Big Ten mailblog

September, 4, 2012
9/04/12
3:30
PM ET
Your questions, my answers.

Mike from Allentown, Pa., writes: Hi Adam, In your opinion how much of the Penn State loss can be attributed to nerves? Or, from the crash of a huge energy burst at the start? Also, was it me, or did Matt McGloin seem tenative to throw deep? He threw maybe 5-6 deep passes, but seemed to hesitate in the pocket to throw deep. I know the offense is based upon short passes, but once Ohio took that away in the second half McGloin apparently hesitant to go downfield. Your thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Mike, I think you're right about an energy dip after the start of the game -- and certainly after what should have been a Penn State interception turned into an Ohio touchdown in the third quarter. You just felt the entire stadium deflate after that play. Lions defensive tackle Jordan Hill said today, "We lost some of our energy in the second half. We have to keep that up the whole game." That will be a big key at Virginia, and, in a way, Penn State should have an easier time because there was so much buildup for the opener. As for McGloin, he looked comfortable with the short routes, which were working early on. But I agree that you need to mix in some longer passes at times, if only to show the defense that they're in the playbook. Penn State doesn't have proven receivers, but Allen Robinson looked like a guy who has taken a big step. It wouldn't surprise me to see Robinson used on some more vertical routes against Virginia. But you also have to set up longer passes with runs, and Penn State didn't run the ball well enough -- or much at all -- against Ohio. Establishing a better run game will be key going forward.

Evan from Bradenton, Fla., writes: Adam, I resend my earlier comments about disagreeing with you on you placement of the Illini in a better bowl than Purdue. I say this because Purdue will now be plague with slow starts, untimely sacks, poorly thrown deep balls, tunnel vision, and point differentials that are too big to overcome. For the life of me, I don't understand Danny Hope's decision to start TerBush over Marve. We (the fans) have been wanting Marve to start every since he arrived, but will Danny Hope give the fans what they want? I think we all know the answer to that.

Adam Rittenberg: Evan, I understand your frustration, and it's echoed by many Purdue fans. The concern I had about Marve was his health and whether he could perform at 100 percent. He looked good against Eastern Kentucky and clearly has the most natural of ability of any Purdue quarterback. On the flip side, TerBush didn't do anything to lose the job on the field in camp, at least according to the coaches. Danny Hope said Tuesday that TerBush, "outperformed the other quarterbacks, hands down," in practice. The main concern with Marve is turnovers, as he has had quite a few during his career, including as many interceptions (10) as touchdown passes at Purdue. While TerBush isn't flashy, he had more than twice as many touchdown strikes (13) as interceptions (6) in 2011. I see this as Hope wanting the lower-risk option on the road against Notre Dame. It's not an uncommon approach. But you can make the argument that Purdue needs to make big plays to win this game, and that Marve gives the offense the best chance to do so.

Kyle from Denton, Texas, writes: Adam,Hey do you think the Big Ten should change it's scheduling from starting conference play in Week 5 to starting conference play in say Week 1 or 2? It seems like almost every other conference does this. It allows their teams to not have to run a gauntlet of a schedule, and allows for some early exposure of big marque games on National Television early in the season. The SEC does it, and they've had the last 6 National Titles. Seems like they may be on to something by letting their teams have a break later in the season rather than have them try to run a gauntlet schedule.

Adam Rittenberg: Kyle, I completely agree that the Big Ten should do this as soon as possible (the schedules are set through 2016, so it'd be the 2017 season). Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema has been the most vocal advocate to have some league games earlier. He wants the Big Ten to mirror the SEC's scheduling model, which creates some buzz early in the season with a handful of league games, and also gives teams a bit of a break later in the season with a non-league opponent. He told me in July, "They [the SEC] front-load the schedule. I saw they released their September games, and everyone goes gaga over those games. Well, we could have the same effect if the Big Ten would play them in September." Wisconsin and Purdue moved their 2013 game from Oct. 26 to Sept. 21.

Former Illinois coach Ron Zook also was in favor of this, and several athletic directors I've talked with see the benefits. The Big Ten doesn't benefit from weeks with only 1-2 decent non-league games, and while the overall quality of non-league scheduling is improving in the league, it'd be nice to see 1-2 league contests on the second, third and fourth Saturdays of the season. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany recently told a Nebraska radio program that he's open to the idea of scheduling league games earlier, so I think there's a decent chance this happens.

Matt from Midway, N.C., writes: Adam, last year no Buckeye receiver had more than 14 receptions. Already, Corey "Philly" Brown has 7 receptions after just 1 game. What are realistic expections for the Buckeye recievers this year and does Brown have a real chance of being an elite receiver in the B1G this year?

