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David from Chicago writes: I may be out of step with other fans, but I would like to see Iowa schedule a MAC team and a Sun Belt team every year as non-conference opponents, in addition to keeping Iowa State on the schedule. The ultimate goal is to go to the best bowl game as possible, and a guaranteed two (or three) non-conference wins are more important than strength of schedule. If Iowa can consistently go 5-4 to 7-2 in Big Ten play (optimistic but doable), this strategy should translate to seven to ten total wins and a solid bowl invite.
Adam Rittenberg: David, while I disagree with your philosophy, you make some valid points about nonconference games and strength of schedule. Now it's important to note that schedule strength will be a much bigger factor with the upcoming College Football Playoff, and if Iowa intends to ever make the Playoff, your scheduling model likely wouldn't get the job done. If you believe Iowa isn't a Playoff contender -- a pessimistic or realistic view, depends on who you ask -- your model likely would get the Hawkeyes to "better" bowls. But ask yourself: is being an Iowa football fan all about getting to the Outback Bowl or the Gator Bowl or the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl? Or is it about winning championships and playing exciting games?
Most Iowa fans want to see their team on the big stage playing big-deal teams -- not the MAC, the Sun Belt or even Iowa State. If Iowa really wants to elevate its national profile, which a lot of Hawkeyes fans desire, a different non-league scheduling model likely is in order.
Terry from Detroit writes: I know a national title would be ideal, but do you see programs like Wisconsin and Michigan State, if they can consistently put together solid bowl-winning teams, being able to leverage that success more so than if they were to win it all? (both in recruiting and respect) Look at Michigan State basketball, even though they havent won a title since 2000, they have consistently made it deep into the tournament with final 4's and conference championships. It seems as though they have gained this respect because of their consistency (although the 2000 title certainly helps)... could this apply to college football as well?
Adam Rittenberg: Terry, I love discussing program perception, so thanks for raising this interesting question. The Michigan State basketball model certainly is a reasonable goal for both Wisconsin and Michigan State, although Wisconsin is much closer to that level because of its Big Ten titles and Rose Bowl appearances in the past two decades. Michigan State hoops is seemingly always in contention for Big Ten titles, and Tom Izzo's reputation as a brilliant NCAA tournament coach, despite only one national championship, boosts the program's overall stock. You mention winning bowl games, and Michigan State has gotten over the hump the past two seasons, while Wisconsin has dropped three straight Rose Bowls after winning the Champs Sports Bowl in 2009. But both programs have had some consistent success, which matters in terms of perception.
Still, a national championship would fundamentally change the way both programs are viewed. It would show they had the talent and coaching to beat the best in college football, not merely compete with the very good. Neither team would want to fall off after one national title like Auburn has, and I can't deny that overall consistency, good bowl games and bowl wins matter in the long run. But a title would show that Wisconsin and Michigan State could rise from the ranks of the very good to the truly elite, a jump many think will never take place.
William from Spartanburg, S.C., writes: According to ESPN, the Big 12, has 4 teams in the top 25 average rank 15.25. B1G has 4 teams in the top 25, average rank 13.75. The Pac-12 doesn't even have a top 25 ranked team. ACC has 5 in the top 25. SEC has like 8. So yes the SEC and ACC are out recruiting us I can admit that. The Big 12 is close, but the Pac isn't even in the same neighborhood in recruiting as of right now, today. How do you support the article you wrote "Big Ten fourth in recruiting rankings?"
Adam Rittenberg: William, while I wrote the post you refer to, I didn't compile the conference rankings, which were done by our recruiting analysts Tom Luginbill and Craig Haubert. You bring up a good point about the current class rankings, but the league rankings were based on other factors as well. The Pac-12 has outperformed the Big Ten in recent national championships and BCS bowl wins, which contributed to its ranking. Luginbill and Haubert also specify in the post: "Conferences near the top include teams that have proved successful on the recruiting trail in the past." The Pac-12 boasts several of these teams in Oregon, Stanford and USC, and UCLA's recruiting efforts are on the upswing under coach Jim Mora. All that said, I think you can make a good case for the Big Ten's recruiting efforts being better than the Pac-12's at this early stage of the process. Northwestern is putting together a stellar class, and Nebraska is enjoying a strong recent recruiting surge. So it's not all about Michigan and Ohio State in the Big Ten right now.
