The Big Ten is featured today on ESPN.com (for its nonleague struggles), and we had a chance to talk all about the league in the weekly chat.
Did you happen to miss it? Weak. Actually, it's OK, we can still be friends. Read the full transcript.
And these highlights:
Jeramaiah from Mustache Country: Would you rate Hope's defense top 3 in the league so far this season?
Adam Rittenberg: I'd like to see Purdue go up against a few more quality opponents, but right now, I'd say yes. Michigan State, Purdue and Minnesota are looking like the league's top three defenses. Penn State isn't far behind, and Michigan's defense stepped up nicely against Notre Dame. But I love what Purdue has up front with Short and Gaston in the middle.
Chris from New York: Is this Michigan team under the Hoke regime following the same path the Badgers took when Bielema took over in 2006? Stellar first year record with a bowl victory. Lackluster 2nd year that started with high hopes...
Adam Rittenberg: Not so sure about that, Chris, although the next step would be a really bad year (Wisconsin in 2008). Despite Michigan's loss to ND, I saw signs in that game that the Wolverines could win the Big Ten. The defense played great, and the offensive line started taking control in the second half. Michigan lost the game because of Denard's turnovers, and he has to be more careful with the ball going forward. But I still think Michigan could have a good year. Purdue game is huge next week.
HunterPSU from Chicago: Illinois coach sending 8 assistants to PSU campus has created plenty of blog talk. Many say it was a classless action from a new coach that was really not used to big 10 type scrutiny...what do you say?
Adam Rittenberg: I understand Illinois has a roster issue (80 scholarship players) and needed to address it. But sending eight coaches to State College definitely was overkill. Why not be a little more subtle about it? Especially for a new head coach like Beckman, it didn't send a good message to the other coaches in the league. I've talked to several who have said it was a small-time, bush league move. So while I don't have an issue with recruiting a player who has expressed interest in your team, you don't need to send your entire staff to another team's town.
Chris from Chicago: Quietly, Northwestern's rush defense has been VERY impressive, currently 12th in FBS allowing just 72 ypg. Will their rush defense's improvement make them a tough B1G opponent given the struggles to pass the ball in the Legends division (TMart's past struggles, MSU & UM's struggles this year, Vandenberg's absence as a passing threat, etc.)
Adam Rittenberg: Interesting point, Chris. Northwestern's run defense -- along with rushing offense -- is one of the biggest reasons for the 4-0 start. You're right that the Wildcats aren't in a pass-happy division, although they should be tested Saturday by Indiana's pass game. Taylor Martinez looks like a much improved player and, unlike most Big Ten QBs, has the weapons around him to challenge opposing secondaries. We'll see about Michigan and Michigan State, but Michigan has shown some signs of life in the pass game with Gardner, Funchess, etc.
Pat from Detroit: Let's say the B1G absolutely goes off (undefeated/one loss) in the bowls, after sending only one team to the BCS. what is the national narrative? That the B1G turned it around or that we're still a weak league who happened to get lucky? Would the B1G getting one BCS bid overshadow their hypothetical success? Or would the conference rise like a phoenix from the ashes and dominate the news cycle?
Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Pat. I'm a believer that the strength of your bowl lineup doesn't matter in receiving credit or criticism. Leagues that play garbage bowl lineups still get credit when they go 7-1, while the Big Ten gets zero credit for going 3-5 with by far the toughest bowl lineup. So my view is a good bowl record would bring praise to the league, regardless of the lineup. A Rose Bowl win certainly would help, though.
As always, thanks for participating and asking mostly good questions. To those whose questions didn't make the rundown, I say try again next week: same time, same place.