Big Ten Friday Mailbag

September, 12, 2008
9/12/08
6:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The games are finally back Saturday, and what a slate it is. Before putting the blog to bed for a bit, here's what's on your minds.

Josh from Redwood Falls, Minn., writes: Thoughts about Minnesota. Are they improved enough to get to a bowl game? Also, starting center Jeff Tow-Arnett tore his ACL in the win over Bowling Green. He will try to play through it if possible.  

Adam Rittenberg: Minnesota should have no trouble on Saturday and gets Florida Atlantic at home next week, so a perfect non-league record is within reach. But Tow-Arnett's injury is definitely a concern for a fairly inexperienced line that looked to him as a leader. The Gophers not only need to find a running back after losing Duane Bennett, but above all they must protect Adam Weber. I see the Gophers right on the cusp of bowl eligibility, six wins, maybe seven. But if the defense continues producing takeaways, Weber can take this team a long way.


Colin from Brooklyn (N.Y. or Mich.?) writes: What is your take on UOM's recent 2009 de-commits? I get Newsome looking elsewhere but how big of a blow is Campbell's renig? Does he end up at another Big 10 (MSU) or down south? Thank you.

Adam Rittenberg: I agree that Kevin Newsome's decommitment wasn't a huge shocker, and Michigan already has two solid quarterbacks for '09. William Campbell's decommitment could be more costly, though Michigan is going to work hard to get him back on board. The Wolverines might try for a package deal with Campbell's high school teammates Teric Jones (already committed) and Thomas Gordon. Defensive line will be a position of need next season after Terrance Taylor, Will Johnson and Tim Jamison depart, so it's important for the Wolverines to bring in top talent. 


Kevin from Raleigh, N.C. writes: While I understand that the USC-Ohio St. game is a big one, it seems to me like you are providing an extended amount of coverage to them at the expense of other Big Ten schools. Perhaps the blog should be changed to the Ohio State blog if this trend keeps up.

Adam Rittenberg: I don't like to fire on my readers, but please go back and read the blog a little more carefully before writing. I think you'll be satisfied with the distribution of coverage. There are features this week on Purdue, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State and even a short item on Illinois' Juice Williams. That's pretty equitable in my book. It's my top goal with this blog to be as fair as possible, and I think we achieved that this week. Ohio State-USC is one of those rare mega matchups between powerhouse programs in an age of fearful scheduling, so the game deserves all the hype it's getting.


Ty from New Bern, N.C. writes: What is going to happen in the Wisc, Cal St Fresno game that decides who wins?

Adam Rittenberg: It will come down to Wisconsin's ability to control the line of scrimmage on offense. If the Badgers' mammoth line can overpower Fresno State and create interior rushing lanes for P.J. Hill, Zach Brown and John Clay, they should be in good shape. But quarterback Allan Evridge still will need to make a play or two. He'll be helped by having All-American tight end Travis Beckum back in the mix. 


Jonathan from Westerville, Ohio, writes: Back-to-Back losses in the BCS Title game and a potential lopsided loss to USC in a nationally televised game. If Ohio State doesn't live up to expectations in 2008, would changes be in order on the OSU coach staff in terms of coordinators or others? Just a new direction?

Adam Rittenberg:  That's an interesting point, Jonathan. I know both coordinators -- Jim Bollman and Jim Heacock -- have taken some heat for their playcalling in recent years. There's certainly a question of whether the Buckeyes are too conservative on offense. And with Terrelle Pryor taking over at the starter in 2009, they could go in a different direction, especially with another big-game stumble or two. But Jim Tressel is pretty loyal to his guys and probably would need some external pressure to make changes. That's kind of hard to do to a coach who consistently wins 10-12 games a year. 


Tom from Charlotte, N.C., writes: nice job on College Football live. Maybe I watched a little too closely, but was your tie selection a nod to Fresno State this weekend? You're listening to Herbstreit's Badger hate too much.

Adam Rittenberg: I was worried the tie would make me seem too pro-Ohio State, but thanks for noticing. Seeing that I picked Wisconsin to escape Bulldog Stadium with a victory on Saturday night, there's no Fresno State love. Though I'm a big Pat Hill fan and love what he does with that program year in and year out.


Don from Chicago writes: Love your blog, reading Big Ten: What to watch in Week 3. I know its the Big 10 but they like to fudge the math and there are 11 teams. Can't you streth that to 11 things to watch for? I know NU plays SIU, but you could note that offense needs to gain more yards on first down, get more consistent on third down (function of the first), establish Sutton, Bacher and WR timing sharpened up.

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks for the note, Don, but you've got to read the fine print before What to Watch. It's the 10 best items to watch in a given weekend, not the single best item for each team. There will almost always be multiple items listed for a game or two, so that means several teams will be left off the list. For what it's worth, Northwestern's offense has to get going Saturday, particularly on first down. Quarterback C.J. Bacher seems to come up big on third-and-long, but when that offense is truly clicking, it gains 5-8 yards on first down.

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