Big Ten Friday mailblog

I hope you enjoy what should be an excellent Saturday of games in the Big Ten and around the country. Can't wait!

Adam from Madison, Wis., writes: Why are Badger fans complaining about the division they are in ? they actually have it almost perfect. Ohio State and Penn State are always tough but then they have Indiana, Illinois and Purdue who they almost always beat. and they have a cross over game against Minnesota who they almost always beat and the best part about not being in Minnesota's division is if they lose to them it woulnt affect there chances of going to the big ten championship game cause they are in different divisions. Wisconsin has it made where they are gonna be, especially with Minnesota in a different division that alone takes some weight off Wisconsin's shoulders

Adam Rittenberg: Adam, I think the main gripe is that Wisconsin and Iowa will no longer play every season in the new division format. Although the Minnesota game is a bigger rivalry to most Wisconsin fans, the Iowa series matters a lot as well to both sides. The Badgers also lose a potential annual rivalry with Nebraska, which coach Bret Bielema and others wanted. The general sense is that Wisconsin was plucked away from the league's western bloc (Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska). You're also incorrect about Wisconsin losing to Minnesota. All Big Ten games count toward who goes to the title game. I still think Wisconsin has a great opportunity in its division. You beat Ohio State and Penn State, you typically gain more national recognition than beating Iowa or even Nebraska. And the bottom half of the division looks weaker right now.

Krag from Phoenix writes: Adam, love the blog - literally don't know how I lived without it years ago.I'm just wondering why nobody is talking about the weather factor in the Ohio State-Miami game - they're calling for rain and thunderstorms, which absolutely will have an impact.Anyone remember the field conditions at the Orange Bowl last year? Don't you think that favored the Big Ten power game? And in this case, a slippery ball would mean a HUGE advantage for the Buckeyes run game.If nothing else, Mother Nature could be the biggest factor in this game and I haven't read one article that's included it in analysis.

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Krag. Good point about the weather factor, which I covered in a post earlier today. It could be pretty nasty around the Big Ten on Saturday, particularly in Columbus and South Bend. I agree a sloppy track favors Ohio State against Miami, although the Hurricanes boast some good running backs as well. But Ohio State can play the power game a lot better, and I lost respect for Miami's ability to handle less-than-ideal weather conditions after watching the Champs Sports Bowl last year. You would have thought it was a blizzard in Orlando watching those Miami players that night.

Adam from Gilbert, Ariz., writes: Ritt, love the blog. I'm a Nebraska fan and can't wait for the Huskers to leave the Big 12. But be honest, is your Penn State-Alabama prediction just there to not get too much hate mail from PSU fans. Do you really think PSU can keep it close. Alabama is far superior in all aspects of the game. Plus, the game is at 'Bama. They have a little chip on their shoulder as well. I'm going Bama 38-10 and it might not be that close.

Adam Rittenberg: Adam, I've learned long ago that no matter what I write or say on this blog, I'll get nasty e-mails from some segment of Big Ten fans. So the prediction is what I genuinely believe. Could Penn State get blown out? Sure, especially if true freshman quarterback Rob Bolden struggles. But Penn State's defense has allowed more than 24 points only once in the last two plus seasons (to USC in the Rose Bowl). The Lions are once again solid in the front seven and should be able to contain the Alabama run game for at least part of the contest. The big question is whether Penn State's offensive line improves its play enough to spring running back Evan Royster, who had only 40 rushing yards last week against FCS Youngstown State. Expect Penn State to shorten the game and keep the score down as much as it can. I highly doubt you see a 28-point Alabama win.

Craig from Braintree, Mass., writes: Why does Weber need a go to receiver? He needs to be able to spread the ball to the open receiver.

Adam Rittenberg: Craig, while you're correct in the general sense, Minnesota's offense fell apart last year after Eric Decker's season-ending foot injury. No one else stepped up to fill the void, and Adam Weber looked lost out there. I'm not saying you need another Eric Decker because those players come along once in a generation, but Minnesota needs someone it can rely on in the passing game. It could be Da'Jon McKnight, Troy Stoudermire, MarQueis Gray or another player, but you always like to know your No. 1 receiver, even though you want to spread the ball around as well.

