Quite a few email responses from my Penn State poll question earlier this week. Good stuff.
Hope you enjoy the games this weekend.
Harrison G. from Madison, Wis., writes: Hey Adam, firstly, great point about Wisconsin and how they have yet to show their true character when playing from behind. I'm very interested to see how they do when put in a situation like that. My question for you has to do with the Wisconsin run game this year. As a huge Badger fan, I feel like last year the run-game was SO much more efficient compared to this year. Why aren't they getting those consistent 6+ yard gains that they had last year? Is it because of Russell Wilson? The O-line? I'd love to hear your take on this and thanks again.
Adam Rittenberg: Harrison, it's hard to replicate what Wisconsin did offensively last year. You had the perfect storm of a great offensive line and multiple running backs with different skills who made plays and very few mistakes. Now I get your concern about this year, but it's a different team and a slightly different offense with Wilson running the show. I think Wisconsin has wanted to establish Wilson, build his confidence and broaden the ways it can attack a defense because of his skill set. Now I agree the run game needs to be more efficient, especially early in games, but Wilson's presence allows Wisconsin to remain effective -- and scare opposing defenses -- even when it's not piling up big chunks on the ground every time. The Badgers are still averaging 5.6 yards a carry with 11 rushing touchdowns. Yet I agree they'll need a strong effort on the ground next week against Nebraska.
Aaron from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Last year Nebraska played most of its best football on the road in games at Washington, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State while struggling at home to start the season. Is it out of the question to think that we dominate this weekend away from home and that playing at Wisconsin would be more advantageous than playing them in Lincoln?
Adam Rittenberg: While a strong Nebraska performance this week at Wyoming wouldn't surprise me, Aaron, the answer to your second question is a resounding no. Bo Pelini would much rather play Wisconsin in Lincoln, or play his first Big Ten road game anywhere else but Madison, where Wisconsin is 45-4 since the start of the 2004 season. The Badgers are extremely tough to beat at Camp Randall, especially when they have a really good team (which they do this year). But building confidence away from home always means something, and Nebraska can enter the Wisconsin game with some momentum, especially on the defensive side, with a strong performance in Laramie.
Tom from Washington writes: I saw your poll question regarding Penn State and the ACC and I think one thing that is not being discussed is the fact that the Big Ten is not just an athletic conference. The Big Ten was, is, and always will be a research and academic consortium that also aligns its athletics out of convenience. This is why the U of Chicago is still part of the Big Ten consortium even though they have nothing to do with athletics. Keep in mind the rule has always been, once in, always in the Big Ten. Leaving the Big Ten would be akin to divorcing Warren Buffet after signing a PreNup that gives you ten bucks if you leave.
Adam Rittenberg: Tom, you bring up a really good point about the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, the internal academic consortium. It might not mean much to most sports fans, but it means a great deal to the top academic folks in the administrations at these schools. Your Warren Buffet anecdote applies more to the Big Ten Network revenue, which will only increase over time.
Chris from Baltimore writes: Hey Adam, my wife and I will be going to our 30th straight PSU game this weekend and our 41st out of 42 overall games since the start of the 2008 season. Over the past 3 years, the travel has been brutal! As soon as we saw that Pitt and Cuse were joining the ACC on Monday, we were both hoping to see PSU jumping the Big 10 ship to join also. From our travels to 10 of the 12 Big 10 schools, we have found that we have no clear cut rival and we never will. Fans from other schools enjoy watching us come into town, but noone really considers or treats us as a rival. Even our closest opponent OSU, at just a 7 hour travel distance, only considers Michigan their rival. Basically, we are outcasts in this league and our games are uninspiring. We are hoping to find a few more 3 and 4 hour commutes to bigger, more historic matchups in our future and less 10-15 hour trips for interesting, but mostly mundane events. Hope you keep this subject rolling as we know many other Penn Stater's who are interested in being a "Leader" and leaving this 20 year disaster that we call the Big Ten!
