Big Ten Friday mailblog

Have a good weekend. Big Ten media days only three weeks away.

Jason from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Of course....they would decide on a playoff now that Jim Tressel is gone. One thing I always gave Tressel credit for was his ability to make the team finish strong and peak at the end of the season. Something that he must have developed while winning 4 NCAA Championships in Division 1AA Youngstown State. Makes you wonder what he could have done if he was still coaching now going into a playoff system, again. Also, what do you think about the chances of other coaches who cut their teeth in the smaller divisions with playoffs, like ND Coach Brian Kelly (back-to-back National championships at Grand Valley State) and Oregon Coach Chip Kelly (New Hampshire)? Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Great question/topic, Jason. Tressel certainly knew what it took to win playoff games at Youngstown State, and while the FBS playoff will be a bit different, his experience could have helped Ohio State prepare for a national title matchup after the semifinal. That's one thing Urban Meyer brought up Thursday, how much time teams would have to prepare for the title game after their bowl/semifinal. I think FCS experience can help coaches like the Kellys during the period between the semifinal and the title game. But there's a difference between a four-team playoff (FBS) and a 20-team playoff (FCS). Coaches without FCS experience should still be able to get their teams ready for the playoff grind.

James from Texas writes: What a ridiculous article. Among the ridiculous, ND v Michigan was declared the best game of the year in 2011 by ESPN -- that is to say the best game of over 1,000 Div 1 CFB football games played.. That game hosted the largest crowd to ever see an American football game -- pro or college. in 2010, Michigan State made the call of the year to win in he last second -- the D'Antonio in one stroke entered he national stage. Afterward, the coach had a heart attack. ND vs MSU has grown significantly in importance for both teams -- and is a season making virtual dead heat in the fourth quarter every year. Ask the average 40 yr old MSU fan in Grand Rapids who -- after Michigan, the Spartans would rather pound this year.With both Michigan and Michigan State, the intensity has increased since 2007 -- win or lose. Purdue fans -- I married one -- fantasize about beating the IRISH. It is simply the biggest game of the year for the Boilers -- home or away. No change on that since 2007 or 1977 for that mattter. Check out the ticket sales at RossAde. A truly ridiculous article -- from its flimsy hypothesis to a laundry list of omitted facts.

Adam Rittenberg: James, I think you're confusing "best game" with "game that makes the most impact." My post was about the impact of the Big Ten-Notre Dame matchups, not the quality of those games. Sure, both Michigan and Michigan State have played some exciting games against Notre Dame in recent seasons. But did those games really have a great impact on the Wolverines' or Spartans' seasons? Not really. Michigan's victories last season against Nebraska and Ohio State had more impact on the Wolverines getting to the Sugar Bowl than the Notre Dame win. The Wolverines haven't received much credit for their past three victories against Notre Dame. The Spartans, meanwhile, were hurt by their loss to Notre Dame in 2011 because Notre Dame had another so-so season. Michigan State's 2010 win against the Irish was big, but it didn't make nearly as big an impact as a victory two weeks later against Wisconsin. I agree on the Purdue-Notre Dame series and stated as much in the post. But just because a game is exciting, or memorable things happen either during or after a game, doesn't make the game have tremendous impact on the teams.


Adam Rittenberg: B.G., it might surprise you to learn than I regard Alabama as the nation's best program by a fairly sizable margin. Right now, no college program has a better combination of recruiting success and talent development than the Tide, who boast an outstanding coaching staff led by Nick Saban. As far as the SEC, I have tremendous respect for it as football conference. How can you not? I recently spent some time with Mike Slive at the BCS meetings, and I have to say I'm very impressed. That said, I'm going to take my shots from time to time, mainly because it's so amusing how upset SEC folks get. You guys are so incredibly insecure with your own success, and when anyone dares to question you, you freak out. I get a kick out of it. Also, I don't buy into the lazy narrative several national media members espouse that the SEC can do no wrong and the Big Ten is the root of all evil. There's a way to cover these leagues without cheerleading or putting them down at every opportunity.

Matt from Plymouth, Minn., writes: Northern Iowa has replaced Southern Illinois as the premier FCS program in the Midwest?? Didn't North Dakota State handle the Gophers at TCF last year and then go on to win the FCS National Championship? I realize UNI is very good but if I were going to name a program the premier FCS program in the midwest I would give those honors to NDSU.

Adam Rittenberg: Good call, Matt. While Northern Iowa has been elite a little longer than North Dakota State, the Bison are the national champions and a team that has had more recent success against FBS competition than the Panthers. Although Minnesota wasn't a good football team last season, North Dakota State really impressed me with its athleticism. Craig Bohl has a very good football team, and one that deserves to be called the best FCS team in the Midwest.

