Big Ten mailblog
October, 6, 2009
By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Great questions the last few weeks, and thanks for all the kind words. Big Ten fans are in midseason form.
Steve from Indiana writes: Hey Adam, why do you think Purdue is unable to finish games every week? They have the talent to compete with most teams, but always seem to make a dumb mistake or turnover in the end. Would this be caused by inexperieced, poor coaching, or something else?
Adam Rittenberg: It's a good question, Steve, and one that I'm sure Danny Hope is trying to figure out. Obviously, you can't turn the ball over for points, which is what Purdue did against both Northwestern and Oregon. But you also need to have the belief that you're going to win, and that belief only comes with evidence. In the last few years, Purdue seems to lack the killer instinct at the end of games. I covered last year's loss to Oregon, a game the Boilers had no business losing. I'm not sure if it's a mental toughness issue or what, but I wouldn't chalk it up to talent. The talent is there, as you say. As far as the experience factor, Purdue has plenty of veteran players, but not enough who have experienced what it takes to win big games and make plays in the clutch.
Jared from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Why hasn't everyone been ripping Michigan's offensive line play in that embarrassing loss to state? A couple muffed snaps was only the beginning of it - O-linemen were losing one-on-one blocking battles all day. Were it not for Tate Forcier's speed and elusiveness, we wouldn't have had anything, and honestly the fact that they didn't come to play killed our ground game. Was the weather a big problem or something or is Michigan in a lot of trouble going into Iowa next week?
Adam Rittenberg: I talked Monday with Wolverines left tackle Mark Ortmann, who took full responsibility for the loss. So even if fans don't see the obvious, the players do, and that's all that matters. Not having center David Molk hurts, but I was surprised how Michigan State's defensive front dominated the line of scrimmage. Michigan can't keep relying on Tate Forcier to bail out the offense. The run game needs to get going and the blocking must be a whole lot better Saturday against an even better Iowa defensive front.
David from Chicago writes: Is it safe to say that OSU will never get respect for a long time from the AP pollsters? OSu keeps beating teams handily and keeps getting jumped by teams that beat no one. Should I stop looking at rankings cause OSU will most likely win out and go to the rose bowl regardless of rank?
Adam Rittenberg: I think that's a healthy approach, David. As I wrote earlier today, the media's distaste for Ohio State is becoming less and less subtle. For what it's worth, I had the the Buckeyes at No. 8 in my power rankings this week, two spots ahead of Cincinnati. One thing that keeps hurting Ohio State is the lack of a ridiculously lopsided score. Ohio State had a chance to beat Indiana 47-7 but wound up with a 33-14 win. Whether it's right or not, the lopsided scores you see in the Big 12 and the SEC seem to strike a chord with some AP voters.
Drew from New York writes: Love the blog, Adam. Now, all I'm saying here is that Wisconsin is the only un-ranked, undefeated team in the nation right now. All I'm saying is that a certain 2-2 team from a state with a pan-handle named after illegal occupiers of land (look it up!) are still ranked in the top 20. Obviously 2009 expectations were low for the Badgers after last year's performance. But to be a .500 team and still ranked is a little disgraceful.So if Wisconsin wins this weekend how high do we get ranked? Such a big deal is made of pre-season expectations in the rankings, even 5 weeks in. But don't you think it makes sense to rank teams who exceed pre-season expectations rather than those that fall well short of them? By the way, this system is totally bonkers, man!
Adam Rittenberg: A Wisconsin win at Ohio State should definitely get the Badgers in the top 20 and probably the top 15. As much as the voters don't love Ohio State, they respect what it means to win in Columbus. I wouldn't worry too much about the rankings right now, though I did have Wisconsin at No. 25 in our power rankings. As for Oklahoma, what can I say? The voters still love the Sooners. Wonder if they'll move up in the polls even if they lose to Texas in a few weeks.
Dan from Waukegan, Ill., writes: Adam In your weekly assesment of teams, you say Michigan State 'overcame its typical fourth quarter collapse.' When was their last fourth quarter collapse? They got beat soundly by Wisconsin, lost a tight game to Notre Dame that went down to the wire, and while I guess you could say it was a mini-collapse against Central, the trend under Dantonio is nothing like what it was under John L Smith or Bobby Williams. Can we please put the SOS label to bed once and for all, or is every loss they have for eternity going to conjur up the same terminology? Btw ... thanks for making my workdays manageable!
Adam Rittenberg: When was their last fourth-quarter collapse? Do you really want to go through this again? You bring up Central Michigan, which wasn't a mini-collapse, but a disciplinary meltdown. Now I agree Michigan State has avoided a lot of these issues under Dantonio, but the program is still known nationally for falling apart in the clutch. Too many people watched games like the 2006 disaster against Notre Dame (I was there). Those things take time to change. Just ask Northwestern, which still gets linked to its horrendous history despite being better than half the Big Ten since 1995. Or Purdue, which has been a very solid program but takes heat for its losing streak against ranked opponents. Dantonio has started the process of changing things in East Lansing, but when you blow a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead at home with less than five minutes left, you're going to get that label. Just the way it is.