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Big Ten Friday mailbag

I'm your bagman today. Season's less than a week away. Horses like hay, OK?

Be sure to follow my new Twitter handle (@ESPNRittenberg).

Let's begin ...

I'm your bagman today. Season's less than a week away. Horses like hay, OK?

Be sure to follow my new Twitter handle (@ESPNRittenberg).

Let's begin ...

Adam Rittenberg: Great question, Michael. The immediate response is to say Michigan State beating Oregon on the road. Oregon is a popular pick to make the playoff. It has a Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback in Marcus Mariota and plays in one of the loudest, craziest, most hostile environments -- at least for the road team -- in college football. A MSU win would be huge both for the Spartans and the Big Ten.

But you can't discount the Wisconsin-LSU game for this simple reason: It's against the SEC. The Big Ten's reputation issues stem in large part because of the SEC's success and the Big Ten's inability to beat the SEC in big games. The two leagues are richer and more popular (by far) than the others. So a win against the SEC, in essentially a road game in Houston, would be big for Wisconsin and the Big Ten.

I'll ultimately go with Michigan State beating Oregon, but not by much. Both games are huge for the league.





Indiana fan from Indiana writes: Is it fair to say that Tevin Coleman is one of the most explosive backs in the nation? I mean, he was tied for second in most 50-plus-yard runs, tied for first in most 40-yard runs and tied for fourth in most 30-yard runs. He averaged 7.3 yards per carry, which was tied for eighth in the nation. He had 12 TDs. And he only played nine games and had those numbers. The numbers seem to back it up. But where would the Big Ten blog men put him in the nation? Top 10? Top 5?

Adam Rittenberg: He's definitely one of the most explosive backs in the nation, Indiana fan, and I would also call him one of the most underrated players in college football. Coleman gets largely overlooked because he plays for Indiana and the Hoosiers have been known more for their passing prowess under coach Kevin Wilson. If he maintains or builds on those numbers and, most importantly, gets through the entire season, he'll get more respect, at least regionally. It will be tough to get noticed nationally, especially in a league loaded with great running backs.

Then again, winning changes everything. Coleman is a top 10-15 back nationally. He could easily climb higher this fall.



Adam Rittenberg: To be clear, Justin is referring to Nebraska, not Northwestern. I think the rankings aren't based mainly on a perceived talent differential. Wisconsin and Nebraska have similar talent, and you can make a case the 2014 Huskers will be the more talented team as Wisconsin says goodbye to an exceptional senior class. But Wisconsin has had a slightly better track record than Nebraska in the past 15 years. The Badgers have won league championships and always seem to be in the title mix. Nebraska has been close under Bo Pelini, but can't get past the four-loss thing.

The big difference between the teams, regardless of preseason ranking, is the schedule. Nebraska plays a division crossover at Michigan State. Wisconsin misses Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. The Badgers also host Nebraska, which also must visit Iowa and a Northwestern team it has struggled to beat the last two years.



Adam Rittenberg: There's virtually no chance he'll be back, Jeff. Melvin Gordon returned this year with the understanding that it would be his last as a Badger. He knows it and the coaches know it. Perhaps a major injury would cause him to return, but even then -- and perhaps because of an injury -- he likely would want to begin his pro career, given the short shelf-life for running backs in the NFL.

Gordon wants to lead Wisconsin to the next level and hopes to do it this season. He'll obviously be disappointed if the Badgers don't win the Big Ten and/or make the playoff. But he also has to think about his future, which should begin in the NFL in 2015.