In this week’s edition of “Conversations with Clayton,” I interview Dustin Schutte, who covers Big Ten Football for Saturday Tradition. Dustin and I discuss Big Ten expansion, Cincinnati’s upcoming game this fall against Michigan and the summer 2017 meat grilling season.
Clayton Trutor (CT): How did you get involved with covering college football?
Dustin Schutte (DS): Honestly, it started as a hobby. I wrote posts for my own blog, as well as Midwest Sports Fans. I think I fooled several people because I was fortunate to receive offers from FanRag Sports in 2014 and Saturday Tradition this past year. With extremely limited journalism training, I actually feel a bit like a criminal.
CT: If you were running the show, how many teams would be in the Big Ten and who would they be?
DS: I'm not a fan of divisions and I'm not a fan of conference championship games. Yeah, I know, they're entertaining. But I like to value the regular season. So, I'd have fewer than 12 teams to eliminate the division play. As long as I can remember, the Big Ten had 11 teams. I'm good with that. See ya Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers.
CT: The Bearcats travel to Ann Arbor this September. What's the Michigan team going to look like this fall? Do we have any chance?
DS: The good news? Cincinnati isn't playing 2016 Michigan. The bad news? The 2017 version is still pretty damn good. The Wolverines lost a lot all across the board, but they were hit hardest by departures on defense. This should be a team that's much better offensively and will have to rely on Wilton Speight to generate some long drives. He doesn't have the benefit of one of the top defenses in the country. He'll have a lot of pressure on him this year. If Cincinnati could find some offense, they might be able to get into a shootout with Michigan and might be able to make things interesting. That's pretty wishful thinking though. Even depleted and inexperienced, the Wolverines are going to be tough, especially in Ann Arbor.
CT: Rank the Big Ten's mascots from best to Willie the Wildcat.
DS: Oh come on. Willie isn't THAT bad. I won't submit a power ranking here, but I'm actually a fan of Maryland's Terpie, personally. Something about watching a human trying to walk as a turtle makes me laugh. Herbie Husker is pretty good, too. And my wife is a Purdue grad, so let's add Pete in the top three. Worst? For me that's Penn State's lion. That just stirs up frightening childhood memories of outdated "panther" mascots that used to scare the hell out of me.
CT: What has been lost by Big Ten expansion? What has been gained?
DS: I'm not sure you can say it's lost that much. What has happened, though, is the conference has been set on forcing new rivalries. While Nebraska-Iowa could be a heavyweight bout occasionally in the West, it doesn't seem like an organic hatred. Could it develop into something? Absolutely. But the conference threw a trophy into this game and expected fans to start spewing hatred like it was Michigan-Ohio State. To the conference's credit, it's worked to an extent. Just check Twitter.
The Big Ten also talks about the exposure it's gained by expanding to the East. With all the avenues available to watch college football and receive information, I'm not sure how much that "exposure" necessarily helps. It has created some new pipelines in recruiting, though. You're starting to see more kids from Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and D.C. join Big Ten programs. Those areas are often overlooked but are a hotbed for recruiting.
And with 14 teams, the Big Ten has split into divisions and has a conference championship. Personally, I'm not a fan, but it's an advantage in today's college football. Just ask the Big XII.
CT: If you won the lottery, which sporting events would you most like to attend with the money?
DS: I'm going to eliminate one that most folks would choose. The Super Bowl. That seems more like an awkward corporate party for the bigwigs. I'll eat delicious food and watch it from my couch. Thanks.
There's so many bucket list items. Here's what I'll say, in no particular order:
I'm a huge golf fan, even though I'm terrible with a driver. I played tennis in high school and college. And who doesn't want a two-week trip to watch 100 different sports in another country? I'd love to hit up Lambeau Field, Madison Square Garden and the Final Four, too. But those would be in a top 10.
CT: What's your favorite venue for a live sporting event?
DS: This is going to sound really lame, but growing up in Indiana, it doesn't get much better than a jam-packed high school gym for a big basketball game. I've been to Jordan-Hare Stadium, LSU's Tiger Stadium, the Breslin Center, Assembly Hall and Wrigley Field. Those venues are all unbelievable and I'd love to go back. But there's something special and sentimental about watching high school basketball in front of a huge crowd in Indiana.
CT: What's your favorite sporting event that you have witnessed in person?
DS: I was in Market Square Arena in 1995 for Michael Jordan's first return after he tried that baseball thing. As a huge Pacers fan, I hated MJ (and still cringe when I see his face) but that's something I'll absolutely never forget. I have to thank my dad for that. Even though he wanted to cash in on those tickets (people were willing to pay several hundred for a pair of seats) he didn't sell. Thanks again, dad!
CT: Tell me about your greatest video game victory of all time.
DS: I mean, anytime you win a game of Mario Party, it's a significant accomplishment, right? I usually did some sort of Chad Johnson touchdown celebration every time I won...and threw the controller every time I lost...
CT: You are self-proclaimed "lover of grilled meats." Plan my summer grilling season for me, please.
DS: OK, I've got two excellent recipes I'm willing to share.
One is an Italian chicken recipe. Just buy some chicken tenderloins and a bottle of zesty Italian salad dressing. Marinate for 8-12 hours (anything less should be a federal crime) and then throw on the grill. Simple, yet delicious. You can eat it as is or throw it in a hot dog bun. Either way, it's good eatin'.
The other is a great recipe for a grilled pork chop. Get some bone-in chops and create a rub using paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, seasoned salt. Add a touch of Worcestershire and liquid smoke. Is your mouth watering yet?
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