BRT from Swaziland writes: You know that "impactful" is not usually accepted by professional writers, right? Yeah, yeah, it's a living language; it's a blog, not a dissertation--I see those possible objections, but I sure wouldn't want Northwestern to have to take you off their list of distinguished graduates. It kind of looks like Chris Low did your final grammar check. :( Otherwise, you do a pretty good job, and I enjoy the blog. It's helped get me through grad school (ever since we came over from Ubbenland, anyway)--though I'm of course not using it as a source of new vocabulary. :)

Adam Rittenberg: Yeah, yeah, I know it's not really a word, but it sounds good and fits nicely on a blog headline, OK? Trust me, Northwestern hasn't removed me from its list of distinguished graduates, because I was never on the list in the first place. I'll avoid using "impactful" in the future, because you're right and I should avoid it. Let's just pretend C-Low hacked into my blog account and went all SEC on the grammar.

Nate from Columbus, Ohio, writes: I wanted to ask about the B1G's relationship with Notre Dame. Personally, I have never been a fan of ND or their fans. This started at a very young age (elementary school) for me. That being said, I have always felt that they should be a part of the B1G. During the B1G's expansion efforts, it appeared that Delaney was trying very hard to convince ND to join. If I were in his shoes, I would have told my teams to stop scheduling ND immediately. I think ND would be more willing (read: forced) to join the B1G if they had to find three additional games a year outside of the B1G. Am I crazy for having this logic? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Adam Rittenberg: Nate, while the Big Ten made two separate expansion pushes for Notre Dame in the 1990s, the last expansion push didn't really target the Irish. The Big Ten spent more time looking at other schools in the Big 12, Big East and ACC. Jim Delany and the Big Ten doesn't feel a need to beg the Irish to join at this stage. The league is strong enough without Notre Dame, so if there's any movement on Notre Dame to the Big Ten, it has to come from South Bend, not Park Ridge, Ill. (B1G headquarters). As far as scheduling, Delany wouldn't tell his individual schools what to do. For example, he knows how valuable the Notre Dame series is to Purdue. He knows Purdue would suffer without having the ND game every year (especially the ND home game every other year). Delany appreciates rivalry games, and knows three Big Ten teams have rivalries with the Irish. Also, Notre Dame wouldn't have trouble replacing Big Ten opponents on its schedule. The national appeal of Notre Dame remains very enticing to teams looking to add marquee non-league games.

Dan from Washington, D.C., writes: In your "weakest position group" I was surprised that you hadn't listed QB as an option. Is this just because with the large number of QBs that left college football last year, or because you project that the starters will handle themselves well?

Adam Rittenberg: Dan, I thought about including quarterback, but I think it's a position group that sort of falls in the middle -- not the strongest by any means, but not the weakest, either. The Big Ten loses three good ones in Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins and Dan Persa, but it also returns multiyear starters at Michigan (Denard Robinson), Nebraska (Taylor Martinez) and Illinois (Nathan Scheelhaase), plus several other players with starting experience -- Iowa's James Vandenberg, Minnesota's MarQueis Gray, Ohio State's Braxton Miller, Penn State's Matthew McGloin, Northwestern's Kain Colter and Indiana's Tre Roberson. Purdue has three quarterbacks with a decent amount of starts in Caleb TerBush, Robert Marve and Rob Henry. Michigan State and Wisconsin are the only Big Ten squads who have quarterbacks lacking starting experience in this league. I think several veteran quarterbacks will be better this season -- Robinson, Martinez, Vandenberg -- and the number of younger, athletic signal callers in the league (Miller, Roberson, Colter) is reason for optimism.

Bottom line: While several Big Ten quarterbacks have something to prove, the overall group doesn't have as many question marks as, say, wide receiver or safety.

Kellen from Grand Forks, N.D., writes: Hey Adam. Big Gopher fan and follower of the Big Ten for all of my 21 years. On a national aspect, is the only way for the Big Ten to get back its respect to win the NCG? Or could a different scenario like Michigan beating Bama/MSU rolling Boise/no embarrassing losses OOC this year also remedy the situation? Or is it going to take some form of postseason success?

Adam Rittenberg: Kellen, you've hit it on the head -- it's all about winning the national title. The narrative in college football isn't shaped by bowl records or BCS bowl wins. It's all about that crystal football and the team (and the league) that raises it in early January. That said, the Big Ten can help its rep by beating a team like Alabama, regarded as a superior team from a far superior league to the Big Ten. The Boise State game also can help, as can no awful losses in non-league play. The Big Ten would benefit from sustained postseason success, especially since it has posted only two winning bowl records since the 2000 season (2002, 2009). But in the end, it's all about the title game. The Big Ten could go 2-6 in bowls as long as one of the wins comes in the title game.