Big Ten mailblog

Ready ... break!

Eric from Denver writes: If the B10 goes to 2 divisions w/a protected crossover game, how could they NOT go to 9 conf games? With only 8 games, you'd only play 2 of your remaining 5 (non-protected) crossdivision rivals each year. That means some schools would only get UM, OSU, or PSU at home twice each decade. That's alot of missed revenue. Agree?

Adam Rittenberg: Eric, that's a great point and one that I'm certain is on the radar for the Big Ten and its athletic directors. There are quite a few ADs and even some coaches, like Purdue's Danny Hope, who would favor a nine-game conference schedule. It would ease the burden of scheduling for the ADs, although I would be concerned about quality of nonconference matchups, which are already mediocre to poor in the Big Ten. But you can bet the ADs from places like Indiana, Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois and Minnesota see the value of having Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Nebraska coming into their home stadiums as often as possible.

Michael from St. Louis writes: If the Big Ten keeps its "negative space" logo after expansion, I suggest Nebraska and Penn State play for the Negative Space Trophy; a piece of wood with a trophy-shaped hole cut out of it.

Adam Rittenberg: Excellent suggestion, Michael. I'll pass it on to Jim Delany next time I see him. Hey, the Negative Space Trophy might be easier on the eyes than the Land Grant Trophy, which is just brutal.

Darek from Santa Monica, Calif., writes: Hey Adam, thanks for keeping college football alive year 'round. Everyone knows about Ohio State's backfield with Boom and Zoom and we've been salivating over the potential of Jamaal Berry, Carlos Hyde, and Roderick Smith (if he stays). Still, Jordan Hall is who we saw with the action last year and he looked pretty explosive to me. Does Hall keep the number 3 spot or does he lose it to one of the 4 star recruits?

Adam Rittenberg: Hall actually caught my eye quite a bit during the Ohio State practice I attended this spring. He's obviously not very big (5-foot-9, 195), but he runs hard and can do some damage in space. Hall did some nice things last season, averaging 5.2 yards a carry. He looked more impressive than Jaamal Berry, although it was only one practice. I wouldn't dismiss Hall from the running back mix at all, but I've got a feeling Brandon Saine is going to be more of a featured guy this fall. I really liked the way he finished the 2009 season, and he'll have a veteran offensive line blocking for him this fall.

Mike from Dallas writes: Adam,Here are four issues that I believe will keep Michigan from returning to championship form in the next decade. 1. Loss of national respect in a postmodern era with ADHD and short sighted recruits. 2. Loss of a foundational recruiting base after metro Detroit?s economic and demographic exodus. 3. Loss of booster and institutional funding due to economic hardships in Michigan. 4. Improved parity in college football. It takes much more than players and coaches to make a football team great. It takes the right combination of hundreds of little things and a whole lot of luck as well. I believe that Michigan has a lot bigger hill to climb than most realize. Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Mike, while you're absolutely right that it takes more than players and coaches to be a winning program these days, I don't think the situation in Ann Arbor is as dire as you present. For starters, let's look at "loss of booster and institutional funding." I just don't see this happening at all. I spent two days this spring in Michigan's football complex, which includes an indoor practice facility that I've got to believe is the best in the country. Michigan's football facilities are much better now than they were when Rich Rodriguez arrived, and that will help the program now and in the future. The recruiting argument you make is interesting, but I still think Michigan has the talent to win in the Big Ten. Whether the players come from Detroit or Florida, they're good enough to help. Keep in mind that national champ Alabama went 6-7 in 2006. Florida went 7-5 in 2004. So these things can turn around rather quickly, especially for traditional powerhouses.

Charles from Prattville, Ala., writes: when was the last time alabama played penn state in football ?

Adam Rittenberg: The teams last met on Oct. 27, 1990, as Penn State blanked Bama 9-0 in Tuscaloosa. It was Gene Stallings' first season as Crimson Tide coach, and Alabama went 7-5 that fall. Penn State dropped its first two games in 1990 before going on a nine-game win streak to end the regular season. The Nittany Lions fell to Florida State in the Blockbuster Bowl to finish 9-3. Alabama leads the all-time series 8-5.

Mike B. from Bloomington, Minn., writes: Came up with this division alignment over the weekend."West" : Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan St."East" : Ohio St., Penn St., Northwestern, Purdue, Indiana, Illinois"Permanent cross-overs" : Nebraska/Penn St., Ohio St./Michigan, Michigan St./Indian, Wisconsin/Illinois, Iowa/Purdue, Minnesota/NorthwesternMakes sense geographically. Keeps all of the main rivalries in tact. Provides national appeal. And while the "east" is top-heavy, the championship game would be competitive every year. Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: I like your proposal, Mike, but I wonder whether the divisions have long-term competitive balance. As important as the rivalries are, competitive balance is No. 1, and the "West" division definitely looks a bit stronger from my seat. If Northwestern continues to make strides and Purdue gets back to the program we saw in the early part of the last decade, I'd feel a little more comfortable with this setup.