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, the expectations should be much higher for not only Brown but the entire Buckeyes receiving corps. Their numbers undoubtedly will go up after last season, and it wouldn't surprise me if Ohio State ended up with three players recording 30 or more receptions this fall. Brown, Devin Smith and Jake Stoneburner should end up being quarterback Braxton Miller's top targets this season. Players like Evan Spencer are in the mix as well. Let's give it a few more weeks to see if Brown is Miller's No. 1 target/possession guy. But if Brown keeps up this production against better competition, he'll be in the mix for postseason honors, especially at arguably the Big Ten's weakest position.

Jack from Santa Fe, N.M., writes: Two quick questions:1) Are you and Brian going to do the weekly Big Ten podcast this season? They were awesome last year.2) Given that Michigan's coordinators seemed a bit lost, do you think Brady Hoke should have put on a headset at some point and talked to Al Borges about adjusting Michigan's play selection, or gone down the field and talked Greg Mattison about defensive schemes. I doubt this would have made a difference regarding the final result, Alabama was going to win no matter what. However, Michigan's offense and defense looked about the same from the beginning of the game through the end. If you are going to beat Nick Saban, you have to surprise him. Its highly unlikely that you will out-muscle or out-talent Alabama. Plus with the camera-panning to Al Borges, who looked completely flabbergasted, isn't this the time you want to step back and talk things over as a head coach?

Adam Rittenberg: Jack, to answer your first question, yes! We're very excited for the return of the Big Ten podcast this week. We record our first one Wednesday, and it should be posted later that night or Thursday morning. Be sure and tune in, as it'll be an improved version. As for your second question, while it's weird to see a head coach in 2012 who doesn't wear a headset, Hoke knows what he's doing and puts a lot of faith in both Borges and Mattison to do their thing. Neither coordinator is a rookie play-caller, and while I'm sure Hoke has ways of relaying messages, his approach seems fine. I also don't know if you beat Saban by surprising him. Sure, maybe you can once or twice, but if you're completely overmatched at the line of scrimmage, as Michigan was on both sides of the ball, schematics simply aren't going to matter.

Steve from Milwaukee writes: What do you base your power rankings on? Is it which teams you think are the best or which teams are playing the best right now? I remember last year or the year before there was a lot of whining by readers no matter what you did and I don't remember what the final verdict was. If it's how the team is playing right now, how is Wisconsin ahead of OSU after squeaking out a 5 point win at home vs a far inferior team? (especially if so little separates the top few as you say)

Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Steve. After we get a few games into the season, the power rankings really are based on how a given team is performing at the moment. The first few sets of rankings -- which, much like the preseason polls, are utterly useless but fun nonetheless -- are based more on factors like competition, how we feel the teams will eventually end up, etc. We're just trying to get a feel for these teams right now, and at least for me, it takes a few games and ideally a good opponent or two to provide that gauge. When we do, it'll be how teams are performing at that given time. I knew Ohio State fans would be a bit ticked off by today's rankings, but it's based more on facing Miami (Ohio) and the fact that Wisconsin and Michigan both looked stronger entering the season. Now if both the Badgers and Wolverines struggle this week and Ohio State pounds a good Central Florida team, you'll see some movement in the rankings. And you'll see shuffling pretty much every week. Also, we try to match up the Big Ten rankings with our votes in the ESPN.com Top 25. We both had Wisconsin still ahead of Ohio State, and we wanted to be consistent here.

Ryan from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, writes: Hi Adam,Whew that was a wild week 1 for the Big 10! I have a question concerning Iowa and Wisconsin. 1.) Who should be more concerned after week 1? It seems like Iowa's question marks were their strengths and there strengths were their weaknesses. And it looks like Wisconsin just plain let up. Did it seem to you like Iowa kept it pretty plain and simple on offense? I only remember them throwing 1 ball of 15 yards or further down field.. definitely not what I was expecting from our passing game, but I was encouraged with what I saw from Bullock. And the last question I have.. How come Wisconsin didn't get punished in the polls for their narrow escape? Back in 09' when UNI about upset Iowa; Iowa was dropped from the polls and didn't return for about 3 weeks after.. I know its only week 1 and its hard to take a lot away from some of the performances.. But I would like to get your take... AND WE'RE OFF!!

Adam Rittenberg: I'd be a little more concerned about Wisconsin because the Badgers have a higher ceiling than the Hawkeyes and have set their sights on another trip to Pasadena. If certain things don't get tightened up on defense, Wisconsin will have a tough time getting there. Iowa can come away from the opener feeling pretty good about two potential problem areas in running back and defensive line. The Hawkeyes still need much more from James Vandenberg and should put up more than 18 points, but I wasn't discouraged by what I saw from a young team. I agree Iowa needs to stretch the field more and get a few of its wideouts to step up. It will be interesting to see what Greg Davis does this week against Iowa State, which played very good defense in the final three quarters of its win against Tulsa. As for Wisconsin in the polls, I'm a little surprised the Badgers didn't drop more, but it's not as if too many teams directly behind the Badgers had really impressive opening performances. This is a big week for Wisconsin as Oregon State, while certainly not the program it has been in years past, can be very tricky on its home field.

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