Big Ten mailblog

Let's do this ...

Bill from Plowville, Pa., writes: After the OSU-Neb game, I felt OSU had a good chance of going undefeated, with their only remaining contest to endanger that prospect coming at PSU. With PSU, Wisc, and UM all apparently beginning to hit their full stride (on top of OSU showing some major issues against Indiana and Purdue), what do you think the chances are that OSU finishes the season 9-3?

Adam Rittenberg: Still unlikely, Bill, although Ohio State can't afford to lose Braxton Miller for any extended period, and it must tighten up its defense and special teams. We saw a bit of improvement in those two areas Saturday against Purdue, but the Buckeyes have to start limiting big plays, particularly this week against Penn State. It'll be interesting to see if Wisconsin and/or Michigan has clinched a spot in Indianapolis before facing Ohio State. If so, I think it definitely favors the Buckeyes, particularly in the Michigan game, which is in Columbus and basically serves as Ohio State's bowl. I never really thought Ohio State would run the table, and I don't think it'll happen. But I also don't see the Buckeyes stumbling that badly down the stretch.

Justin from B1G fans besides Wisconsin writes: Adam I expected better from you! Since Wisconsin's offense became productive after the Nebraska game, the 3 teams they played give up 425 total yards and 261 rush yards on average per game in league play! So yes the offense may be improving but lets not jump the gun. Why not hold off and see how they do against a decent defense in Michigan State?

Adam Rittenberg: Justin, I pointed this out in the post -- "Wisconsin hasn't exactly faced a series of top defenses: only Minnesota ranks in the top 30 nationally. The tests get tougher down the stretch, beginning Saturday against Michigan State (No. 5 in total defense)." So yes, the opposition hasn't been great, but Wisconsin wasn't getting it done against so-so defenses earlier in the season, either. Northern Iowa is terrible this year (2-5), and Wisconsin only managed 167 rush yards on 47 carries. UTEP ranks 94th nationally in total defense, and it took a while for Wisconsin to get going against the Miners. Is this the same Badgers offense we saw in 2010 and 2011? No. But it has improved a lot from the first month of the season. That's not disputable.

Charlie from Chicago writes: Hi Adam, Can you start doing the rooting interest series soon? Also could you maybe post a refresher on the league's tie-breakers? It seems like these are going to be particularly relevant in the Legends division.

Adam Rittenberg: Charlie, we'll fire up the rooting interests post soon, although it won't be nearly as interesting this year because the likelihood of a Big Ten team getting a BCS at-large bid is very slim. It'll all about the division races and the Rose Bowl, and the Leaders Division is nearly decided as Wisconsin is in firm command with both Ohio State and Penn State ineligible. As for the Big Ten tiebreakers, here you go.

The following seven methods will be used, in order, to determine a champion or reduce the group to two teams, where a head-to-head tiebreaker then can be used:

  • Records of the tied teams are compared with each other

  • Records of the tied teams are compared within the division

  • Records of the teams are compared against the next-highest teams within the division

  • Records are compared against all common conference opponents

  • The team ranked highest in the BCS standings after the regular season goes to the league championship game unless it is ranked within one spot of another tied team. In this case, the head-to-head result of the two teams determines the division champion

  • The team with the highest overall win percentage (outside of exempted games)

  • The division champion will be chosen by random draw

Hope this helps.

Steve from Milwaukee writes: Why does OSU get ALL the blame for their sloppy win (they deserve most of it)? I know Purdue is coming off two horrendous games, but don't they get some credit for refocusing and putting on a very strong performance? I believe they only had 1 penalty and were +3 in turnovers. Before their previous two games they were considered a contender whom, everyone conveniently forgets, had also taken ND to the brink. The Buckeyes recent failures against Purdue have been all about near-perfect games from Purdue and too many turnovers by OSU -- both sides deserve credit for both their success and failures.

