<
>

Big Ten Friday mailblog

Wishing everyone a great weekend and hoping for some exciting games!

Adam M. from Austin, Texas, writes: Adam, I hear all this talk about the vaunted MSU defense vs. my Badger's destructive force on offense, but what about the other side of the battle? If I can read my stat lines correctly, while the Badgers have given up 100 yards more a game (give or take), they're ahead in the only stat that really matters: Points allowed. I know their competition hasn't been the best, but after the Nebraska game, there needs to be some credit given. I know injuries are taking their toll, but they still stepped it up and clamped down vs. Indiana. The only score came on a mistake that went for a long TD run. It's not like MSU is having a blowout year on offense.

Adam Rittenberg: Glad you brought this up, Austin. Wisconsin's defense certainly has made strides after a shaky tackling performance in the opener against UNLV. The Badgers have been described as a no-name defense, which seems pretty accurate, although players like linebackers Mike Taylor and Chris Borland and cornerback Antonio Fenelus are having really nice individual seasons. The big key against Michigan State is the defensive line, especially after the Spartans ran the ball well with Edwin Baker against Michigan. Michigan State's young offensive line is gaining confidence, and the Badgers don't have a J.J. Watt this year. A huge key for Wisconsin is third-down defense, as Michigan State converted 9 of 18 attempts last year.


Tim from St. Paul writes: Adam, had to comment after reading a Glen Mason-related question in your chat today. Why does everyone consider Mason to be a "winner" at Minnesota? He was 32-48 in the big ten. He beat no one of consequence (He won at Ohio State in Cooper's last year, the worst OSU team in 50 years). He played 3 BCS non-conference teams in 10 years. Not beat, PLAYED, and yes, he had major input in scheduling. Explain how destroying terrible non-conference teams and going 3-5 in conference going to low-tier bowls is successful? I get he was light years better than Brewster, but come on, it is illegal for MN fans to expect more?

Adam Rittenberg: Tim, you bring up some great points. I wasn't saying Minnesota shouldn't expect more than what Mason did during his tenure, and you're right that he struggled in Big Ten play and against elite competition. But he did make bowl games and avoid disastrous seasons like 2007, 2010 and this one. I understand Minnesota's desire to take the next step, and maybe things need to get worse before they can get a lot better. It's just tough to see what has happened in Minneapolis since Mason was fired. Fans shouldn't expect mediocrity. I get that. But Minnesota fans are always making the Wisconsin comparisons. Wisconsin has been pretty darn good for almost 20 years. It takes time to build that tradition and truly take the next step. Would Mason have done it? His track record suggested he wouldn't, but he also didn't have a shiny new stadium to show off to recruits.


Mike from Martins Ferry, Ohio, writes: If all of the controversy did not happen with OSU and the players was not suspended, Do you think OSU would still have 3 losses?

Adam Rittenberg: No way, Mike. You put Terrelle Pryor, DeVier Posey, Dan Herron and Mike Adams into the Buckeyes' offense from Day 1, and you're looking at a potential national title contender in my mind. There's no way the Buckeyes lose to a mediocre Miami team, and the team likely doesn't fall apart at Nebraska with those seniors on the field. Ohio State's defense showed last week at Illinois that it can still play a little ball, but the absences on the offensive side have been felt from Day 1. You can already see significant differences with Adams and Herron back in the fold. Posey will help, too, although he's out until Nov. 19.


Jeff from K-Zoo, Mich., writes: With Nebraska stuggling and Dennard losing pub in the process. Is Johnny Adams emerging as the top Cornerback in the B1G this year

Adam Rittenberg: Jeff, Adams has been outstanding this season for Michigan State. After a strong spring, he has put himself among the league's top cornerbacks for sure. It's a little hard to judge Dennard because he missed the first three games with a leg injury. He's still a heck of a player, and it will be interesting to see what he does against better receivers like B.J. Cunningham, Jeremy Ebert and Marvin McNutt down the stretch. Purdue's Ricardo Allen also has stood out with two interceptions, including a pick-six. But Adams has really impressed me. It will be interesting to see how he fares against Wisconsin's Nick Toon on Saturday night.


Matt from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Just read the Big Ten statement regarding the 1-game suspension of Gholston. I am a little confused as to there not being anything mentioned about the obvious attempt to break Denard's neck. It would seem that the Big Ten has just set a precedent of turning their head to aggressive attempts to injure another player. Am I missing something? Also, Michigan State deserved to win that game because their defense is very good. It still would be a good defense without an attempt to break an opposing players neck.

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, I was a little surprised the Big Ten only referenced the punch and not the other personal foul William Gholston received. To me, the combination of the two fouls makes it a unique case meriting a suspension. But the punch corresponds more with the sportsmanlike conduct violation language in the Big Ten Handbook, so the league went with that. Anyway, the league did the right thing in this case. Will Gholston isn't a bad kid at all, and I don't think last week's game reflects him as a player and a person. But the combination of the two incidents merited some type of punishment.


Kyle from West Lafayette, Ind., writes: Hi Adam, I just realized that Case Keenum received a 6th year of eligibility at Houston after only playing in 3 games last season. Keith Smith only played in 2 games last season before tearing his ACL/MCL, but the NCAA denied his request for another year. What is going on at the NCAA? This seems very inconsistent...

Adam Rittenberg: Kyle, I hated the NCAA's decision at the time and still don't understand it myself. The inconsistency with these decisions is stunning. You're happy for guys like Keenum and Minnesota safety Kim Royston, and you feel sick for a guy like Smith, who not only is a terrific receiver but a wonderful representative for Purdue and college athletics. You'd think the NCAA would want a guy like Smith around for one more year. He took a redshirt season in 2007 in part because he left the team to deal with family issues in the spring. And then he hurts his knee early in the 2010 season. I didn't understand the NCAA's decision then, and I don't understand it now.


Matt from Bridgewater, N.J., writes: Adam, your blog keeps me sane at school!-Call me a tad optimistic, but I say Penn St. goes 10-2 with their sole loss coming from Wisconsin. Northwestern seems to be falling apart by the week, and Illinois showed that it has trouble on the big stage. Nebraska has not lived up to the hype (not to mention several key injuries), they come to Happy Valley, and we get Moye back. Finally, the entire team, especially McGloin must be looking for a measure of payback, the way they let the OSU game slip last year. Then we get blown out by Wisky. Your thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, I'd say you're being optimistic, but a 10-2 mark isn't unrealistic for Penn State. The Lions defense will keep the team in every game as long as the offense doesn't commit a bunch of turnovers. And if the offense makes strides in the second half like it did last year, anything is possible. The Northwestern game is big because Penn State hasn't been dominant on the road by any stretch and the Wildcats are a desperate team in a must-win situation. Illinois will make it tough for Penn State to score, and the Lions will need to score a bit to beat Nebraska. There really aren't any gimmes the rest of the way, but Penn State has held its own so far in Big Ten play, thanks to the defense.


Tom from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Adam,Do you think you can get Michigan & Nebraska to play a meaningful trophy game? The only trophy that matters. Bring both 1997 national championship trophies to the game, winner take all

Adam Rittenberg: Tom, that would be a lot of fun. But something tells me both schools won't want to give up their hardware because of a game that took place 14 years later. Maybe I'm wrong.