- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Logan from State College, Pa., writes: ADAM! You gotta be kidding me! I e-mailed you yesterday, I'm sure you remember. 13 points for TEMPLE?! IT'S TEMPLE ADAM! They sneak past UConn and you give them 13?! We gave up 24 to Alabama and you give the TEMPLE OWLS 13?! You better hope the put up 13 or I'm gonna be all over you like white on rice on a paper plate with a glass of milk in a snow storm...
Adam Rittenberg: Haha, Logan, thanks for writing, if only to prove my point about certain Penn State fans being a bit chesty about the Temple game. Hey, given the series history, I don't blame you. Penn State hasn't just beaten Temple, but dominated the Owls. Now I agree Penn State's defense will be a handful for Temple, but I don't have a ton of confidence in the Nittany Lions' offense to avoid mistakes. Maybe Temple gets shut out, or maybe the Owls find some cracks in Tom Bradley's defense. All I know is if you remove the names and you look at these two teams in this season, it's hard to sit there and say it'll be a no-doubt blowout.
Teddy from Decatur, Ill., writes: How may wins do you think Illinois can finish with now? And is Illinois showing enough improvement for Zook to keep his job?
Adam Rittenberg: Teddy, we'll find out a lot about Illinois in the first three Big Ten games: home against Ohio State and on the road against both Penn State and Michigan State. Illinois will be a heavy underdog in all three matchups, but one win or even some competitive play would raise my hope for the rest of the season. Illinois' closing stretch is fairly manageable. Only one of Illinois' final six games comes against a team currently ranked (Michigan), and the Illini have beaten the Wolverines twice in a row. It's hard to put a number of wins for Ron Zook to save himself, but he needs to show continued progress. If Illinois can get to six wins or more, I'm certain he'll be retained.
Eric from Chicago writes: Hey, Adam. Love the blog and follow you on Twitter. I walked past you near the Map Room a couple weeks ago but didn't say hello because you were with someone. I know how celebrities can go all "diva" if their routine is interrupted. Anyway you seem like a pretty smart guy and I assume that you, like me, secretly hate the score predictions editors apparently make everyone do on Fridays, yours included. They aren't informative; it's just a complete palm-reading exercise, right?
Adam Rittenberg: Eric, first of all, don't ever use "celebrity" and "diva" in the same paragraph when talking about me. I'm certainly not the former, and despite what my wife says, not the latter, either. So introduce yourself next time! I know what you're saying about the score predictions because it's not very scientific, but it's fun to see how close I can get, like Michigan State-Notre Dame last week, or how far off base I end up, like Michigan-UMass. I really try to envision whether games will be shootouts or defensive struggles, and it's fun to see how things end up.
Alex from Minneapolis writes: First off I would like to say you need to give it up for the 2010 AL Central Champion Minnesota Twins!!! Now for my question. I still don't really believe in Minnesota's new offensive system. Pounding the ball works against a team like Middle Tennessee State, but USC showed it won't work against more talented schools. How can Minnesota be able to successfully execute the new offensive system against Big Ten opponents who are used to a run the ball first mindset?
Adam Rittenberg: Ugh. Yes, the Twins deserved the division. Yay fundamentals! Maybe they can actually, you know, win a playoff series one of these years. Otherwise, Gardy might as well be Bobby Cox without the World Series appearances (or the ring, for that matter). OK, enough Twins hate/White Sox bitterness for a day. ... Minnesota has to complement the power run with its passing attack, especially against Big Ten teams with strong defensive lines. Troy Stoudermire's suspension doesn't help, but MarQueis Gray is developing into a pretty good receiver, and Da'Jon McKnight also brings something to the table. I get what offensive coordinator Jeff Horton is trying to do: rely on a veteran offensive line and the running backs to pound away and shorten the game, which helps when you've got so many question marks on defense. But you need a passing threat as well, and Gray could bring that.
Jon from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Is it a bad thing, Adam, that Ohio State doesn't try to run up the score like some other top 10 teams, or is it more of a respect thing?
Adam Rittenberg: I don't think it's bad, Jon, in part because Ohio State is ranked high enough that it doesn't need to beat teams by 60 points to "impress" anyone. It's interesting to read about the coaches that run up the score and the thinking behind it. Maybe Oregon can't help it, but do you have to score 70? What about Jim Harbaugh last week against Wake Forest? If Harbaugh ever coaches in the Big Ten, methinks he'll make some enemies. You just can't expect Jim Tressel to run up the score if he can help it. I know he was disappointed in a late touchdown scored against Northwestern two years ago. One thing is clear: You see a lot more super lopsided scores outside the Big Ten.
Tom from Madison, Wis., writes: Adam I know your sports knowledge rests beyond the realms of college football, if you were to look back on the year which Big Ten school has had the most success overall keeping their name in the media and spotlight. Which teams could benefit from a big football year to really get the big wigs at ESPN to say, "hey make sure team X gets some attention we wanna get the TV audience in that part of the US.
Adam Rittenberg: This is always a fascinating topic, Tom. Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State always will be in the spotlight because of their large fan bases and winning traditions, but I think it's an important year for Iowa and Wisconsin to garner some national attention. Both the Hawkeyes and Badgers have teams that could contend for the Big Ten title. You also look at Michigan State, a team always overshadowed coverage-wise by Michigan, putting itself in a position to reach a third straight bowl and possibly join the Big Ten's elite. Northwestern always could use more coverage, and the Wildcats' location in the Chicago market makes them appealing. The easy answer is other than Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State, every Big Ten team could use more media attention.
Watson from Marshalltown, Iowa, writes: Hey Adam. I was wondering: although everyone is pronouncing our BCS title game aspirations dead, can't my Hawkeyes still get there? What teams have to fall? And it's not as if the Hawkeyes have a schedule that is all cupcakes. There are five more ranked teams coming up. It's not unheard of for an 11-1 team to play for the crystal football, is it??
Adam Rittenberg: It would be very difficult, Watson, because all of the teams still ranked ahead of both Iowa and Arizona. The Hawkeyes would need Arizona to go on a tear and then maybe stumble late against another good team. Plus, Iowa would need everyone ranked ahead in the polls to lose at least once, including both Boise State and TCU. I can't see an undefeated Boise State or TCU team being dropped below a 1-loss Iowa team. I guess anything is possible and Iowa can make sure Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State all lose at least one game, but I wouldn't hold your breath. The Hawkeyes should focus on getting to the Rose Bowl now.