Big Ten mailbag: more Penn State-Iowa reaction

November, 11, 2008
11/11/08
5:31
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It's time to delve into the mailbag. A lot of you are still thinking about the Penn State-Iowa game last Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.

Steve from Memphis writes: What about the pass interference call on the last drive? A very questionable call, Scirotto had a play on the ball. Also [Daryll] Clark was very inconsistent.

Adam Rittenberg: Anthony Scirrotto was going for the ball, but that penalty will be called 99 times out of 100. Trust me. You can't make contact with a receiver before the ball gets there, even if the pass seems uncatchable. I understand Scirrotto was trying to be aggressive, but as a senior, he needs to be smarter in that situation. There was no way the Iowa receiver comes down with that ball. An incomplete pass creates fourth-and-15, desperation time for the Hawkeyes.


Matt from Orlando, Fla., writes: Hi Adam, I'm a Penn State fan/alum who was extremely disappointed by our loss on Saturday night, however watching the game from my sunny Florida couch, I wondered how any of the supposed "powerhouses" Big 12 or especially SEC would have faired in those weather conditions . . . you know, the 30 Degree Weather, 30 MPH gusts of wind and threat of snow . . . it's hard to dominate with style points let alone win in a sub-arctic environment. How does conditions like that effect SOS or conference play no less - I don't think its fair to compare Big Ten play to that of other prime weather environments in the South. I highly doubt UF, Texas, TT, OU could put up 50+ points on the board in that Winter Wonderland we call the North East. PS Congrats Iowa to a good game well fought. I don't mind that we'll be smelling Roses come January.

Adam Rittenberg: Several e-mails have brought up the weather argument. It comes with the territory in the Big Ten, and other leagues (Big East, Boston College in ACC, Mountain West, Boise State) also have to deal with less-than ideal playing conditions. I agree that it's a little harder to win with style points, though Penn State did that for much of the season and could still post some big wins down the stretch. I can say definitively that weather conditions don't affect strength of schedule or any BCS gauges. I like your attitude about the Rose Bowl, though. It's hardly a bad consolation for Penn State.


Ben from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Adam- I understood what Michigan State had to do to win the big ten prior to Penn State's loss to Iowa, however now I am somewhat uncertain. I believe that in order for Sparty to win the Big Ten Ohio State will have to find some way to lose one of their last 2 games but I'm not positive. Wondering if you could clarify.

Adam Rittenberg: You're exactly right, Ben. The Spartans need to beat Penn State and hope that Ohio State loses to either Illinois or Michigan to win the Big Ten's BCS berth to the Rose Bowl. If Michigan State beats Penn State and Ohio State wins out, the Buckeyes head to Pasadena.


Billy from Parts Unknown writes: Have you ever seen a bigger one-game difference than Terrelle Pryor just had in your lifetime? He made his second and third progressions, threw percision passes on the run, and didn't take a single sack or throw an interception. Absolutely stunning.

Adam Rittenberg: Pryor certainly had one of his best games against Northwestern, but I don't think his turnaround was as dramatic. He did a lot of good things against Penn State -- he got very little help from Chris "Beanie" Wells -- and made a poor decision in the fourth quarter that led to the fumble. But his ability to make plays has been there most of the season, and he did an excellent job of converting on third-and-long against Northwestern. He also kept plays alive with his feet and made smart decisions throughout the game.


Chad from Parts Unknown writes: Adam- I know everybody loves to bash the BCS, but yesterday's Iowa/Penn St. game is a perfect example of why we can't go to a playoff. If this season were to end in a playoff, yesterday's game wouldn't have mattered. Yeah, Iowa fans would be excited, but PSU would still be heading into a playoff; the loss would merely lead to a lower seed. And, with Texas/Texas Tech last week, the result would have been meaningless; they'd both still be in the top 8, or 16. But with the way it is now, a 31-yard kick by a kid from Iowa City is the first story on SportsCenter, and fans other than those in Iowa and Pennsylvania are interested in the outcome. I know the BCS has got it's flaws, but you can't ignore the regular season by going to a playoff.

Adam Rittenberg: Chad, you make a convincing argument, one that some of my pro-BCS colleagues would agree with as well. This season could be shaping up perfectly for the BCS, with very few potentially deserving teams left out of the title mix. There could still be some discontent in the Big 12 South, but hopefully it works out that there's a clear choice. I'm still a playoff advocate, but I can see what you mean about the importance of games like Penn State-Iowa and Texas Tech-Texas.


Craig from Newport Beach, Calif: Can you explain how PSU loses by one, with one second left, to a team at home, in 30 degree weather, with 20mph winds, who has lost their games by a combined 12 points, and drops below USC (and Utah in the USA Today), who lost to and never led against Oregon State who PSU crushed? Even comparing wins against Ohio State isn't even because home field advantage and Wells/Pryor. Utah jumps no 1-loss team except PSU? Come on voters.

