Big Ten mini mailbag
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
I'll be off most of Friday, but I didn't want you to miss out on your second helping of questions and answers.
Michael from Akron, Ohio, writes: Adam, after your time in Columbus recently I wanted to get your thoughts on the offense. Lots of players did leave but I think the players returning and coming in are more suited to play the same style of offense where last year you had a major change of pace with beanie in the "I" formation then spread with Pryor down to the types of receivers. I think this years bunch (and next for that matter) will be a more consistant offense that the players will benefit from with a clear cut scheme. Do you agree?
Adam Rittenberg: It could go one of two ways, Michael. By mid-October, you could be marveling at Ohio State's stockpile of playmakers, guys like DeVier Posey, Ray Small, Lamaar Thomas, Dan Herron and Brandon Saine. Or you could miss reliable guys like wideouts Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline. I tend to agree with you that these players fit the same style of offense, which would appear to be spread-ish. You're absolutely right that Ohio State spent all of last season experimenting with the scheme and never really found its offensive identity. The Buckeyes should have an easier time figuring out who they are this year. Will it be good enough? Have to wait and see.
Russell from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Adam, I love your stuff. I was wondering if you agree with Andre Ware's B10 picks. 1. Ohio St 2. Minnesota 3. Penn St 4. Illinois 5. Wisconsin Also how could Iowa have a "bad" offensive line if we managed to produce a 1850 yard rusher? Also we did not give up 46 sacks, like he said. I am very optimistic for this Iowa team, even with our road schedule.
Adam Rittenberg: I'm sticking with my pre-spring power rankings of Ohio State at No. 1, Penn State at No. 2 and Iowa at No. 3. Minnesota has a good deal of talent, but there have been too many changes in Minneapolis to think the Gophers will finish second in the league. Add in a much harder schedule, and I could see Minnesota right around where it finished last year (8-4 or 7-5). I really, really like Iowa's offensive line and the confidence Ricky Stanzi brings to the huddle, but I'm not sold on the defensive tackles or the wide receivers.
Chris from Chicago writes: I've seen some Illinois scrimiges and from what I saw Illinois has an explosive offense and a fast defense. They return key members from last years offense. But they lose some key players on D. How many wins do you think we(Illinois) will have?
Adam Rittenberg: It really depends on the defense, Chris. Like you, I see a very explosive offense led by the Big Ten's most experienced quarterback in Juice Williams. I see the league's best wide receiving corps and two improved running backs in Jason Ford and Mikel LeShoure. But I'm not sold on the defense, particularly the front seven. If Martez Wilson becomes more consistent at middle linebacker and Illinois identifies a capable pass-rusher or two, it could win eight or nine games. The schedule worries me, though, and the opening Big Ten stretch of Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State looks tough.
Doug from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: The Wall Street Journal (believe it or not) had an interesting article about offensive line experience. They site a very short table listing the Top5 programs with the most combined o-line starts. And Michigan comes in at #5 with 75 combined starts. The only bad part about this article is that there is no link offered to any further source of info. I'd like to see what linemen they are counting as starters for this year, and where lots of other programs come in for combined starts. Do you have any recommendation for such a source? I've done by best to search the internets, but haven't had any success! Thanks. Go Blue!
Adam Rittenberg: Doug, I like the idea here and will try to put together a chart for you on next week's blog. But just going down the list of Big Ten teams, I'd say Michigan, Iowa, Purdue, Northwestern and Indiana return the most starting experience on the offensive line. If you count Justin Boren's starting experience at Michigan toward Ohio State's total, the Buckeyes aren't bad, either. Wisconsin boasts excellent experience with center John Moffitt (25 starts) and left tackle Gabe Carimi (23 starts), but there are some holes elsewhere.