It's championship week. Bring it.
Todd from Atlantic Highlands, N.J., writes: Adam,Does the Big Ten East (Penn St., Ohio St, et al) gain a recruiting advantage over the West (Mich, Mich St, Nebraska) with the addition of Rutgers and Maryland, knowing Maryland and Rutgers is in a recruiting hotbed and the decline in population (and talent?) in the Midwest?
Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Todd, and you could be onto something. Rutgers and Maryland certainly can sell playing Big Ten games to potential recruits in their areas, and having multiple league games in the region is a plus for them. Penn State has recruited both New Jersey and Maryland for years, so I definitely see the expansion as an advantage for the Lions' recruiting efforts. Whether it's a disadvantage for schools in the western part of the Big Ten remains to be seen. Wisconsin, for example, has recruited New Jersey before and so has Nebraska. Illinois had a nice pipeline to Washington, D.C., with former assistant Mike Locksley. So it's not like Big Ten schools haven't recruited the region before. They just need to heighten their efforts now because they'll be playing more games in those states.
Josh from Detroit writes: After reading yours and Adam's discontent with many of the Coach's All-Big Ten picks I began to realized you two disagreed with many of my Spartans, namely on the Defensive side of the ball. Granted, MSU had a vastly disappointing season, but I think Bullough, Adams, Dennard all had outstanding seasons on the Big Ten's Top defense. I get there were other guys in the mix, but don't you think the coaches have a legitimate reason for voting these players first teamers? Why no love? You both were really high on the Spartans 4 months ago....the talent is still there. Especially on defense.
Adam Rittenberg: Josh, we both appreciate what Michigan State did on the defensive side this season. Sometimes what you perceive as us not having love for one program is simply us thinking other individual players -- not entire defenses, but individuals -- had better years. Max Bullough, for example, is undoubtedly an All-Big Ten player in my mind. While he would be on my second team -- behind Michael Mauti, Ryan Shazier and Jake Ryan -- he absolutely belongs. Darqueze Dennard also is one of the Big Ten's best corners, although that position is loaded this year and other guys also deserve consideration for All-Big Ten. Johnny Adams, on the other hand, had some bright spots this season but didn't play at an all-conference level in my view. I can count at least six corners, including Dennard, who had better seasons. So it's a numbers game with individual player evaluations, not a knock on one particular team.
Rob from New York writes: Adam, I have to say that I'm disappointed in the media, not just ESPN, for completely glossing over Montee Ball's accomplishments through the past few years. Ball's accomplishments are literally unparalleled in the sport, yet he has consistently failed to get the recognition that someone breaking those records deserves. That's not to say that players like Te'o and Manziel don't deserve recognition, but it's as if Ball isn't even in the conversation half the time. Even last year when UW had one of their best seasons ever and Ball broke a 20+ year old record, Ball barely moved the needle come Heisman time. I guess I'm wondering if the apparent disinterest in Ball's accomplishments has to do with the fact that he plays for Wisconsin and the media/Heisman voters simply expect Wisconsin running backs to be great or if there's something more afoot?
Adam Rittenberg: Rob, I understand your frustration and agree that nationally Ball hasn't really received his due. I know he has on the Big Ten blog, and Brian Bennett wrote last year how Montee's 2011 wouldn't be fully appreciated until some time had passed. There are a couple of issues in play here. Montee didn't really surge until the second half of the 2011 season, after Wisconsin already had promoted Russell Wilson more for the Heisman. Had there been more early season attention on Montee, I think his accomplishments would have been more appreciated. This year, the narrative quickly became all about Wisconsin's offensive struggles, the change at offensive line coach, the injuries at QB, etc. While Montee certainly hasn't been a disappointment, like some have foolishly suggested, it's harder to get noticed when your production isn't quite as good as the year before and your team certainly isn't. And the Wisconsin running back factor also matters. There's an expectation the Badgers will have great backs, so it can be tough to be noticed sometimes. I'm not trying to justify this. I'm trying to show you why the attention hasn't been there. But in my mind, Ball will go down as one of the best Big Ten offensive players in recent memory.
B1G Fan from B1G Country writes: Adam,A coaching related question here - What are the chances Purdue picks up Jon Embree? First off, the B1G needs more black coaches. This would be a great hire not only for Purdue, but for the B1G in that respect. Embree is also very experienced in the passing game, which is one of Purdue's qualifiers. A lot of this decision could come down to whether or not CU's record has more to do with the team Embree inherited or Embree's coaching abilities, but if he picks up a good defensive coaching staff he could be a great hire. What are your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: While I still think Jon Embree is a good coach, if you're a program like Purdue trying to reinvigorate your fan base and improve attendance, you simply cannot hire a guy who went 4-21 the past two seasons. Some might throw out the Gene Chizik example, but Purdue isn't Auburn and Cam Newton isn't walking through that door. I hope Embree lands on his feet, but it shouldn't be at Purdue. It would be nice if the Big Ten hires more qualified black coaches in the coming years -- I wrote about this in February and got hammered by many people, but I still believe it to be the case. Kent State's Darrell Hazell, to me, would be a better choice than Embree. He's doing incredible things at a program that hasn't had much success. He knows the Big Ten as a former Ohio State assistant and has a background in offense. He'd make a lot of sense.
Steve from St. Louis writes: It's amazing how accurate your preseason "Best Case" scenario was for Northwestern. You said best case was a 10-2 (6-2) record (we went 9-3 (5-3)) with Illinois going 2-10 (nice job) and Iowa going 3-9 (they went 4-8). You also nailed the margin of victory against Illinois (you said 35, it was 36). Off the field, you predicted a new on-campus football complex - it was announced a few weeks after your post. I'm still hoping your stadium upgrade prediction is true.For your final trick, you have the 'Cats beating South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl. Looks like the matchup could be correct, but in Tampa instead of Orlando. Nice job NostrADAMus.
Adam Rittenberg: Man, I love emails that begin with "It's amazing how accurate." Doesn't happen too often with my predictions, but I'll take it in this case. I wouldn't hold your breath on the stadium upgrade, as Northwestern moves at a very slow pace with facilities initiatives. But getting the on-campus facility approved is a huge deal for Pat Fitzgerald and his program. I agree that Northwestern-South Carolina looks likelier in Outback than Cap One, although I hear Cap One is very interested in Northwestern as a candidate this year.
Jonathan from Seattle writes: Adam, would it really hurt the process if the Big Ten made Coaches' All-Conference ballots public, to add transparency? You know, as I do, that certain coaches do not vote for certain school's players/coaches (for recruiting or otherwise). Why not public ballots?
Adam Rittenberg: Jonathan, it would be great to see full transparency with the balloting, but it'll never happen. The Big Ten coaches don't even want any sort of preseason poll -- not even the top three teams like there used to be. They're so paranoid about these things, and the coaches' Top 25 poll remains very much a closed process. It's disappointing, but what can we do? I've always had a few issues with the coaches' All-Big Ten selections, but this year's vote was beyond bad. I'm not dumb enough to think I know more about football than these guys, but some of their selection were so far off base. It's disappointing.
John from Laramie, Wyo., writes: Why is Nebraska the away team and Wisconsin the home team for this weeks Big Ten Championship Game? I would figure it would be the other way around--based on records!
Adam Rittenberg: No, the home designation isn't based on records. It alternates each year between division champions/representatives. Wisconsin was the road team from the Leaders Division last year, while Michigan State (Legends) was the home team. The Leaders Division rep is home this year, and Legends will be the home team next year.