The mailblog comes to you a little early, as we'll have updates from Urban Meyer and Mark Dantonio later today in Indianapolis.
To the inbox ...
Jones from Omaha writes: Adam,I'm tired of pundits, sportswriters, etc. implying that Husker fans should lower their standards. Sure, our standards might be outright insane due to some of the recruiting challenges that Nebraska faces, parity in the FBS, etc., but if we lower our standards wouldn't we just be like every other middle-of-nowhere school that hasn't won national championships? I think high standards will eventually translate to high performance.
Adam Rittenberg: Jones, I think most Nebraska fans strike a good balance between having high expectations and being realistic about the challenges facing the program. It's not 1997 any more, and Nebraska fans get that. I agree that expectations play a role in program success, and I wonder if enough Big Ten fan bases expect greatness from their teams. Iowa fans are happy about the team's turnaround this fall, but the Hawkeyes still went 8-4, which would be considered a bad season at most SEC programs. I'm not knocking Iowa fans for celebrating a four-win improvement, but they should demand and expect more in 2014, especially from a coach who makes what Kirk Ferentz does.
Nebraska fans can talk about national championships with the realization that a lot has to go right for one to come about. A conference championship, meanwhile, is a more realistic and understandable expectation. Nebraska should never go this long without claiming a league title.
Darrel from Minneapolis writes: The coaches and media understand that BOTH Meyer and Dantonio are undefeated in the BIG TEN, and that Meyer has way more recruits in his nest. It isn't Urban Meyer who got robbed, it is Big Ten Blog fans... Our bloggers don't understand that BOTH coaches are undefeated IN THE BIG TEN, and it is a much greater accomplishment by MSU's coach.
Adam Rittenberg: Your bloggers understand and appreciate the job Mark Dantonio did at Michigan State. Your bloggers also believe Michigan State isn't some flash-in-the-pan program that has no talent. Remember, this is the third 10-win season in the past four for Dantonio. Sure, it's a bit surprising and significant after a seven-win campaign in 2012, but Dantonio is no stranger to winning. Our issue has more to do with the award itself. The award should be called most improved coach or something, as it always goes to coaches who improved their teams' record rather than one who met ridiculously high expectations. Unless Meyer suddenly starts losing (unlikely), his only chance to win Big Ten Coach of the Year would have been last year, when it went to Penn State's Bill O'Brien. What this year's award says is that an Ohio State coach -- who hasn't won the award since 1979! -- has no chance unless he underachieves before overachieving. It's dumb.
Cody from Toledo, Ohio, writes: Adam, after reading your article about the B1G being spineless for not imposing additional sanctions, I felt the urge to come to the defense of Marcus Hall. He lost his cool, took a swing, got ejected, and fired off the double-bird salute. The ejection was deserved, but in his last game against ttun [that team up north], and after an event like that, emotions were obviously running high. I understand the gesture is not appropriate for national television, but does that really merit an additional suspension? I don't think so, and I can't blame him for his actions, as I have fired off the same gesture frequently towards the same group of people from my couch under much less stressful conditions.
Adam Rittenberg: Cody, some fair points here, but flipping the bird from your couch or while driving isn't the same as doing so on national television in the Big Ten's most significant regular-season game. I understand emotions got the best of Hall, but he's also a fifth-year senior who has faced Michigan before and should know better. There should be consequences for what he did that go beyond sitting out three quarters of a game. The Big Ten could have made the suspension a full game, which would have been one quarter of the title game. At least that shows the league doesn't tolerate Hall's behavior. A public reprimand is totally worthless and laughable to just about everyone. The Big Ten should get rid of it entirely, as it looks worse for the league than the offenders.
Phil from Berkley, Mich., writes: Hey Adam, How many OSU players would start on Michigan State's defense? And how many MSU players would start on Ohio State's offense?
Adam Rittenberg: Buckeyes linebacker Ryan Shazier and cornerback Bradley Roby certainly would start for the Spartan Dawgs. Can you imagine a linebacker group of Shazier, Max Bullough and Denicos Allen, or a cornerback tandem of Darqueze Dennard and Roby? Scary. I could see a Buckeyes defensive lineman like Michael Bennett cracking Michigan State's front four, but the Spartans are pretty strong there. There are fewer obvious choices from Michigan State players to start for Ohio State's offense, especially since the Buckeyes' line is so spectacular. I'm sure Ohio State could find a play for Jeremy Langford, although not starting ahead of Carlos Hyde. Guard Blake Treadwell would push for a starting job with the Buckeyes.
Craig from Braintree, Mass., writes: Adam, I think Coach Kill's personality motivates the general population of Minnesota as well as his team. Won't know until the bowl game tickets are available on the truth of this statement though.
Adam Rittenberg: I agree there's a lot more to motivate Minnesota fans these days, and the bowl turnout will show a lot. Minnesota is fighting a past of not traveling well to bowls, so it's somewhat of a prove-it situation. A strong turnout this year, no matter the bowl, could pay off in future years, as Minnesota should be in the mix for a decent bowl again in 2014.
Scott from New Jersey writes: Adam, While usually find your work very fair and balanced I was in complete disagreement with your article on the suspensions. The point I think that was missed in not just your article but most national media alike is that suspending the players extra time would not have been fair or equal. Ohio State would lose players for a championship game, but Michigan loses players for an outback bowl with nothing on the line. I would agree with your article completely if Michigan and Ohio State were rematching this week. Then players should and I believe would have been suspended.
Adam Rittenberg: Scott, the league should remove the teams and their future games from the equation when making a decision based on conduct and supposed values. That's how the Big Ten gets into trouble with those who believe it is biased toward the bigger brands (Ohio State and Michigan). That's why Jim Delany still gets heat for pushing for the Tat-5 to play in the 2011 Sugar Bowl. It's called a double standard. Sure, the next games for Ohio State and Michigan aren't equal. It shouldn't matter if the league thinks what happened in Ann Arbor between both teams merits further punishment. Although I disagree with the Big Ten doing nothing, I hope the league would have acted similarly if Ohio State's and Michigan's next games were against New Mexico State and Southern Miss.
Matt from Parts Unknown writes: How can you report on the B1G when the company you work for is part of the SEC?
Adam Rittenberg: You know what's amazing Matt? I can criticize the Big Ten and criticize the SEC, which I often do, and receive no blowback from Bristol. That doesn't fit into fans' narrative about the way we cover things, but unfortunately for you, it's the truth. The Big Ten has a contract with ESPN, too, but none of it impacts the way I cover the league.