Neb., writes: Nebraska plays at wisconsin, penn st, and michigan. Which of these games would be the best to go see adding in all the factors (toughest game, stadium experience, etc.)?
Adam Rittenberg: All three are great choices, Brett. Penn State has the best in-game experience in the Big Ten. Michigan Stadium has the most tradition and boasts a better atmosphere after the recent renovations. Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium is my favorite Big Ten venue, and Madison is the Big Ten's best college town. So you really can't go wrong. If you want to limit costs, I'd head to Madison.
Kelly from French Lick, Ind., writes: Can and will Brady Hoke make Michigan a powerhouse once again? How many seasons until the Wolverines are feared again?
Adam Rittenberg: Hoke is off to a good start, and his ability to recruit and develop talent will show whether Michigan returns to powerhouse status. The potential certainly is there, but Hoke still must prove himself at the highest level. Turning programs around and getting Michigan back to being a powerhouse are two different things. There will be growing pains this fall, so I think Hoke deserves some patience among fans. Michigan has a chance to take a step forward this year and potentially contend for a league title in two or three seasons.