Third and final mailblog of the week. Thanks for your participation. I'm off next week, so direct your questions to this guy. I'll be back with you after the Fourth.
Have a great weekend.
Patrick from Alexandria, Virginia, writes: It's been disappointing to read your constant sniping at the Big Ten's expansion into the Northeast. For example, in reporting on the successful conclusion of major cable contracts in Maryland and New Jersey you opened with: "Whether Big Ten football truly creates a presence on the East Coast remains to be seen." Well, the future always remains to be seen, so you are right in a trite way. But there's plenty of evidence of a presence, already. For example, season-ticket sales are up by about 40 percent at Rutgers and 60 percent at Maryland since 2012. I can report there's a big buzz about the coming visits from PSU, OSU, U-M, MSU, UW, Iowa, Nebraska and really the whole Big Ten. Isn't it time to come to terms with the fact that Rutgers and Maryland will be members within days, and leave the grousing behind?
Adam Rittenberg: Patrick, thanks for checking in, especially about the mood in the Northeast about the Big Ten's arrival. I'm looking forward to visiting New York and Washington later this summer to take the temperature myself. Yes, it remains to be seen how this plan works out, and it is a gamble because the Northeast hasn't been a hotbed of college football interest. There's still risk involved, and not to acknowledge it is naive. But I agree that the grousing has become a bit tired, and I've probably engaged in it too much at times. The bottom line is Maryland and Rutgers are coming. They'll be official Big Ten members on Tuesday and we'll have plenty of coverage then.
One thing I've always believed is that the Big Ten's existing product/presence looms large here. Part of those season-ticket increases can be attributed to current Big Ten fans opening their wallets. I definitely sense the buzz from Rutgers fans. Maryland fans, we haven't heard from you very much. What's your excitement level?
Jeff from Humboldt, Nebraska, writes: I love Kirk's approach in recruiting and I think one can make a case that if the likes of Dallas Clark, Shonn Greene, Bryan Bulaga, Riley Reiff, Tyler Sash and a few others stay for their senior year instead of opting to turn pro we wouldn't be questioning the recruiting strategy. Iowan's are hard-working, get-your-hands-dirty people, all-for-one kind of people and that is why we appreciate having a Pat Angerer type of kid on our team vs a self-indulged blue-chipper.
Rittenberg: Jeff, I agree that Iowa's recruiting approach fits the culture of the program under Ferentz. But to suggest every elite recruit is self-indulged misses the mark. At the very least, it's a sweeping generalization. Iowa doesn't have to pursue every five-star recruit from the South and West, but there are enough players living in those states who could fit what Iowa is all about and succeed in Hawkeye uniforms. To be so Midwest-focused, rather than striking a balance and spending some time in other regions, might lead to missing out on a talent upgrade.
Chris from Salt Lake City writes: While I consider every current member of the Big Ten to be an integral part of the conference due to a long and rich history, which of those teams would not be considered as Big Ten expansion candidates had they never been a part of the Big Ten? Northwestern (private school)? Michigan State (already have Michigan)? Wisconsin (seriously, they put cheese on their heads)?
Rittenberg: Wisconsin undoubtedly would be considered, cheese and all. It's the major state institution with a strong academic reputation. Obvious choice. Michigan State, as currently constructed, also would be a strong candidate, despite Michigan's presence. Northwestern would be an interesting case. The Big Ten loves Northwestern's location and elite academic reputation, but it's a smaller private school with not much tradition in the major sports. If the league was OK without a private, academically elite member, Northwestern likely wouldn't make the cut.
Dan from Dallas writes: Here's the thing: Wisconsin brings back four starters on an offensive line that ran all over everyone last year (including the vaunted South Carolina defense) except for Ohio State. The point that needs to be made is that the Badgers' schedule is so weak that they play only three teams that have any prayer at slowing the ground game: LSU (definite threat), Iowa (probable threat), and Nebraska (possible threat). We all know what Wisconsin does to teams that can't stop the run, and we should see a lot of that this year, regardless of question marks anywhere else on the field. All of this in no way, to my thinking, really makes Wisconsin an elite team, but it does put them in a position where a trip to Indianapolis is well within reach if not downright likely.
Rittenberg: I agree Wisconsin has a very realistic chance of reaching Indianapolis. But I can name 20-25 teams that look better on paper than the Badgers do at this point. They're not a playoff candidate. Could become one, but not one right now. That was my point in the post. I also think expecting to win 10 or more games simply with great running backs and a solid offensive line -- I think this line will be good, not great -- could be wishful thinking. There has to be some passing threat, and the defense needs more reliable pieces in the front seven as the secondary remains a bit vulnerable.
Travis from St. Louis writes: One could make an argument that the 2009 Orange Bowl team was led by Iowa's much heralded 2005 recruiting class (although it had a 50% washout). The benefits from that Orange Bowl win led to the 2010 recruiting class which in turn, led the turnaround during the 2013 season. My point (excluding the 2002 season) is Iowa has done it's best when it gets several 3-4 star recruits, not necessarily the "diamonds in the rough."
Rittenberg: Travis, Iowa's decorated 2005 class is fascinating because there were hits and misses and some of the less-heralded recruits -- Pat Angerer, Shonn Greene, Marshal Yanda -- turned out to be the best players. But I agree with your general point: It's fine for Iowa to continue to find the overlooked, developmental types in the state and the region. But there's no reason why Iowa shouldn't pursue higher-rated prospects both locally and nationally, and sell its program as one that will get you to the NFL.