Send in or tweet your questions for our Big Ten player chats as Nebraska CB Ciante Evans, Penn State G John Urschel, Northwestern QB Kain Colter and Wisconsin LB Chris Borland will join us during the live blog Wednesday.
For now, you'll have to deal with me. Let's go ...
Mike from Novi, Mich., writes: Coming into last season, Michigan had to replace the interior of the offensive line. And the offensive line was mediocre in creating holes game after game. For this coming season, Michigan again has to replace the interior of the offensive line, only this time Hoke's highly rated players are the new faces. On the other side, Michigan has been mediocre in generating a pass rush the past two years. Frank Clark has been hyped up but he only started 4 games last year. Your prediction: will the OL or DL be better this coming season?
Adam Rittenberg: Really good question, Mike. There are some highly rated young guys on the defensive line, too -- Taco Charlton is a monster -- but certainly more on the offensive side of the ball. I think both units will be a bit better this season, although I wouldn't put either group among the elite of the Big Ten. Michigan's youth on the interior line will show up at times, but the line will get better as the season progresses. I definitely like Clark's potential at defensive end, and the overall pass rush should be better. But Michigan hasn't had an impact defensive tackle since Mike Martin, and I'm taking a wait-and-see approach with the guys occupying the interior this year.
Kevin from Chicago writes: Basic Question here. What backfield do you think is the most exciting. Talking in terms of excitement. Id like to say its between Colter/Mark and Martinez/Abdullah. Just always fun to watch Colter do his thing and short Venric Mark just run past defenders. On the other hand Martinez is just a playmaker on the ground and Abdullah is just as good.
Adam Rittenberg: Both are great choices, Kevin, but I'd give the edge to Northwestern's Colter and Mark when it comes to pure excitement. When they get the zone-read game going, they're nearly impossible to stop, and both are dynamic open-field runners. Martinez certainly brings more to the passing game than Colter does, and both Martinez and Abdullah have great speed. Nebraska has more overall big-play ability than Northwestern on offense, but the combination of Colter and Mark and the special things they can do when they find a rhythm gets my vote here.
Greg from NYC writes: Adam my dude, the steam picking up about the power conferences splitting from the non power ones is fascinating...say the split does happen..are we about to eliminate playing outside the power conferences..say you play your 9 (just a number) conference games and then 3 from the other power conferences? or how would it work? or does anybody know?
Adam Rittenberg: It's way too soon to tell, Greg, but it's a good question to ask. The power conferences are recognizing the value in upgrading schedules, especially from a TV perspective. We've seen the Big Ten take positive steps lately, and other conferences like the Pac-12 have done the same. I'm not sure I see the day when teams are only playing power-conference opponents because of the budgetary demand for teams to play so many home games, among other factors. But a division consisting only of power-conference teams likely would create more attractive schedules overall.
Chris from Monticello, Ill., writes: Adam, What kind of impact can Illinois fans expect Bill Cubit to have? Tim Beckman and a fairly inexperienced staff stumbled on and off the field last year. Can Cubit be a calming influence when things start moving quickly?
Adam Rittenberg: I think he can, Chris, and he'll need to be as Illinois must establish its identity on offense early this season to have any chance of real improvement. Illinois goes from two unproven coordinators (Chris Beatty and Billy Gonzales) and a bizarre, built-to-fail play-calling system to a veteran coordinator who had some success as Western Michigan's head coach before things went downhill. There will be no gray area with Cubit, no questions about who is really in charge of the unit. He has a plan and will try to execute the plan. Whether he has the players to do it remains to be seen, but Illinois should have an easier time establishing something that works on offense. The big challenge is how fast Cubit wants to play on offense -- quarterbacks are expected to get rid of the ball within 2.2 seconds -- and whether players can adjust to the desired tempo.
Cameron from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, writes: It may seem callous for me to say this but I don't care if current or former college players get a dime from the O'Bannon lawsuit. What they fail to see is that they are college students just as much as they are athletes and personally the fact that other college students get jobs (athletic training), unpaid internships (playing football, basketball, etc.) should not go overlooked. They whine and cry and ask for a handout when any college student graduating with a mountain of debt would trade places with them leaving school debt free. They need to wake up and realize what a gift an athletic scholarship is and use it to get an education that will benefit long after their playing days are over.
Adam Rittenberg: Cameron, thanks for your note, and you're not alone in your beliefs. The counterargument is that major college football players aren't normal college students. They generate way more money for their universities than you or I did for our alma maters, and that money is going into coaches' pockets and elsewhere rather than to the guys on the field. Sure, they're getting a free education that shouldn't be discounted, but many of them are limited in their opportunities for both education and jobs/internships while in college because of their sport demands. College football truly is a year-round deal with the training regimen, and there aren't too many John Urschels out there. I don't think a full-blown pay-for-play model works where individual athletes negotiate their own deals through agents, but I absolutely think the value of the scholarship should go a little further, especially when certain schools and leagues are willing to do so.
Kevin from Cincinnati writes: Let's say Maryland is forced to pay the full $50 million (or as much as possible) to leave the ACC and Virginia and the N.C. teams aren't going to risk that. Does Delany just throw his hands up and move on, or would he and the B1G give an invite to teams like Old Dominion or East Carolina on very strict rules and guidelines? I'll be the first to admit it sounds very, very farfetched, but Rutgers surprised the snot out of me.
Adam Rittenberg: Rutgers was a geographically strategic addition, plain and simple. Although Rutgers has dramatically improved its football program in recent years and has potential to be a bigger factor in the New York sports market, the Big Ten, as I wrote last fall, is really gambling more on its existing product resonating in a new, attractive market, than the boost it could or could not get from Rutgers. Jim Delany hasn't written off the possibility of further expansion, but the ACC's grant of rights agreement really reduces or eliminates the pool of attractive candidates from the region (East Coast) the Big Ten now covets. The Big Ten won't add East Carolina or Old Dominion for numerous reasons -- how much time do you have? -- and I'd be surprised if the league expands beyond 14 before the next TV contract, which is really what this is all about.
Kelle from Boulder, Colo., writes: Hey Adam, Do you think the Aaron Hernandez backlash had anything to do with Urban Meyer's quick discipline of Roby and Hyde? Also, is there any chance either of them misses any relevant game action due to their arrests?
Adam Rittenberg: No. Meyer had to act quickly no matter what as both incidents became public and, in Roby's case, an arrest was made. Meyer's response came about as quickly as you would expect, so I don't see any effect from the Hernandez case. To answer your second question, Hyde certainly could miss significant time -- he could even be dismissed from the program -- depending on how his case plays out. But if he's not charged, I don't see how he can be suspended for much or any of the season. Roby's situation also is unfolding but I'd be surprised if he misses many games.