Big Ten Friday mailblog

Wishing you a great weekend. We'll have a Senior Bowl wrap-up and any big recruiting updates on Monday.

Rick from Adel, Ga., writes: Hello Adam,I have 2 questions. First question, With the NCAA investigating itself for internal problems, will that benefit Penn St. in getting sanctions reduced? Second question, Would it be better if the B1G went to 9 conference games, playing 4 games at home, 4 away, and 1 neutral site where the two teams can split revenue? If they do the 9th conf. game at a neutral site I would think that would eliminate having a home/away series and allow even more times for teams in different divisions to play each other.

Adam Rittenberg: Rick, I'm still trying to get a sense of whether the NCAA's internal issues could help Penn State or the state's lawsuit. The initial responses I've received from those in the know is that there are some key differences in the Penn State and Miami cases. The biggest being that the NCAA's enforcement team didn't investigate Penn State like it did Miami. The Freeh Report was used by the NCAA in lieu of its own investigation, so the enforcement team -- and all of its issues -- really doesn't relate to Penn State at all. Wednesday's news certainly hurts the NCAA's credibility, which in theory could help in the state's case, but Penn State still signed a consent decree about the penalties, and it made public the findings of Louis Freeh's group, which the NCAA in turn used to impose sanctions. So it's not the same. You bring up an interesting idea about a nine-game conference schedule with neutral-site games and shared revenues. I don't know if every Big Ten school would be on board with this, and whether so many neutral-site games are realistic every year. But several athletic directors have told us that all scheduling models are on the table in the coming months -- eight-game schedules, nine-game schedules, 10-game schedules. So we can't rule anything out.

Dennis from Norfolk, Neb., writes: Most plans for the new division alignment contains either a "brand" imbalance or a protected crossover game. This means it takes longer to play everyone in the league. .Is there any discussion about making the protected crossover optional? .The Big 12 had no protected crossovers, The B1G and the SEC have them and I thought I heard they were optional in the Pac 12. Don't know about the ACC.

Adam Rittenberg: Dennis, my understanding from talking to several Big Ten athletic directors is that everything is on the table for discussion, including the future of protected crossovers. I think the protected crossovers took on too big of a role in the initial division alignment. These crossover games should be an as-needed type of thing, more of a last resort to preserve rivalries that can't be preserved within the divisions. There are several Big Ten rivalries that are worth keeping every year in the Big Ten, and there are several that are not. There also are new, emerging rivalries that should be considered when figuring out the divisions. It's certainly possible we'll see an alignment where there are only one or two crossover games requested by the participants, rather than each team having one every year.

Steve from Chicago writes: Love to hear comments on article in lunch links yesterday in which Ohio St. says "A ticket increase is necessary largely because of the lack of a 8th home game in upcoming schedules." Before we heard that cannot go to 9 game conference schedule or add tough non-conference games because need 7 home games. Now Ohio St is saying need 8. With that comment how can a 10 game conference schedule be discussed let alone a 9 game schedule.

Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Steve. A huge concern for athletic directors when they discuss future conference schedules is meeting their individual budgets. Ohio State, for example, needs at least seven home games a year. There will be years with eight, but they're few and far between, so the school has to adjust accordingly to meet its financial goals. This doesn't help the fan buying tickets, but it's not easy to run a program featuring 36 varsity teams, almost all of which lose money. If the Big Ten ends up implementing a 10-game conference schedule, it will really restrict what programs like Ohio State -- and several others that need at least seven home games per season -- can do in the nonconference portion. Do games like Ohio State-Oregon and Ohio State-Texas go away because they involve road trips? It's possible, and that'd be a shame. The problem with 9-game league schedules is that those schools have to make sure they play all three non-league games at home in seasons where they have five Big Ten road games. So it's very tricky, and it's why 8-game schedules remain appealing.

Jeffrey from Dunn Loring, Va., writes: Adam,Maybe I haven't been paying attention, but what's the quarterback situation look like for Purdue next season? Their top two QBs are gone - will the Boilermakers use one of the remaining signal callers on the team, or is Coach Hazell actively looking elsewhere?

Adam Rittenberg: Purdue has a lot of quarterbacks on its roster -- five, to be exact, including heralded incoming recruit Danny Etling (already enrolled). So Darrell Hazell and his staff have options there. The problem is inexperience. Rob Henry is a familiar name, and he would have been the team's starter in 2011 if he didn't suffer an ACL tear weeks before the season opener. But he didn't have a huge role in the offense last fall, even after Robert Marve's injury and Caleb TerBush's struggles. If Henry can recapture the form he showed during the offseason two years ago, he likely will be the top guy. But the young players can't be counted out, especially a guy like Etling, who drew excellent reviews in recruiting. Players like Austin Appleby and Bilal Marshall also are in the mix, but it's really a clean slate for Hazell and his offensive staff, led by coordinator John Shoop.

Steve from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Adam: With 4-team pods, you've said several times that there were questions about how a 2-game playoff would work or how ties would be broken. I think the real idea behind pods is that every season, you have two 8-team divisions, it's just that the divisions change each season. In other words, 2015 might have a Lakes-Plains division and a South-East division, 2016 would have a Lakes-South division and a Plains-East divison, 2017 would have Lakes-East and Plains-South... Still would have a division champ (not a pod champ), division tie-breakers, and a playoff between the top two teams. Could even have a protected game, and still keep an 8-game season (thus maximizing home-game revenue).