Adam Rittenberg: It's all about when you lose in this sport. People barely remember USC's loss at this point, and to their credit, the Trojans have looked impressive in recent weeks, albeit against poor competition. Penn State definitely deserves more credit from the Oregon State blowout, but most voters hold the Big Ten in such low regard that almost everything the Lions have done to this point is meaningless. It's not right, but it's the way things go. I definitely wouldn't put Penn State behind Utah in the polls. The Utes are a nice team, but after watching the TCU game, I don't see a non-BCS team hanging with a BCS team in a BCS bowl. None of the current non-BCS crop measures up to Boise State of 2006 or Utah of 2004.


Gene from Augusta, Ga., writes: Adam... Penn State Alum here, 2006. I couldn't help but think during the Iowa game this weekend.. when the score was 23-21... of 1999. Almost the same scenario. 9-0 heading into the game with Minnesota. Ranked number 2 nationally. (We were No. 2 in the BCS too, in 1999). Going for a 10-0 season to keep nat'l title hope alive. Minnesota completes a hail mary pass.. Iowa drives down the field. Both NAIL last second GW field goals to kill Penn State's nat'l title hopes. 24-23. Although 1999 was in Beaver Stadium, this one hurts more. So, we end up 8th in the BCS now. Too much--seemingly--has to happen for Penn State to get back into the Nat'l title game. But, winning out and getting to the Rose Bowl, does exceed expectations this year. BUT, will they take an 11-1 Penn State IF Oregon State shocks the Pac-10 and wins out? If not, where do we end up?

Adam Rittenberg: Gene, you're not the only one having that exact flashback. Penn State players and coaches brought up the 1999 season immediately after Saturday's loss, as if to say, 'We're not going down that road again.' But the similarities are striking, aren't they? Penn State will definitely go to the Rose Bowl if it wins the final two games. The Rose Bowl would have to deal with a Penn State-Oregon State re
match, while USC would go another BCS bowl and Ohio State likely would be left out. But for Penn State, it's simple. Beat Indiana and Michigan State at home and head to Pasadena.


Caleb from Denver writes: After watching Ricky Stanzi have his best game of the year against Penn State, do you think he is the best young quarterback in the Big Ten?

Adam Rittenberg: Stanzi certainly took a big step Saturday night. Head coach Kirk Ferentz said Stanzi's best quality is an ability to forget mistakes and bounce back, and the sophomore certainly showed some resiliency against the Nittany Lions. I wouldn't call him the Big Ten's best young quarterback -- there's some Pryor guy in Columbus, I've heard -- but he certainly is the right guy to lead Iowa, something the coaches took too long to figure out this season.


Ryan from Baltimore writes: I'm sure you are getting many questions like this but I'll say it anyway. Over the past two weeks commentators on T.V. have said that Penn St. had only one tough game ahead, that being Iowa. Michigan St.is now ranked 15 in the BCS and not they getting the neational respect they deserve. I know they aren't a BCS champ type of team, but with that being said they have hung on to close games and earned their spot in the BCS rankings. Why don't they get more respect as far as the national coverage is concerned?

Adam Rittenberg: Several factors drive national respect, and unfortunately Michigan State doesn't satisfy many of them. People like offense. People like big-time quarterbacks. People like 50-32, not 21-7. People like lots of big plays and blowouts. Any football purist can appreciate the disciplined play and physical style that Michigan State embodies, but the Spartans aren't a very flashy team. They haven't had dominant quarterback play. Hardly anyone outside of East Lansing can name a player besides Javon Ringer. And with a big chance to make a statement against Ohio State, the Spartans collapsed. Sure, they deserve a little more respect, but unless they beat Penn State, they won't get it. That's the good thing about football, though. There are always opportunities.


Doug from Nashville, Tenn, writes: In light of how this season has ended up for both teams, I believe that Purdue & Tennessee should meet in a "special bowl" game, at a neutral, mid-point like Louisville, if for no other reason than to honor 2 class-act coaches that have given so much to the game, and deserve to go out better than they're going. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: That's an interesting thought, Doug, but alas, bowl games aren't about honoring coaches. They're about money and TV and eating contests and swag for the players. But it's too bad Joe Tiller and Phillip Fulmer are going out like this.


Mike from Richmond, Va., writes: Adam, I know you've answered a lot of the tie-breaker questions regarding the BCS bid already. The landscape has changed a bit with Iowa's win over PSU. If MSU wins, it helps OSU (assuming they win out) and they get the Rose Bowl bid. What's the word on the street regarding MSU at that point (again, with a win over PSU)? Does that make it easy for the other BCS bowls to pick Utah or Boise and leave MSU in the Capital One Bowl? With a win over Penn State, I'm assuming that MSU at least makes the BCS Top 12, just not sure if that does any good without a lot of help (losses) from a non-BCS school.

Adam Rittenberg: It would be an interesting scenario with Michigan State, but my sense is the Spartans still would go to the Capital One Bowl even if they beat Penn State and Ohio State heads to Pasadena. A lot would depend on how much the other BCS bowls need a major draw. Michigan State has a sizable fan base and could travel well, making the Spartans potentially a more appealing option than Utah or Boise State. One non-BCS team will make the big bowls, but probably not two. There's a shot for the Spartans, but not a great one.

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