Big Ten mailblog


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Send in your Iowa City recommendations now.

Jon from Irvine, Calif., writes: Is it me or is Michigan getting a lot of hype for their 4-1 record? Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Notre Dame and Indiana hardly constitute quality wins (perhaps Notre Dame but they aren't nearly as good as Lou Holtz thought they would be). Yes, Michigan is much better than last year, but give me a break! Shouldn't we wait for them to win a big game before giving them this much attention?We'll see what Michigan is made of this weekend in Kinnick ...

Adam Rittenberg: Definitely agree on your last statement, Jon. Here's the deal with Michigan. It's good for the game when Michigan is doing well. It's good for the Big Ten when Michigan is doing well. As a result, the Wolverines will get hyped more than other teams despite an average résumé to this point in the season. Michigan gets a ton of attention, win or lose, and especially since the Wolverines were so bad last year, they're going to get some love when obvious improvements are made. It also helps to have a young quarterback (Tate Forcier) consistently coming up big in the clutch.

Frank from Chicago writes: Adam, first off, I love the blog and it keeps me very well occupied during classes, Thanks. More importantly, it seems as though Iowa's national profile has diminished from its close win over Arkansas State this past weekend. However, in light of Penn State's thorough victory over preseason sleeper Illinois, doesn't the Hawkeyes win in Happy Valley look more impressive?

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Frank. Not sure exactly what you mean, since Iowa actually moved up a spot in this week's AP Poll to No. 12. I thought the Hawkeyes would pay a steeper price for struggling to put away a Sun Belt team on their home field. As for Penn State's win over "preseason sleeper" Illinois, that gave me a good laugh. Beating Illinois doesn't mean a whole lot right now. Iowa's win in Happy Valley still carries a ton of weight in my book, but not for what Penn State did to the hapless Illini.

Troy from Grinnell, Iowa, writes: Adam - Maybe you can figure something out for me. Why is it Iowa QB's are infinitly better in their first season than in subsequent seasons? Brad Banks and Nate Chandler each only started one season and were pretty good; Drew Tate was awesome as a Soph, then just OK as a Jr and Sr; Jake Christianson wasn't very good as a Soph, but then was so bad as a Jr he lost his starting spot; now Stanzi has atrophied. Why does this keep happening?

Adam Rittenberg: You bring up an interesting point, Troy, but I'm not sure I agree on Drew Tate. In 2004, he passed for 2,786 yards (232.2 ypg) with 20 touchdowns and 14 interceptions and had a rating of 134.7. In 2005, he passed for 2,828 yards with 22 touchdowns and only seven interceptions with a rating of 146.4 (even better numbers). Tate regressed as a senior in 2006 with fewer touchdowns (18) and pass yards (2,623) but more interceptions (13). Still, it's an interesting pattern with Christensen and Stanzi. I don't think Stanzi has gotten worse this season, but he makes too many major mistakes for a guy who has played as much as he has. You just can't throw pick-sixes and expect your defense to keep bailing you out. If he doesn't fix the pattern soon, you can start blaming the coaching.

Justin from Plainfield, Ill., writes: Coming from a Penn State fan, I think benching Juice is the dumbest thing ever. Juice didn't give up 300 rushing yards and 5 TD's. The Illini defense is terrible, especially the front 7.I think Juice has been a class act and I really respect that kid. I have been to every game that Juice played Penn State, and for four straight years Juice made the Illini dangerous on offense. He has kept his nose clean and has played hard. Eddie McGee beat Illinois State, and he is supposed to be the savior? Good luck Zook. Start working on that resume.

Adam Rittenberg: Some good points here, Justin. The Illini defense is no great shakes, ranking last in the Big Ten in both points allowed (29.8 ppg) and rushing yards allowed (183.8 ypg). Then again, the offense hasn't helped one bit, scoring all of its touchdowns in mop-up time. Illinois' defensive front concerned me before the season, and losing middle linebacker Martez Wilson to a season-ending neck injury made things tougher. As for Juice Williams, I was surprised to see the benching, but Ron Zook felt he needed something to spark his team. McGee performs better in games than what I saw in preseason practice (lots of interceptions), so maybe he provides the lift Illinois sorely needs. But I doubt we've seen the last of Juice, who is definitely a class act and has handled things well so far.

John from Nashville writes: Adam, with the Buckeyes Defense playing better than ever do you think the badgers have a chance in this one? it seems to be that the wisconsin defense can not stop anyone. (by the way you do a great job with the big ten blog)

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, John. Wisconsin needs burly running back John Clay to have a huge game against the Buckeyes. Clay is the type of back who can wear down a defense over time, though Ohio State boasts tremendous depth in the defensive front seven. If Wisconsin can hang around until the second half and keep pounding away with Clay, it should have a shot in this game. I'm still not sold on Ohio State's offense, and while Wisconsin allows yards, the Badgers defense has generated a league-high 15 takeaways this season. That's a very opportunistic group.