Adam Rittenberg: Chris, thanks for sharing your perspective. I understand the geography argument and the desire of many Penn State fans have more rivals and drivable games. Having made the drive from State College to Columbus, I feel your pain. By "bigger, more historic matchups," are you referring to Pitt and Syracuse? Because while those teams have history with Penn State, they don't carry the same prestige as Big Ten teams like Ohio State. I just wonder whether the outcast argument stems from not being as competitive in the Big Ten as you thought Penn State would be when it joined the conference. Michigan owned Penn State before Rich Rodriguez came to Ann Arbor. Iowa has put together an impressive run against the Nittany Lions, and Ohio State has been successful as well. I still think that while the Big Ten has some drawbacks for Penn State, there are obvious pluses, too, especially if Penn State starts consistently winning at a nationally elite level.
Matt from Durham, N.C., writes: As a Penn State Alumn, then having worked professionally in State College for 5 years, and now at Duke for 6 years- I would offer that culturally PSU is a better fit for the Big Ten, than for the ACC. As much as I would love to go a Duke/ UNC/ NC State football game and bleed Blue and White for the Nittany Lions- the basketball competitiveness at PSU is not there. Also, what I stereotype as a football frenzy that lives in the heart of most Midwestern states like PA, MI, OH, IO, MN just does not reside here near 'Tobacco Road' (Sorry Boston College). Can you imagine a Duke / PSU football game at Duke? 110,000 fans fill the stands for a PSU home game, and would likely travel and outnumber some ACC football teams in their own stadium.
Adam Rittenberg: Matt, thanks for sharing this perspective. The football frenzy surrounding Penn State and its home games definitely is much more like what you see at other Big Ten schools than those in the ACC. There still are too many ACC programs where football is practically an afterthought. While some Penn State fans like Chris might not care as much about the road atmosphere as long as it's a closer drive, others would be disappointed. Penn State is located in a different region from the rest of the Big Ten. I get it. That's not going to change. But almost every other aspect of the Penn State programs feels more like a Big Ten program than a Big East or ACC program.
Tyler from Cairo, Neb., writes: Why don't you guys each have a tight end on each of your fantasy teams? You could definitely use the help on your team Adam...
Adam Rittenberg: Tyler, I could use any help right now! The Trombone Shorties have been awful so far. Seriously, though, I strongly considered adding a tight end, probably Wisconsin's Jacob Pedersen, but we only get two spots for receivers and tight ends and I have the top points earner in Iowa's Marvin McNutt. I've struggled at that second receiver spot and hope Indiana's Duwyce Wilson gets it going this week at North Texas. Otherwise, it might be time to take a tight end.
Aaron from Fort Campbell, Ky., writes: I'm an Iowa alum, but I grew up in central PA and my older sister is a PSU alum, so I'm weighing in on your "PSU to the ACC" proposition. I have always thought of the B1G as a different conference from the rest. Yes, it is midwestern, and State College is not, but no team will ever find more stability in the ACC than the B1G. Only two athletic programs have ever left this conference, and they were Chicago and Michigan, and Michigan is obviously back, and Chicago is still a member of the "Academic Big Ten". Teams don't leave the Big Ten. Why? Because there isn't a better place to be. Nebraska didn't agree to join for the next 5-10 years. They joined for as long as the Big Ten exists, and that is exactly what Penn State did 18 years ago. If Penn State were to leave, they would become irrelivent in football, get destroyed in basketball, and not make as much money. Good luck to any fans who think that's a wise decision.
Adam Rittenberg: Aaron, some really good points here. The Big Ten's stability has been a huge part of its success, and with the money rolling in, why would any team consider a move? The risks outweigh the potential rewards. While the ACC is more stable now than before, I could see some of its members willing to pay the higher exit fee to join a league with greater earning potential (Big Ten, SEC). We'll have to see what happens.