Big Ten Friday mailblog

A few questions and answers before the weekend.

Stuart from Atlanta writes: Hi Adam, I was wondering if maybe Luke Fickell has an impossible mountain to climb, thus there's no way he can win the job? Is that fair to him, since he's a former Buckeye, long-time assistant and grew up in Columbus (thus he's a Buckeye man)? Jim Tressel went 7-5 his first season. Now people are asking Luke Fickell to go 10-2 to keep his job? Fair?

Adam Rittenberg: Stuart, that's a good point about Tressel's first season, but the situation is different. Tressel was selected after a full coaching search, and there was some building to do after subpar seasons in 1999 and 2000. Fair or unfair, Fickell is the interim coach of a team that has won or shared each of the past six Big Ten championships. Plus, he's a first-time head coach who has to prove himself in this role. The good news is Fickell has an opportunity to show what he can do in a very tough situation. If E. Gordon Gee and Gene Smith remain in their positions, Fickell will be auditioning for the folks who will play large roles in deciding the permanent head coach. While it's hard to put a firm number on victories Fickell needs to keep his job, I can't see him keeping the position if Ohio State goes 7-5.

Travis from Omaha writes: "A team will ultimately sink or swim depending on what it does within its division."This isn't very accurate. Nebraska could win every division game, but if their conference record is 5-2, and Iowa lost a division game but has a confrerence record of 6-1, they'd play for the conference title. The best conference record in each division wins thier respectived division, not the best division record. Otherwise, there wouldn't be any cross over games, they'd be worthless.

Adam Rittenberg: You're right, Travis, but that's only one example. I'll bet there are more instances where divisions are decided by how teams perform within the division as opposed to how they perform in cross-division games. Look at the Big 12 the past few seasons. If you lose a division game, you need to hope your opponent stumbles a few times if you want to make the championship. While you certainly can't dismiss the cross-division games, the easiest path to the title game usually will be taking care of business in the division.

Tim from Minneapolis writes: Hi Adam, the post on who would gain the most from Ohio State got me thinking. I think it depends on what you consider a big gain. If it's increasing your chances of winning a Big Ten title, then I say Wisconsin. But if we're talking biggest overall improvement, then it's Michigan. Their increased chances to finally beat OSU for the first time in years is a huge gain itself. Plus it may help with recruiting, etc. Wisconsin simply moves up a notch in title contention. Of course, I also agree with Barry Alvarez that the whole Big Ten suffers with this situation.

Adam Rittenberg: Tim, really good points all around. An Ohio State decline undoubtedly could help Michigan, not only because the Wolverines could end their losing streak in The Game but improve on the recruiting trail. But Wisconsin seems like a program that is close to gaining national powerhouse status. Having Ohio State backslide a bit could help the Badgers get over the top.

RJ from Chicago writes: Why all the silence on all the arrests in Michigan of their players, both MSU and UM, for DYIs, driving impaired, etc... are you only an OSU hater or do you actually have balls and can call out other university's too?

Adam Rittenberg: Do some research, RJ. Never mind, I'll do it for you. Click here and here and here. Every known off-field incident gets covered here.

Michael from Solon, Ohio, writes: Adam,Sorry if you answered this already, but how is Russell Wilson eligible to play this year if he transfers? Why wouldn't he have to sit out the season after leaving NC State?

Adam Rittenberg: Wilson already has graduated from NC State, so he doesn't have to sit out a year before becoming eligible at another FBS institution. Those players who haven't graduated can transfer and play right away for FCS teams, but not FBS teams.

Harrison from Chicago writes: The bit on Wisconsin checking tattoo parlors was interesting. Watching college football last fall, I was struck by the large number of players with whole upper arm tattoos. Some of these tattoos cost several hundred dollars and its doubtful every single player can actually afford them. Do you think this is going to be a pandora's box at multiple universities?

Adam Rittenberg: Harrison, it wouldn't surprise me if other coaches have support staff members check local tattoo parlors or ask players about their tattoos (how much they cost, where they got them, proof of purchase, etc.) We all know you can't watch players 24-7, but the Ohio State situation has gotten the attention of coaches and compliance officers nationwide. A lot of teams already do detailed checks, but no one wants to be in Ohio State's situation with the NCAA.