Big Ten mailblog

Rob from Morristown, N.J., writes: Adam, two questions for you. The first I am sure you get every year, but can you give us your explanation as well as the explanation from the league (Delaney) as to why it is beneficial for the B1G to have 4 marquee teams playing at the same time on Jan. 2. Apart from tradition (this year these games are not even on New Year's Day), it doesn't make sense to me from an exposure standpoint to have all teams playing at the same time, and certainly not from the perspective of a fan of the B1G who wants to see all the teams WIN! I don't beleive ANY other conference has two teams or more playing at the same time. What ARE the benefits of this? Second question, why aren't Penn State's Assistant Coaches like LJ, Sr and Vanderlinden being considered for other open head coaching vacancies? These have been the top defensive coaches in the B1G, if not the nation over the past few years, are schools scared away from them due to the scandal?

Adam Rittenberg: Good questions, Rob. You're not the only Big Ten fan miffed by the league's Jan 1/2-heavy lineup. The league views it as a chance to "own the day," to have its product splashed on multiple TV networks during a day where college football has thrived historically. The counter-argument is that New Year's Day no longer is what it used to be, and that spreading out the Big Ten games over several days would create more overall exposure rather than flooding everything on one day. As to your second question, I think the Penn State scandal has hurt all of the current coaches as far as other jobs. I'd include Tom Bradley in that mix. It's too bad because those guys are all excellent coaches.

A.J. from Madison, Wis., writes: I was wondering if you could seed each division with how you think they'll rank next year. I think it's going to be a photo finish between Ohio State-Wisconsin and Michigan-Michigan State, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Adam Rittenberg: A.J., I completely agree the Leaders division will come down to Ohio State and Wisconsin. I'd give Ohio State the edge because the Buckeyes lose fewer key pieces than the Badgers, although Wisconsin has it going right now. I'd add Nebraska and Iowa to the Legends division race, which should once again be more competitive. Nebraska will host Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State, so if the Huskers hold serve at home, they'll be in good shape.

Ashley from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Adam, I'm a little confused as to why people keep saying that Nebraska will have so much trouble with South Carolina's defensive line. I have seen no evidence that this is an elite group. Yes, the defense is 4th in total yards allowed. But if you pin it down to stats that better represent the d-line it suddenly doesn't look so good. SC is 45th in rush defense, 42nd in tfls, 43rd in sacks and 83rd in red zone defense. And all of this against very few rush-based offenses. In fact, in their only games against top 40 rushing offenses, Navy and Auburn, SC gave up 274 and 246 yards on the ground, respectively. So why exactly should Nebraska be so afraid of this defense?

Adam Rittenberg: Ashley, you bring up a good point about South Carolina's rush defense, which isn't all that great. If Nebraska can move the ball on the ground, get into its tempo on offense and stay out of obvious passing situations, it should be in good shape against the Gamecocks. The concern is that Nebraska's offensive line remains pretty inexperienced, and South Carolina defensive ends Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney are two of the better defensive linemen the Huskers will face all season. Huskers offensive lineman Yoshi Hardrick told me he's really impressed with Ingram's and Clowney's speed. It would be a bigger concern if Nebraska were a pass-first offense. If the Huskers stay out of third-and-long, they should be fine.

John from Kalamazoo, Mich., writes: Call me a little bit biased, but i don't completely understand all of Michigan state fans rights to complain about how the season ended for them and the wolverines. Sure, state won the head to head matchup in a very well played game by both teams. However, it seems everyone is overlooking how much it sucks for wolverine fans that a team that lost by double digits to teams they beat, got to play in the in the inaugural BTC. I cannot be the only person to see things this way.

Adam Rittenberg: Brian recently brought up this question, asking users which team's situation is better. The vote was fairly close, as 52 percent of responders (more than 11,500 votes cast) preferred Michigan's situation to Michigan State's. Fans do care about bowl order and going to a BCS game vs. the Outback Bowl does make a difference. Then again, Michigan State was a play away from its first Rose Bowl appearance in 24 years. The Spartans had earned that right, and they now have a division championship that follows a co-Big Ten championship. It certainly means something, even if Michigan gets more love during the bowl season.

Steiny from Iowa writes: Adam, how is it that Iowa is in a lose lose situation. Everyone is saying that if Iowa wins its bowl game, Oklahoma just wasnt motivated to be there, and if they they lost well it was goin to happen anyways. Doesnt anyone want to give Iowa credit for anything if they win, and u honestly think bob stoops is goin to lay down for Iowa?

Adam Rittenberg: Steiny, I see what you're saying, and many would spin it that way if Iowa upsets Oklahoma. But it still would go down as a win in the record book, Iowa's fourth consecutive bowl victory. It would give the Hawkeyes their fourth consecutive season of eight or more victories and possibly serve as a springboard for the team heading into the 2012 campaign. But we've seen many examples of teams that don't look like they want to be in certain bowl games. It's fair to ask whether Oklahoma will be fired up because of where the Sooners began the season. But Stoops' teams rarely let up. OU should be ready.

Ryan from Geneva, Ohio, writes: Have you heard anything about whether Urban Meyer is keeping DC Jim Heacock on his staff for next year? Heacock and I share an alma mater, DIII Muskingum University, and I was curious where my fellow Fighting Muskie might end up.

Adam Rittenberg: Ryan, it doesn't look like it, although things could change if Luke Fickell gets a head-coaching job elsewhere. Fickell is planning to stay on in a coordinator capacity and make Ohio State's defensive play calls. North Carolina interim coach Everett Withers is also a likely addition, so a co-coordinator situation with Fickell and Withers could be how it pans out. Heacock is a terrific coach and should find a spot somewhere as a coordinator.

Shawn from Lansing, Mich., writes: Thank you for your articles on Arther Ray. We met him a couple of years ago when our son was also battling cancer. Our son passed away two years ago, Arthur was and has been still an inspiration for our family. Recently I was in intensive care and he tried to come by and visit but I was not feeling very well at the time. Arthur and the entire MSU family have been a blessing to us.

Adam Rittenberg: Shawn, thanks for your note. Arthur is one of the finest people I've covered in college football. It's great to see his story turning out so well. Good things happen to good people, and Arthur deserves everything he's getting right now.