- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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First, a special shout-out to my fellow Big Toe Bombers, as we brought home a kickball world championship on Sunday. I also clinched a victory over Rittenberg in fantasy and saw my favorite team make the World Series, so it was a pretty good weekend.
Let's make this week even better, starting with your emails:
Jake from Davenport, Iowa, writes: With my Spartans coming off another win over their in-state rivals, "College GameDay" coming to town, and a nationally-ranked defense this should be my time to finally be proud and let the national media take note of the program Mark Dantonio has built. Instead ALL the talk is about William Gholston. Does Dantonio just need to tackle the issue and suspend Gholston? What would it take for the media to stop focusing on our dirty play and praise the program?
Brian Bennett: You raise an interesting point, Jake. I think if Michigan State had handed a one-game suspension to Gholston on Monday morning, then a lot of this talk would have quickly been deflated. Instead, we have spent much of the week talking, debating and arguing about it. I realize Gholston is an important player on the Spartans' defense and one who will be needed against Wisconsin, but the public image hit may not be worth this long investigation.
Chumble21 from Detroit writes: My question is about all the Michigan State backlash from the MSU-UM game Saturday. All the articles are about State playing dirty. There are videos showing Craig Roh twisting an MSU facemask just like Gholston did. When Gholston punched the UM O-lineman it was because he got dragged to the ground by his facemask and held there. I remember seeing a UM wide receiver slamming Johnny Adams to the ground 3-5 seconds after the play was over. I'm not trying to make excuses for what MSU players did, but I can't believe NOBODY has mentioned that Michigan was just as at fault. The only difference is that the refs mysteriously never threw a flag on UM. Am I being biased because I think this isn't one-sided?
Brian Bennett: I was at the game and can tell you that things got chippy on both sides, as they usually do in a heated rivalry game. I do think Michigan State was the aggressor more often, and it showed in their 13 penalties and especially all the personal fouls. The Spartans clearly wanted to get very physical with Michigan and Denard Robinson, and they played all the way up to the edge and perhaps over it. The officials could have done a better job of preventing some of that stuff on both sides, but again, that's often what happens in these types of rivalries.
Michael from Chicago writes: Could you publish the context for the "60 minutes of unnecessary roughness" quote from MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi? Watching the press conference I know that Narduzzi made it clear that he wasn't coaching the defense to injure anyone and late hits that were blatant on film would be punished during the week. I can't find the full quote anywhere on the net.
Brian Bennett: Michael, you can listen to Narduzzi's news conference here. Narduzzi said late in the session that Michigan State didn't "want to hurt anybody" and that "we don't need those 15-yarders." The money quote most people used came in his opening statement, which went like this:
"Obviously I'm not happy with some of the penalties we had out there, but it's a physical game with physical people. And we'll have to look at it on tape. Probably the only disappointing thing was the penalties that we had, and unnecessary roughness ... I thought that's what that game was, unnecessary roughness on every play. And that's what we try to do, is 60 minutes of unnecessary roughness. I'm just glad we didn't get called every snap."
James K. from Japan writes: I have a question regarding the Michigan State-Wisconsin game. Even though this may not even be possible, if the Badgers blow out Michigan State like they did Nebraska, could that hurt the Big Ten's reputation even more? And because of this, could the Badgers (as well as the Big Ten) actually benefit from having a closer game, or would the blowout outweigh a potential outcry about how weak the Big Ten is?
Brian Bennett: Konnichiwa. That's an interesting thought. If Wisconsin continues to blow people out by 30 every game, some may say that the Big Ten is not any good. And the league won't get a chance to make any more impressions in the nonconference schedule. The best thing for the Badgers is probably for them to win convincingly, but for Michigan State to look very competent. Then they will need their opponents, such as Nebraska, Illinois, Ohio State and the Spartans, to all have strong finishes.
Keyshawn from Denton, Texas, writes: Why does Bret Bielema deserve to be coach of the year when Wisconsin was picked to at least play for the B1G championship at the beginning of the season? Jim Tressel never won that award and the justification was because Ohio State was always expected to win. What is the difference? It seems that this is a contradiction.
