Big Ten mailblog


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Sarah from Gahanna, Ohio, writes: Adam, how much effect will losing C.J. Barnett be on the Buckeyes? He was making his second start, but it looked like he was making plays back there. Is it actually good Ohio State has two more/less practice games to break-in the new starter at safety?

Adam Rittenberg: It's certainly a blow, Sarah, especially with how Barnett looked in the first two games. He was all over the field last week against Miami before the injury, and he seemed to be gaining more and more confidence out there. Seeing the No. 4 jersey making plays at safety definitely reminded me a bit of Kurt Coleman. While Ohio State doesn't have a ton of depth at safety, Orhian Johnson was the projected starter before being slowed by a calf injury. Although Johnson lacks game experience, he has made a good impression on teammates like linebacker Brian Rolle, who told me in August, "We have the two biggest, most physical safeties in the country in Jermale Hines and Orhian Johnson. I just can't wait to see those guys roam the deep half, the deep third, like missiles back there." We'll get to see a lot more of Johnson now.

Eric from Lansing, Mich., writes: Adam, i have a confession. as a spartan fan i wish the ND game was on at noon. It seems to me, while there haven't been many, that Coach D has not done well in night games or even games that kickoff in late afternoon. and all spartan fans remember the last time we had a night game against ND, added a player to the ring of fame (Bubba Smith in 06) if it rains i might not be able to watch. are any of my fellow spartans airing these same concerns to you??

Adam Rittenberg: Eric, having witnessed the Notre Dame-Michigan State game in 2006 from the press box, I understand your feelings here. I think your bigger question is whether Michigan State can truly handle the national spotlight, because that's what this game means. Sure, Notre Dame is 1-1, but the Irish always attract national attention when they play. For Michigan State, this is one of two chances every season -- the Michigan game being the other -- to truly be on the national stage. Eventually, Mark Dantonio's teams need to step up and win these games, and I think this squad will be up for the challenge. Keep in mind Dantonio is 2-1 against ND. But your feelings are totally understandable. The good news: the current forecast for Saturday night calls for partly cloudy skies and only 20 percent chance of rain.

Steven Clow from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Adam,Just curious as to why you do not have Iowa RB Adam Robinson on your Heisman update or Heisman horizon? I have noticed that you believe that John Clay is in the running, but yet no love for Robinson? Let?s compare their statistics so far from this season. Clay has rushed for 260 yards and is averaging 6.5 per carry with 4 touchdowns, while Robinson has rushed for 265 yards averaging 7.0 per carry with 4 touchdowns as well. When compared side to side, Robinson has outperformed Clay, even after splitting carries with Jewel Hampton last week at the Iowa State game...Where is the love?

Adam Rittenberg: Steven, first of all, props to you for having a cool last name. I know one of my colleagues would be jealous. Here's the deal with the Heisman: it's not just about statistics. Far from it. You need some degree of name recognition to be considered, since voting takes place around the country. Right now, no one outside of the Midwest knows who Adam Robinson is. If he goes out and blasts Arizona for 200 yards on Saturday night, a lot more folks will know the name. John Clay, while putting up some very good numbers as well, already has name recognition nationally after winning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors. Denard Robinson wasn't on the radar before the season but has put up great numbers for a very recognizable program (Michigan). This is why I listed Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi on my "Heisman Horizon" rather than Robinson. People know who Stanzi is. I know it sounds a little unfair given the numbers, but to ignore the name-recognition factor would make these weekly updates pointless.

Justin from Tipton, Ind., writes: Did I read that right? Did you really say that Indiana is part of the schedule that gives Michigan's secondary time to mature? The same Indiana who has the best receiver in the conference. The same Indiana who has a James Hardy clone as their 2nd guy. The same Indiana who has a 3rd year starter at QB will pick them apart if they blow coverages. The same Indiana who loses no one in the receiving corps, but adds two redshirt freshmen who could be future first-team all-Big Ten selections (Bolser at TE and Wilson at WR). Sure, the Hoosiers have plenty of questions on D. And it remains to be seen how well the OL will open holes for Willis and the rest of the running backs. But those questions don't extend to the receiving corps, and Michigan's secondary will have anything but time to mature on October 2nd.

Adam Rittenberg: Justin, these are all good points, and I should have omitted Indiana from Michigan's maturation process. I'll admit it when I'm wrong. The Indiana receiving corps -- Tandon Doss, Damarlo Belcher, Terrance Turner and co., for those unfamiliar -- is outstanding and will test Michigan's young secondary. Indiana certainly moved the ball well against the Wolverines last year. My main concern for IU is how well the nonconference schedule prepares the Hoosiers for anything they'll face in Big Ten play. The Hoosiers should face Michigan at 3-0, but we won't know much about this team. You face Towson, Western Kentucky and Akron, and then you've got to try and stop Denard Robinson? Good luck.

Kevin from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Easier to believe Michigan this time? Are you serious? The offense is a little better than last year with Robinson but the defense is worse. They are a lot closer to 0 and 2 than you want to believe. Oh, and thanks for proving that you are in fact and Michigan homer. Just wait until the Big Ten season starts. They have no chance against Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State. A slim chance against Michigan State and will likely drop another game somewhere. That one trick pony is about to die a slow death once the conference season starts in a couple of weeks because they are no better than the eighth best team in the league. Look for them to finish no better than 7 and 5.

Adam Rittenberg: Kevin, you're lucky I don't print your address in Ann Arbor, pal. But thanks for writing. At least this can show the Michigan fans who think I hate the Wolverines that not everyone believes that's the case. Why don't you go back and re-read the post? Actually, I'll help you out: "We could end up seeing a 2009 re-run, which likely would spell the end for Rodriguez. Robinson's health is a HUGE concern going forward. And if Michigan falls apart, I'll be the first to say I was wrong. But this team looks different. Will Michigan win 10 games? Probably not. But I don't see another collapse, either." I never said Michigan will win 10 games, and Big Ten play could be tough for the Maize and Blue. But I also think Michigan will win two of its games against Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State.

Drew from Madison, Wis., writes: Hey Adam,Anything the big 10 can learn from Penn State's loss in the event it plays 'Bama for the national title? Penn State managed to put a few drives together a probably deserved more than 3 points for it.

Adam Rittenberg: Drew, you already touched on it here, but you have to finish drives against Alabama and execute better in plus territory. You also can't be tentative against a team like the Tide, a problem Joe Paterno acknowledged Tuesday. "We played the first half down in Alabama just about the way I was afraid we'd play it: very tentative," Paterno said. "We weren't aggressive." It's the same thing against any elite team: maximize your opportunities, take some calculated risks and don't commit turnovers. Alabama is an extremely well-coached squad, but the Tide aren't unstoppable.