Chris from Chicago writes: It seems like everyone predicts the season based on all the star players playing well and/or improving. Because they're impossible to predict, no one discusses the huge impact of injuries. So here's my question: what teams and/or positions are most susceptible and/or least susceptible to injuries in the B1G? I'm thinking Michigan is in trouble if Gardner gets hurt, and OSU/Nebraska would also struggle if Miller/Martinez went down, while Indiana/Northwestern wouldn't miss much since they have capable/experienced backup QBs, and Wisconsin has plenty of RB depth to survive injuries there ...
Adam Rittenberg: Chris, we addressed this topic recently with the most indispensable series. We made our picks for each team's most indispensable players, and Michigan's Devin Gardner, Ohio State's Braxton Miller and Nebraska's Taylor Martinez all made the list. We went with wide receiver Jared Abbrederis for Wisconsin rather than one of the running backs. We also asked fans to vote on the league's most indispensable offensive and defensive players. Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier edged Michigan State LB Max Bullough as the league's most indispensable defender, while Miller beat out both Martinez and Gardner as the most indispensable offensive player. Michigan's Gardner is my pick for the Big Ten's most indispensable player (offense or defense), as his absence could cost the Wolverines 3-4 games and possibly a Legends division title. Ohio State's Shazier also is in the conversation because of Ohio State's inexperience in the defensive front seven. Penn State also lacks depth in its linebacking corps and can't afford to lose a guy like Mike Hull.
Gregory from Kingsport, Tenn., writes: Adam--I still contend that the Cornhuskers downfall in football started when Perlman hired Pederson, then Pederson hired Callahan. All three tried to make it a Wall Street-like business atmosphere. They had no respect for the past culture of the program. Even Dr. Tom could not fix what they broke! The program is no longer respected and feared as it one was. I can not believe that the "real Husker Nation" has not ask for Harvey the rabbit to step down, and find some new young blood to go with the new AD. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg: Gregory, while Perlman has made some mistakes in relation to the football program, I don't think you fire a university president based on an athletic director hiring decision from more than a decade ago. Although the Pederson and Callahan hires certainly contributed to Nebraska falling from the nation's elite, there have been other factors involved, namely the SEC's historic surge coupled with the change in recruiting demographics with more elite players coming from the South. It's simply harder for Nebraska to get the great players these days.
Nebraska also has had opportunities to elevate its program under Bo Pelini, but the Huskers keep falling short in league title games (Big 12 and Big Ten). I'm not sure what you mean by a "new young blood" to go along with AD Shawn Eichorst. Pelini is 42, which hardly makes him old among major-conference head coaches. Would you feel better if Nebraska hired Scott Frost?
Joshua from Louisiana writes: Hey Adam, I'm a huge Michigan fan, and I fully admit this following question may sound like me being a homer but...Would you say that its pretty clear that Brady Hoke can recruit with the "big dogs"? All I have heard for the past two years from ohio and SEC fans is that he cant keep pace with guys like Saban, Meyer, and Spurrier. I think its obvious he can, seeing as how the majority of recruiting rankings had the Wolverines 2013 class in the top 5 and the 2014 class is sitting pretty at number 1 on a few sites. He has brought in a swagger that RichRod didnt have and has signed top talent out from under OSU and most SEC teams noses. Some more insight on this would be great Adam.
Adam Rittenberg: I think it's pretty obvious that Brady Hoke and his staff can recruit with the nation's best. I've been impressed not only by the quality of recruits Michigan is bringing in, but the plan Hoke and his assistants have followed since his arrival. There's a crystal-clear vision at Michigan for what they want and who they want, and the coaches don't deviate from it when they're scouting prospects. They target players extremely early, which has contributed to the huge numbers of early commits they've had the past few years. It doesn't matter if Michigan signs the No. 1 class in February, and teams that pile up early commits tend to be penalized in the final rankings because they're not making a splash on signing day. It's clear Hoke has restored Michigan's recruiting to the top level. Although Michigan isn't located in the most fertile state for prospects, Hoke has done very well in Ohio and throughout the Midwest. The next step, and you're starting to see it, is branching out to the South and West to bring in elite prospects from those regions and cement Michigan's national recruiting brand.