Big Ten mailblog

October, 5, 2010
As always, you can contact me here and follow me on Twitter.

You have the right to sound off on anything, but just a friendly reminder: I'll never address questions about ESPN programming, and while it's flattering that you think I have the power to shape those decisions, they take place at much higher levels. Thanks for reading!

John from West Chester, Pa., writes: Given the struggles of the Penn State offense do you think it might be time to see what we have in Kevin Newsome? Seems like his running ability could really help spark an offense looking for plays? At this point any Jan 1st bowl seems like a long shot so it can't hurt.

Adam Rittenberg: John, I think offensive coordinator Galen Hall and his staff have to be open to all possibilities at this point, including using Newsome in more meaningful situations. A lot of fans and some media have talked about Newsome playing more in the red zone. His size and athleticism certainly could help near the goal line. But ultimately, Penn State coaches need to evaluate the gap between Newsome and Robert Bolden. Is it still wide, or is it narrowing? You can't blame Bolden for Penn State's offensive woes, as there have been struggles elsewhere (spotty line play, dropped passes). I still think Bolden will be a very good Big Ten quarterback some day. If there's still a sizable gap between Bolden and Newsome in practice, I don't think it's worth hurting Bolden's confidence just to shake things up. But if the coaches think Newsome has shown them enough to make a difference, it's time to pull the trigger.

Michael from Charlotte, N.C., writes: With as many yards as Oregon's defense has given up in it's two PAC-10 games(1100), how can people seriously be considering them as the #2 team ahead of tOSU? I know they're offense is lighting it up, but defense still wins championships, and OSU only struggled Saturday because Tressel limted Pryor's touches due to his quad injury. Help me understand why anyone would say this...

Adam Rittenberg: Sure, I can help. Oregon's defense certainly hasn't been lights out, but the Ducks looked like a very dangerous team on offense against a very good Stanford squad on Saturday. Given what the Ducks have done offensively so far, they certainly deserve to be in the discussion for No. 2. The bigger issue is I'm not sure Ohio State "only struggled" because of Terrelle Pryor's injury. Illinois' defense did a nice job against the Buckeyes and deserves a little bit of credit, too. And Ohio State's running backs still leave something to be desired. You can make strong cases for both Ohio State and Oregon to be No. 2, but I don't believe there's a sizable gap one way or the other when it comes to both teams' body of work this season.

James from East Lansing, Mich., writes: When my Spartans were winning 27-24 I must admit I was nervous you're 31-30 last minute Wisco victory would be true. Anyways, when does Treadwell's phone start ringing with head coach offers for next year? The way he's been coaching I feel like we should be worried about losing a great coordinator.

Adam Rittenberg: Ha! James, I was thinking the exact same thing when Wisconsin stopped Michigan State on third-and-goal. I thought the Spartans would take the three points and set up my predicted score. But Don Treadwell played it bold and Kirk Cousins executed the play perfectly. Good question about Treadwell, who is definitely helping his cause to be a future head coach by handling things so well these past two weeks. He really distinguished himself as a play-caller on MSU's final touchdown drive, outmaneuvering Wisconsin's staff on three third-down conversions and then the fourth-and-goal. Treadwell definitely should get some attention after the season, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him running the show somewhere else in 2011.

Mark from Washington writes: Adam,Typically your writing about the Big 10 and its players is thoughtful, nuanced and accurate, but I was disappointed to see you take up the theme of your colleagues in referring to Denard Robinson as a "one-man show" in your blog this week. What Robinson is doing so far this season is special and awe-inspiring, but to say that he's doing this by himself is disingenuous. Michigan's experienced and deep offensive line and blocking tailbacks have opened up gaping holes for Robinson, and allowed him plenty of time to find open receivers. And speaking of receivers, Darryl Stonum, Roy Roundtree and -- especially against Indiana -- Junior Hemingway have had a lot to do with Robinson's big numbers through the air. I think Denard has been outstanding, but when I keep reading that he's a "one-man show," I feel for all the guys on the field that are making that show possible (not to mention Rich Rodriguez's offensive scheme and play calling).

Adam Rittenberg: Mark, these are fair criticisms delivered in a respectful manner. Michigan's offensive line deserves a lot of credit for Robinson's success, although as guard Stephen Schilling told me Monday, the linemen don't need to hold their blocks too long for No. 16 to zip through and into the second level. I think I've given enough props to Stonum, Roundtree and now Junior Hemingway, but to restate: those guys have done a nice job. Still, there are a lot of teams with solid offensive lines and groups of receivers, but the number of huge plays Michigan has executed this season are mainly because Robinson is on the field.

Bucky from Secret Hideout writes: Our football coach is 1-8 against ranked opponents on the road. We have the 8th largest football budget in the country. As a tax paying Wisconsin badger and fan, do you think I'm getting my moneys worth from the program? Regards,Bucky

Adam Rittenberg: Bucky, you have a point here. Wisconsin never hesitates to tout its impressive home record under Bret Bielema, but the road has been a very different story. I wouldn't blame the Badgers for never setting foot in the state of Michigan again. Oh, wait, they have to go back there Nov. 20 to face Michigan. Beating Ohio State at home on Oct. 16 is huge, but it's almost as big for Bielema to notch a road win against a ranked team this year. He'll get his chance Oct. 23 against Iowa, which will be ranked even if it stumbles against Michigan. Winning big road games is an important step on the path from very good to great, and Wisconsin has yet to take the step.

David from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Adam,Just saw your poll where you voted Oregon #2 and Ohio State #3. I just wanted to remind you that we beat them decisively at the end of last year in the Rose Bowl and we both brought back the exact same people - except our defense might actually be better this year!I don't discount we didn't look great this weekend, but you have to remember it was our first road game and the weather didn't set up for a 70-point day like it did against other teams. Please remember the Pac-10 does not believe in defense and when everyone talks about LaMichael James and how many 100+ rushing yards he has - they don't mention we were the last team to keep him under the century mark.Finally, when we won it all in 2002 against one the best teams around back then we won many games this exact same way. The vest will not put us in harm's way and if we have the lead we'll be happy to punt and play defense!

Adam Rittenberg: David, first of all, the Rose Bowl argument doesn't hold water. New season. It doesn't matter that the Buckeyes beat Oregon nine months ago. You're right that a team's first road game typically brings some ups and downs, but this is a veteran Ohio State team, as you point out, that has actually had more success on the road in Big Ten play than at home. Oregon started slowly in its first road game, too, before blitzing Tennessee 48-13. And while the Vols are down right now, they should have knocked off Lucky Les and No. 12 LSU on Saturday. The weather argument is a fair one, but Ohio State still wanted to get its run game going and, aside from Pryor's long run, didn't do so until late. I'm sure Buckeyes fans would love to have James or Kenjon Barner this year. As for your point about 2002, I never questioned the way Tressel's teams won games. The formula is proven over time. All I'm saying is that Ohio State might need some lopsided wins along the way to distinguish itself this year.



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