Adam Rittenberg: Steve, you're right that Purdue deserves credit for bouncing back from the two blowouts and playing well for stretches on both sides of the ball. As Boilers coach Danny Hope said today, Purdue played with nothing to lose at Ohio State, "firing out of both holsters." And for the most part, Purdue played a clean game. But Purdue also made some of the crippling mistakes we've seen too often under Hope. It should have been up by way more than six points at halftime. The blocked extra point and blocked field goal simply can't happen in a game like that. And at the end, the Boilers only needed to stop Buckeyes backup QB Kenny Guiton. They couldn't.

Ian from the Great Pacific Northwest writes: Adam, I religiously read the blog and agree with most things you say (same goes for BB). However, I must call shenanigans on your latest top 25 rankings. How do you justify dropping Ohio State two spots after a thrilling OT win with their backup QB, yet you keep perenially overrated Notre Dame at 5th after a yawn-inducing performance against a VERY below-average BYU team? Oh, and did we forget that Notre Dame beat this same Purdue team by a whopping THREE points? Sorry, I think your rankings are a little hypocritical. Let's be consistent, please!

Adam Rittenberg: Ian, maybe two spots was a little harsh, but Ohio State hasn't looked like a Top 10 football team the past two weeks. The Buckeyes played no defense against Indiana and weren't exactly dominating Purdue before Miller's injury. While Notre Dame didn't look great, either, in an obvious trap game, the Irish have played a much tougher schedule than Ohio State so far. The NCAA rates Notre Dame's schedule 29th nationally based on cumulative opposition, while Ohio State's ranks 63rd. They've played two common opponents: Purdue and Michigan State. Both struggled with the Boilers, while Notre Dame crushed Michigan State by 17 points at Spartan Stadium, a place where Ohio State won by one. Bottom line: Notre Dame has earned the right to stay where it is despite a so-so performance. Ohio State, meanwhile, needs to start playing better in a hurry, beginning this week at Penn State.

Cody from Saginaw, Mich., writes: Adam how are you going to rank Penn St. one spot above Michigan?? Michigan lost to 2 TOP 5 TEAMS! Who did Penn St. lose too?? 2-6 Virgina and that other Ohio Team who is in the MAC conference (Real Prestigious). Michigan is playing hands down best defense in the conference, with the 2011 offensive player of the year under center. It's probably for the better that you don't get a real vote. Defend yourself Mr. Rittenberg!!

Adam Rittenberg: With pleasure, Cody. As I've stated numerous times over the years with the power rankings, it's all about what you've done lately. The power rankings are a snapshot of how a team is performing right now. They are designed to change and will change every week. Penn State moving ahead of Michigan had more to do with Penn State than Michigan. The Lions have been getting better and better, and it culminated with a 38-14 road win at Iowa, something you don't see very often. Penn State looks more impressive than Michigan right now, and the Wolverines were very fortunate to win on their home field Saturday. Maybe the tables turn this week as Michigan has a signature opportunity on the road against Nebraska, while Penn State faces Ohio State at Beaver Stadium. But in terms of the power rankings, it doesn't matter who you played in Week 1 or Week 2 or Week 3 at this point. It's all about what you've done lately.

Josh from Nebraska writes: How do you think a conference championship would affect Nebraska's recruiting. Do you think it would lure in some bigger recruits or is Nebraska just out of luck because of their location.

Adam Rittenberg: It definitely would help, Josh. A Rose Bowl win might help even more because of how well Nebraska has recruited in California, where the game takes place. But as Nebraska tries to break in with more Big Ten recruits from the league's footprint, the opportunity to sell a program that won its first league title since 1999 is definitely beneficial. Nebraska still needs to recruit nationally, but recruits want to win championships and play in big-time bowl games. If the Huskers can show that, they'll reap the rewards.

Lance from Greensboro, N.C., writes: How did you guys go 5-0 and 3-2 when you picked six games? I'd expect this from Bennett, but you went to a B1G school! :-)

Adam Rittenberg: D'oh! I did attend a Big Ten school, but I can assure you I didn't major in math. Post has been fixed and records updated.