Adam Rittenberg: To Steve and many others suggesting this, I love the idea of rotating divisions. There would be more variety in which teams play each year, and you wouldn't have so much pressure to increase the total number of conference games (which will hurt nonconference scheduling). You would have to construct the divisions to preserve rivalries and as much competitive balance as possible, and you'd have to come up with a good tiebreaker system. This is much more realistic than adding semifinal games, which I doubt the presidents would do. Again, love the plan. It makes sense. Probably means it won't happen (I kid, I kid ... sorta).

Jordan from Detroit writes: It's been a while since I've seen talk about who would be #'s 15 and 16 in the b10. However when there was talk about it people were focusing on Georgia Tech, Virginia, and maybe even UNC and/or Duke. Why are people not focusing as much on Virginia Tech? They have one of the most successful football programs, they are right next door geographically, as well as creating a source for the b10 network in the Virginia market. So why are the Hokies not discussed as much? The only downside is that they are not part of the AAU but considering how Nebraska isn't a part of it (and honestly if Notre Dame wanted to join the b10 Delaney would forget about the lack of AAU in a heartbeat) I don't think of it as a deal-breaker. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: Jordan, you're not the first person to ask about Virginia Tech as a Big Ten expansion candidate. For starters, the AAU thing is a very big deal. Although Nebraska lost its membership, it had it at the time of its admission. If Nebraska wasn't an AAU member in June 2010, it would have had a harder time being approved, Big Ten sources have told me. Still, Virginia Tech is a good candidate because of its location and its success in football. But there has been much more buzz about Virginia Tech as a potential SEC expansion candidate. If the ACC blows up eventually, most folks seem to think the SEC would try to add Virginia Tech to expand its footprint. Maybe things change with the Big Ten, but I don't think Virginia Tech is on the league's radar as much as AAU members like Virginia, Georgia Tech and North Carolina.

John L. from Djibouti, Africa, writes: Adam, the Big Ten Blog has been my daily meditation for a long time now. I'm currently deployed and may rely on it more than ever! Wisconsin has showed consistent success -- getting to B1G Championships, Rose Bowls, National Award contenders and plenty of graduates playing on Sundays, i.e., JJ Watt, Russell Wilson, yet it still seems like we haven't seen much of a boost, if any, in recruit caliber. Can you explain this?

Adam Rittenberg: John, first of all, thank you for everything you do. Appreciate the kind words. A lot of Wisconsin fans wonder why the recent success doesn't make the Badgers more of a national player in recruiting. Location has something to do with it as Wisconsin isn't located in a state packed with elite recruits. Wisconsin also has built its program on developing players, and while aiming higher in recruiting will be important going forward, there seems to be a greater focus on finding the right fits -- if they're less heralded recruits -- and fostering improvement year to year. Facilities also are a big key, and as I've written before, Wisconsin's have been among the worst in the Big Ten for a long time. The poor facilities haven't come close to matching the product on the field. The new student-athlete performance center signifies a significant upgrade, and Wisconsin must continue to invest in a program that has yielded great returns for the school. It's also important for Wisconsin to target areas where it can compete for good recruits. Florida seemed to be one of these areas under the previous coaching staff (thanks in large part to assistant Charlie Partridge). Gary Andersen needs to find similar regions where Wisconsin can target elite prospects.

Bob from Indiana writes: Re: John Shoop as Purdue OC. So was this little piece that you put up about Shoop supposed to be an objective reporting of news or an editorial about your frustration as a fan of a middling, somewhat dysfunctional NFL team and what this guy did a decade ago with very little material/players to work with. I'm not saying you should be falsely positive; I'm saying that this blurb came across as fairly negative, especially compared to some of the other reports you've done about other asst. coach hirings around the Big 10.

Bob from Crown Point, Ind., writes: Adam...Having a hard time discerning the thought process of Purdue's coach Hazell believing John Shoop is the answer for a team in need of building an offense. I too am a life long Bears fan and remember very well the Shoop playbook which seemed not to have a single passing route longer than 3 yards. Please throw out a nugget of info...an overlooked stat...or something to help understand this move.

Adam Rittenberg: These emails came in right after one another -- it shows how not all Bobs from Indiana think alike. To Bob No. 1, as I've mentioned many times, this is a blog and we will provide strong opinions from time to time. We're supposed to give a take on news items like this. My John Shoop post was intentionally a bit over the top -- not entirely serious -- because of his Chicago Bears connection and my Bears fandom and frustration with many of Shoop's offenses (2001 team the exception). You're right that he had little to work with in Chicago, and he'll inherit some more talent at Purdue. But it doesn't change my memories of him as a playcaller. Like every new Big Ten assistant, I'll give Shoop a chance and a clean slate. He deserves it. As mentioned in the post, the guy remains in high demand and did some good things toward the end of his tenure at North Carolina. For Bob No. 2, I'd look at the UNC offenses in 2010 and the way quarterback T.J. Yates developed. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks also blossomed in Shoop's offense in 2008 -- and had quite a few catches longer than three yards.