Keepin' it real.
Next mailblog: Tuesday. Send 'em in.
Eric S. from St. Paul, Minn., writes: I have to disagree with your team secondary rankings in regards to your number two ranked, Ohio State, pick. OSU loses three starters and you place them above such teams as Nebraska and Wisconsin. Last year, Nebraska had a higher ranked pass defense than OSU, return more starting experience not to mention the number one ranked cornerback on your 2011 board while Wisconsin has more secondary players ranked in your top ten (3) than OSU (2). I understand OSU has some highly-touted young(er) players but proven experience should always rank higher than hype. In my opinion, your ranking is a traditional "safe" pick, which at least you admit with your "this is a group the Buckeyes rarely have to worry about, even after losing three starters" comment. This year is not like any other year for the Buckeyes on many levels.
Adam Rittenberg: We'll have to see, Eric. While the NCAA situation certainly is unique for Ohio State, the Buckeyes have dealt with significant personnel losses before, including those in the secondary, and still produced an elite defense. Keep in mind Ohio State gets several key defensive backs returning from injuries: Tyler Moeller, C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant. I think it's very close between Ohio State and Nebraska for the No. 2 spot, and you can make a good case for the Huskers to be higher. Wisconsin, meanwhile, must show the shut-down ability both Ohio State and Nebraska typically display. I like the Badgers' individual pieces, but I worry about what happens if they don't force a bunch of turnovers.
Vince from San Diego writes: Do you think Darrel Hazel is kicking himself right about now for taking the Kent State job? He had no way of knowing that Tress would leave, but it seemed like he was pretty close the throne while at OSU.
Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Vince. Hazell had no way of knowing things would turn out like this in Columbus, and while he'll be given multiple years to prove himself as a head coach at Kent State, Luke Fickell must impress a lot of folks this fall, under difficult circumstances. Don't get me wrong, it's a great opportunity for Fickell, as it would have been for Hazell, but there's still a decent chance that Ohio State goes a different direction with its coaching staff after the 2011 season. If that becomes true, Hazell would be better off at Kent State.
Danny from Davenport, Iowa, writes: Adam, I really enjoyed the picks that were made for the legends and leaders all star teams. It was a fun way to mix the two sports and provide interesting off season articles. That being said, I was just curious to see who the both of you would pick to be the head coaches of those teams (assuming it was up to a panel of judges or a voting system.)
Adam Rittenberg: Very interesting question, Danny. I can't speak for Brian, but I'd have a tough time making these choices. If we're going for the most deserving coaches at the moment, I'd go with Mark Dantonio for the Legends and Bret Bielema for the Leaders. Both men led their programs to Big Ten championships last season, ending long droughts (11 years for Wisconsin, 20 years for Michigan State). I know a lot of folks would love to see Joe Paterno coaching the Leaders all-stars, and I'd have no trouble with that. Kirk Ferentz and Pat Fitzgerald also would be interesting options for the Legends. Bo Pelini has done a nice job at Nebraska, but he's new to the Big Ten.
Eli from New York writes: Can you please not rank Penn State this year? You don't seem to expect much of them right now, and I'd like for it to stay that way. I enjoy it much better when nobody is expecting anything out of us (a la 2005).
Adam Rittenberg: Eli, I won't be ranking Penn State in my preseason Top 25, if that's what you mean. Penn State will appear in any Big Ten rankings, obviously. I see the Lions as a team with the potential to make a significant jump this season. Line play is a big question mark entering the fall, as is the quarterback situation. But I really like what Penn State has at receiver, linebacker, defensive back and running back. The key will be starting strong because the closing stretch is flat-out brutal.
Wes from North Bend, Neb., writes: Hi Adam, living just an hour away from Lincoln, Nebraska I get season tickets every year. However over the last few years we have been dividing them up among family members. I saw an article that said the game of Neb Vs. Mich state and Neb Vs. Ohio St. were two of the biggest games to watch this year on the big ten. However That was before the coach got fired and the starters got their punishment. I was just wondering if these two games were still the games to see or if not, what games would be on the watch list. Your response will be a great help so I can claim my tickets.
Adam Rittenberg: You can't go wrong with those two games, Wes. Ohio State still marks Nebraska's Big Ten home opener, and it'll be under the lights in a wild atmosphere. I would also strongly consider attending the regular-season finale against Iowa on Black Friday. Not sure if that conflicts with your Thanksgiving plans, but Nebraska-Iowa should be an excellent matchup and the start of an exciting annual rivalry series. It's tough to toss out any one of those three matchups -- can you attend all three?
Tom from New York writes: Hey Adam, Big MSU fan here and overall fan of colege sports. Anyway, I have a thought concerning the pay-for-play scenario. Has any thought ever been given to deferring payment to players until after they complete thier degree? My thoughts are first and foremost, it would motivate players to receive their degree while allowing players with NFL talent to leave early and leave the money on the table. As far as money while in school the players could borrow against those deferred payments in order supplement their financail needs. In all honesty, I haven't given this too much thought so I'm sure there are several holes in this plan, so that's why I'm turnign it over to you to think about.
Adam Rittenberg: Tom, this is an interesting idea, thanks for sending it in! I'm all for anything that motivates players to get their degrees. I'm a little leery, however, of a system where players who often need money right away have to borrow against deferred loans. Too much can go wrong, and you don't want these guys falling into debt if they fall short of their degrees for whatever reason. Also, I think the deferred payments would have to be significant to provide incentive for the players. Mo' money, mo' problems. The players seem to need these additional funds immediately -- trips home during breaks, etc. -- so I don't know how realistic this plan would be.
Andrew from Henrico, Va., writes: I know it was published over a month ago, but with ESPN's Pay for Play focus, I think it would be great for a follow-up with Jay Paterno over his Op Ed piece on the NCAA website. Theyre Already Getting a Great Deal) He covers several points of the debate and it would be an interesting read on the Big Ten blog.
Adam Rittenberg: Andrew, not to give too much away, but check the blog late Monday morning. I think you'll like what you see.