To the inbox ...
AIS from Madison, Wis., writes: I seem to remember that Minnesota had a returning 1,000-yard rusher last year in Donnell Kirkwood, before he was limited by injuries. David Cobb put together a great season in his time as the featured back but had to split carries for a while before separating from Rodrick Williams. I'm not a Minnesota fan, but I believe that all three of the runners I mentioned will be back in 2014. Is Jeff Jones that good to expect immediate contributions with a healthy stable of more experienced (and to varying degrees, capable) backs?
Adam Rittenberg: We'll soon find out, AIS, but running back is a position in which freshmen can contribute immediately, and Jones arrives at Minnesota with more fanfare than any of the other backs. You bring up a good point about Kirkwood, who had 926 rushing yards in 2012 but was largely forgotten after his injury and with Cobb's emergence last year. Williams also quietly averaged 5.5 yards per carry last year. Jones clearly won't walk into a major role. He'll have to earn it. But he had a great senior year and has the talent to produce right away and push older players.
Todd from The Land of Chief Illiniwek writes: On Friday, you said "no thanks" to the idea of a standing major nonconference rivalry game between Nebraska and Missouri, but your counterargument raised an alternative that supports the idea. Nebraska shouldn't play Missouri but rather Big 12 Oklahoma every year. Illinois should play SEC Missouri every year (with hopefully better results than during the Zook era). Iowa should play Big 12 Iowa State. Michigan should play Pac-12 USC. Purdue should play Notre Dame. Penn State should play Pitt. Indiana should play a basketball rival like North Carolina or Kansas? Have Ohio State play Alabama. Maryland and Rutgers should play their biggest rivals from their old conferences, or maybe an annual replay of the Rutgers vs. Harvard birth of American football played on a rugby pitch without pads ...
Adam Rittenberg: Todd, it's not that simple, and you're missing my larger point. First, trying to get all those schools on board with what amounts to an exclusive nonconference scheduling agreement -- few of them would play another marquee nonleague opponent because of minimum home-game requirements -- is very tough. Remember the ill-fated Big Ten-Pac-12 scheduling alliance? You would run into similar issues, especially with a school such as USC, which isn't giving up its annual series against Notre Dame for one with Michigan. The larger point is this model prevents variety in scheduling. Wouldn't fans rather see different marquee opponents every few years than the same group (non-con rival, MAC opponent, other small-conference opponent)? I know I would.
Dan from Scottsdale, Ariz., writes: Adam, what's your take on Tress [Jim Tressel] being included or excluded in the Hall of Fame? As a Buckeyes fan, I enjoy whenever Tress is a topic. He was so dominant in his 10 years and I get a kick when all the haters get worked up. (You, Michigan. 9-1. That's right, 9). And, do you think he will be a head coach again?
Adam Rittenberg: It's interesting to see him on the ballot, Dan, and it's largely because of his accomplishments at Youngstown State. He's actually listed under "divisional coaches" on the ballot, and they're highlighting his achievements at YSU more than those at OSU. Tressel's overall achievements in coaching merit a spot in the Hall of Fame, regardless of how things ended in Columbus. Will he coach again? Many of those close to him think he will, but he also really enjoys his administrative position at Akron. I think it all depends on what opportunities come his way.
Jeff from Cleveland writes: Dear Abby (Adam), I am a huge Cats fan, and early reports from spring practice suggest that Trevor Siemian has pulled ahead in the QB competition. Recent reports also suggest that Siemian's inconsistent play during last season was largely attributable to injury. While I would like to forget last season and look ahead to the fall, I am still haunted by Siemian's unforgivable pick 6s (Ohio State, Nebraska, Minnesota). Should I forgive and forget, or do I have reason to worry about Siemian's ability to consistently deliver top-level Big Ten QB play?
Adam Rittenberg: You can't completely forget the past when judging a player, Jeff, but the injury, which made an impact on his footwork on throws, along with poor offensive line play, must be factored into the equation. Siemian has been pretty solid when given time to throw and a system that puts him in position to succeed. Northwestern's two-quarterback system worked in 2012, but I think you'll see a more confident Siemian as the clear starter, especially if the offense goes back to what we saw from 2007-10 (pass heavy). Northwestern has veteran receivers, a good tight end and plenty of options at running back. If the offensive line holds up, Siemian should be improved this fall.
Scott from Lebanon, Pa., writes: I'm a Penn State fan and especially like the trophy games (e.g., Paul Bunyan's Ax, Floyd of Rosedale, etc.) that are played in the B1G. Now that Maryland and Rutgers joined the B1G, I have an idea for two trophy games when they play Penn State. The trophy for PSU vs. Maryland would be the Surveyor's Transit (Mason-Dixon Line) and when PSU plays Rutgers, the trophy would be Washington's Tricorn (Washington crossed the Delaware River, The Battle of Trenton). What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg: Much bigger fan of Washington's tricorn than the other one, Scott, mainly because I'm not sure many people know what the surveyor's transit actually is (not a bad-looking item, though). Imagine the pictures players would get wearing that headgear after victories. Maybe Penn State and Maryland could just play for the right to own Delaware?