Big Ten Friday mailblog

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To the inbox ...

PCINBVUE from Omaha writes: Hey Adam, not so much a B1G question, but it has to do with the new and controversial "targeting" rule. I do appreciate the reasoning behind it, but I question its effectiveness when called, especially when they say the "Clowney Hit" would be deemed an ejectionable offense. Is it possible that, after a season of potential disagreement and subjectivity, the rule could be nullified?

Adam Rittenberg: I think there has been some confusion about the Clowney hit against Michigan's Vincent Smith, mainly because of comments made by ACC coordinator of football officials Doug Rhoads. I spoke with Big Ten coordinator of football officials Bill Carollo this week, and he said Clowney's hit was legal and didn't merit a penalty, much less a targeting ejection. Carollo said national officials coordinator Rogers Redding is in agreement. Don't be surprised if Rhoads backs off of his comments. The Clowney hit on Smith isn't what the officials are trying to eliminate from the game. It looked a lot worse than it was from a safety standpoint, which is the impetus for the penalty and punishment.

Dan from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Hey, thought I'd write in from over at the Big 12 blog today. Jim Delany made the statement, "We'll stand behind you, so when you're ready to get serious, or when you have the time, we'll support your college education degree for your lifetime." He isn't implying that it is O.K. for "student athletes" to not be "serious" about their education while they're in school as long as they're focusing on football, is he? That'd clearly go against his points about academic focus.

Adam Rittenberg: No, that's not what he was implying. His point is that colleges should support student-athletes throughout their degree process even if it's interrupted along the way. Under Delany's plan, if an athlete turns pro or drops out of school for various reasons, he or she would have the opportunity to return and finish the degree on scholarship. There are a lot of reasons why student-athletes struggle academically, but his point is that when colleges bring them on board to play sports, they should support their educational pursuits to the end, no matter how long it takes.

Brett from Williston Park, N.Y., writes: Purdue hired a new head coach (Darrell Hazell). How will he turn around the program and what do you expect of the Boilermakers who could have just as easily been 8-4 rather then 6-6 last year? They lost to Notre Dame on a time-expiring kick and to Ohio State in OT. Can they make some noise in the BIGTEN this year even with their strength of schedule?

Adam Rittenberg: Are you sure this isn't Danny Hope writing in? Kidding, kidding. Yes, Purdue was a few plays away from beating the only two FBS teams to go through the regular season undefeated. Weird season for Hope's crew. I have high expectations for Hazell's tenure at Purdue, although the job certainly brings some challenges. He has some dynamic young assistants on his staff who should boost recruiting. This year could be tough, however, as Purdue has arguably the Big Ten's most challenging schedule. The Boilers play two BCS bowl teams (Notre Dame and Northern Illinois) plus 10-win Cincinnati in non-league play, and must take on Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State in the Leaders Division, plus Nebraska and Michigan State in crossover games. It could be a rough first season for Hazell as the depth simply isn't there, but things should get better beginning in 2014.

Matt from Ypsilanti, Mich., writes: Before the season starts there is always a lot of teams that are hyped up to be better than they really are. To me, this is the 2nd year in a row that Michigan State is not going to be as good as advertised. Yes they lost 5 games by less than 4 points last year. But they also won 4 games by less than 4 points so it evens out. With 7-6 record last year with less talent on the roster this year (mainly because Bell was a beast) how can people say that MSU will be a contender?

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, you bring up a fair point about all of those close games evening out for Michigan State in the standings. The Spartans have had some seasons where they win all the close ones and others where they seem to split them or lose more. The case for Michigan State to contend in 2013 is based around a defense that has been nationally elite in each of the past two seasons and should be once again this fall. The defense should keep MSU in every game. The offense certainly loses a big piece in Le'Veon Bell, but it wasn't that productive with him and can't be much worse. Even marginal improvement by the offense could lead to 3-4 more wins for Mark Dantonio's crew. There certainly are some challenges on that side of the ball, but last year's unit set the bar very low, even with Bell.

Matt from Phoenix writes: Adam, Jim Delany's comments regarding change and the "at-risk" student-athlete sound an awful lot like the partial qualifiers that Nebraska utilized back in the old Big 8 days. Is my assumption correct? Most Husker fans refer to a change in partial qualifier policy as one of their initial grievances against the new Big Texas...I mean Big XII conference. Could you explain the "at-risk" student scenario? And are Delaney's comments in reference to the Big Ten? The NCAA? Or the rumored power conference alliance?

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, I was thinking the same thing about partial qualifiers when Delany outlined his reform plan. His plan is to give at-risk student-athletes a year to acclimate academically without losing a year of eligibility. So these students would take an academic redshirt of sorts and still have four more years left to play their sport. My understanding is all of his proposals would apply at the national level, probably for the so-called "Division 4" group of major revenue-generating institutions.

Brian from Atlanta writes: Adam, What is the point of rotating between a bowl in Dallas and a bowl in Ft. Worth? The Cotton Bowl is historic and TCU's stadium is brand new. They are only a few miles apart. Why not pick one and stick with it?

Adam Rittenberg: You bring up a good point, Brian, as the other Big Ten bowl rotation -- Gator and Music City -- takes place in two different states and different markets (Jacksonville and Nashville). I haven't seen the opponent conferences for the Heart of Dallas Bowl and Armed Forces Bowl, so that could have something to do with the need for a rotation. We know the Big Ten wants flexibility with this process, which any rotation provides. The Big Ten needed to keep a Texas presence in the postseason, and the Texas Bowl, Alamo Bowl and Sun Bowl didn't seem like realistic possibilities this time around.

Eli from New York writes: I love beating on dead horses, as you've probably noticed from my emails. Here's a nugget I saw on CornNation, one of the Nebraska blogs: "The B1G messed this one up---they had a litany of excuses, but the Black Friday game should have been Nebraska vs. PSU. And purely for TV.---B1G could own that weekend with something like Nebraska-PSU on Friday and Michigan-OSU on Saturday.---Frankly, the difficult time to travel to a game thing always sounded weird to me. I don?t recall attendance problems for any of the previous games, no matter the opponent or the venue. I don't really remember away-team attendance being a critical factor either, except maybe the Colorado games in the waning years. Most of the possible opponents for that game would be similar in drawing mostly from the surrounding area. Other than maybe Wisconsin, none of them are really dependent on student turnout to fill up the stadium." ~--~ Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Eli, Corn Nation brings up a good point about almost any of these games hinging on home fans, most of whom live in the area, showing up and filling seats. I wonder how Penn State fans would feel about a Black Friday game every year. We know Nebraska fans love it, but not every fan base feels the same way about attending a game the day after the holiday. Penn State fans, what say you? I think if Nebraska-Iowa continues to be a dud game, the Big Ten will reevaluate having it as a Black Friday showcase or even on the final regular-season weekend entirely. Big Ten scheduling czar Mark Rudner this week mentioned Nebraska-Wisconsin as a possibility for that weekend, which Nebraska fans likely would welcome. The one drawback with Nebraska-Penn State is it's a cross-division game. Permanent crossovers were a big problem with the initial schedule setup, and the fact the future setup contains only one (Purdue-Indiana) is a good thing in my view.