Darin from New York writes: Adam, tried to get through during your chat but had no luck. Wondering what your thoughts are on Devin Gardner/Denard Robinson? It almost feels to me that RichRod is not sold on DRob being the long term solution. If he was, why not Red Shirt DG? Everyone says DG looks very legit, but if DRob is for real that would only leave one year for DG to start. Seems like it would have made more sense to Red Shirt him this year and let him sit for 3 years and then have him start for two. What are your thoughts on this?

Adam Rittenberg: Darin, I think you have to coach for the current season, not the future, especially if you're under pressure like Rich Rodriguez is in 2010. Keep in mind he has been able to evaluate Devin Gardner both in spring ball and in fall camp. If Gardner has separated himself as the team's No. 2 quarterback, you need to get his feet wet in games. Here's the thing with the spread offense: It's hard to keep your quarterback healthy all season. And if Denard Robinson continues taking hits like he did in the opener, he'll likely miss some time. Gardner might be the future for Michigan, as the coaches absolutely love what he brings to the table. But Michigan needs to win this year, and that's why he's playing right now.

Keith from Freeport, Mich. writes: Adam, you stated that your Player of the Year race "will be based solely on production this season". If that's the case, how does John Clay get on the list ahead of Le'Veon Bell, who matched Clay's 2 TDs, beat him in total yards (141 to 123) and is second in the entire NCAA with 14.1 yards per carry? Other than that, keep up the great work and GO GREEN!

Adam Rittenberg: Keith, that's a fair point, and to be honest, I could have listed about 20 guys this week. Bell had an outstanding debut, and if I were ranking Freshman of the Year candidates, he'd be right up there with Rob Bolden at this point. I really liked what I saw from Bell back in spring ball, and he seems to have gotten better and better. But let's remember it's only Week 2, and these races will truly take shape during the next month or so. I don't expect the candidate pool after Week 1 to look like it will after Week 6 or 7. One other thing: John Clay looked like an absolute beast against UNLV. He'll definitely contend for Player of the Year this fall if he stays healthy.

Mike from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, writes: Adam, I appreciate your observations and Boise State and TCU are good football teams, BUT...Last year, Iowa was a pretty good football team, too, yet when it was 9-0 and had won AT Penn State, AT Wisconsin and AT Michigan State, Iowa was a big joke to many across the country. Do you REALLY believe Boise or TCU could have gone 9-0 against Iowa's schedule last year? C'mon. Both schools have one or two tough games a year and then it's a cakewalk. THAT's a FACT, and THAT'S why people get upset with those two programs. It's that simple. Furthermore, don't you realize that half of the Big Ten, at least, would go undefeated every year playing the Boise and TCU schedules? It's not fair to compare teams that play such totally unequal schedules. And that's a fact.

Adam Rittenberg: Mike, I realize I'm fighting a losing battle against Big Ten fans on this issue. All I want you and others to do is open your minds to the possibility that Boise State or TCU could hold their own in a major conference. Could they run the table in the Big Ten? It'd be tough, but it's not out of the question, either. Crazy things happen. Northwestern won a Big Ten title in 1995. Illinois won a Big Ten title in 2001. So there are surprises from time to time in this league. The truth is we'll never know because besides having great football programs, these two schools don't fit in major conferences (Boise State less so than TCU). So you're right about comparing teams with unequal schedules. I would point out that TCU plays quite a few solid programs in the Mountain West. Boise's schedule is terrible after nonconference play, not going to argue there. It would be great if we could see Boise or TCU in a major conference for just one year, where they could play the elite programs in late November when both teams should be peaking. It would also be great if major-conference teams, including ones from the Big Ten, weren't afraid to play Boise or TCU. Anyway, it's a fun discussion, but I just wish people would be a little more open-minded.