Brian Bennett: Like it or not, most coach of the year awards go to the guys whose teams have exceeded everybody's expectations. Right now, can you really name a Big Ten team that has majorly overachieved? I can't. So in the absence of that, you have to give it to Bielema, whose team is the last undefeated one in the conference and which has been more dominant that probably most people expected. There's plenty of time for others to step forward, though.
Joe from Washington, D.C., writes: I just wanted to chime in with the Coach of the Year race. Although we are only 7 weeks through, I think you should have Brady Hoke ahead of Mark Dantonio. Brady Hoke took a defense that was as Charles Barkley would say "Turrible" and has turned them around, tremendously! Sure Dantonio just beat Hoke, but c'mon, State was expected to have a big year, while Michigan has turned it around big time. This won't be the same Michigan team coming down the home stretch. Why you ask? Well the answer is simple. Brady Hoke. He won't allow it!
Brian Bennett: Hoke had the unfortunate timing to lose to Dantonio just before I updated the coach of the year race. I think Hoke has done an excellent job, and he very well could win this award with a strong finish by the Wolverines. But right now, his 6-1 start is not terribly different than Rich Rodriguez's 5-1 start a year ago. Both men saw their teams suffer their first loss by double digits to Michigan State. Dantonio has taken a team that lost two important linebackers and three offensive line starters and navigated to a 5-1 record with a slightly more difficult schedule than Michigan.
Jeffrey from Columbus, Ohio, writes: A lot of people are giving Ron Zook a hard time about his call to go for it on fourth-and-2 deep into Buckeye territory in the fourth quarter rather than kicking a field goal. But I don't think it was such a bad decision. I understand perfectly why he went on fourth down. They had a ton of momentum, and they were very close, and 4th & 2 is extremely doable. He though: "If I kick a field goal now, even if we get the onside kick, the chances are more than likely that we cannot get as close as we are now. If I score a TD here, then I can kick a long field goal if we get the ball back." I would have done the very same thing. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett: Let's reset the scene quickly: the Illini trailed 17-7 and had the ball on fourth down at the Ohio State 17 with a little more than a minute left. Now, either way, Illinois is going to have to get the ensuing onside kick to have any kind of chance. Ask yourself this: Would the Illini have a better chance of converting that fourth down and then going in for the touchdown from the 17 and then kicking a long field goal after the onside kick? Or was it easier to take the easier kick and then ask your offense to drive nearly 50 yards in about a minute against the brick wall of an Ohio State defense? Regardless, the Illini were going to need some luck there. I have no problem with Zook's call. I just wonder if he would have gone for two had Illinois scored the TD (I kid, I kid).
Logan from Allison, Iowa, writes: Brian, first off, you're cooler than Adam. But more importantly what do you think Marvin McNutt's chances are of being selected in the first round of the draft?
Brian Bennett: Logan, you're a wise man. McNutt is a great player, but his chances of being a first-rounder this year are probably slim simply because it's a deep receiver class. Guys such as Justin Blackmon, Alshon Jeffery, Michael Floyd and Juron Criner will probably all be taken higher. McNutt has a lot of competition, but somebody will get a heck of a player by drafting him.
Drew from Milwaukee writes: Would be interested to hear your rationale for putting Boise State -- who has wins over exactly zero currently ranked teams -- ahead of Wisconsin in your power rankings ballot.
Brian Bennett: Georgia is ranked in the Top 25 by the Associated Press and in ESPN.com's power poll. Boise State beat the Bulldogs in what basically amounted to a road game. That's as impressive if not more so than anything Wisconsin has done. The Broncos are legitimately good. That said, if Wisconsin wins in East Lansing, I'll probably move the Badgers up because they will have strengthened their credentials.
Michael from St. Louis writes: You're the Big Ten blogger, yet you're moonlighting as a backup QB for Oregon in the Pac-12. So much for loyalty. What gives?
Brian Bennett: Well, Michael, I have to stay in shape somehow. Kickball season is over, after all.