Big Ten mailbag: Heisman chances for Big Ten backs

October, 4, 2008
10/04/08
11:43
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

I didn't get a chance to have the regular Friday mailbag, so here are a few items before the early kickoffs.

Andy from Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: Michigan has a very capable running back in Sam McGuffie who I think will be the future of the position. However, we have seen Brandon Minor break several large runs this year and Carlos Brown has also exhibited great speed. Why is Rich Rod not giving our veteran running backs a little better look out there? Do you think he should be working them into the slot position, direct snaps, etc...? It seems like a bit of a waste of talent. Thanks!

Adam Rittenberg: Rodriguez saw last week the benefit of having multiple running backs in the game. Junior Kevin Grady provided a big lift in short-yardage situations, and Minor had the big touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Brown won't be available today with a sprained foot, but Minor, Grady and Michael Shaw should see time alongside McGuffie. You're absolutely right. Michigan needs its veteran running backs in the game, even if McGuffie is the future. Both Brown and Minor have value, and they both should be used more as the season progresses.


Brian from Baltimore writes: How arrogant is Beanie Wells that he could even think for a minute that he can win the Heisman? Even in the games he's played in, he hasn't posted Heisman worthy numbers.

Adam Rittenberg: Wells might come off that way, but I see it as confidence more than anything, which is never bad. He wants to carry the load for this team, and quite frankly, Ohio State needed someone to step up after the first few games. It will be nearly impossible for Wells to even be in the Heisman discussion, but he still believes he's one of the best players int the country, and more important, so do his teammates. Beanie Wells is the best leader on that team, not the seniors.


Bob from Parts Unknown writes: Adam As you cover the Big 10 - doesnt the completion percentage of Brian Hoyer depend on the receivers helping catch balls in the game. I have watched all the games and certainly there are incomplete passes....but also too many drops from a young receiving corps - something the media all questioned going into the season. So isn't Hoyer overall performance a bit better than his stats show.

Adam Rittenberg: Dropped passes are definitely a factor for Michigan State and several other teams (Wisconsin), but it would take an awful lot of drops to put the completion percentage at 46.5 percent. To his credit, Hoyer hasn't made a lot of mistakes, just two interceptions in 157 pass attempts, but I just can't see Michigan State making a serious run at the Big Ten title without its quarterback completing better than 50 percent of his passes. Hoyer manages a game very well, but he's got to make more plays. Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham are solid receivers and should be used more.


Brian from McKinney, Texas, writes: First, I want to say I love your blog I read it at work... I mean at home all the time. My question is: While the Penn State's offense did look exceptional in the first five games of the season. The defense, espcially the Linebackers looked frustrating to me... I know I'm being picky but I expect more from Liebacker U. Do you think it will be a future issue for Penn State? How much are they missing Sean Lee right now?

Adam Rittenberg: No worries, Brian, your secret is safe with me (and tens of thousands of your closest friends). It seems like Josh Hull is taking a lot of heat for his play last week against Illinois, but I would give the linebackers a little more time before passing judgment. Losing Sean Lee was a major blow, and we all knew it would be. Navorro Bowman has stepped up, but I thought we'd see more of Chris Colasanti. Then again, Bowman recently said Colasanti still needs some time to ripen. If there's a weakness on this team, it's the defensive back seven, but they should improve as the year goes on.


Robin from Grand Haven, Mich., writes: Hey Adam, i was just wondering. What are the chances of Javon Ringer winning the heisman? I mean i know that if he keeps it up and has good games against penn state and ohio state, but, what if the spartans dont win those games? I'm not too sure that people look into the best player in NCAA unless they are on a decent team. Now dont get me wrong im a diehard spartan fan and always will be, and michigan state is on the rise. And that leads to my next question which would be if you also agree that they will be on the rise, how long do you think it will be before that happens becuz im already seeing progress because in the last couple of years michigan state would have ended up blowing that indiana game and possible the notre dame game. Thank you.

Adam Rittenberg: Ringer needs his team to keep winning to maintain a shot at the Heisman. He'll continue to put up numbers, but if he's gaining 200 yards on 45 carries -- only 4.4 yards per carry -- and the Spartans go on their annual October slide, the Heisman hype will wane. But at this point in the season, no one aside from Connecticut's Donald Brown has done more for his team than Ringer. I'd agree that Michigan State is on the rise, but beating Michigan and getting another signature win -- Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin -- will be key.


Todd from Hutchinson, Kan., writes: Besides the Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan games, what games do you think may give Penn State the hardest time and may even be a trap game?

Adam Rittenberg: A trip to Iowa on Nov. 8 could pose problems for Penn State, which will be coming off a stretch featuring the teams you mention. A lot depends on what Iowa does during the next month. If the losses continue, the heat will rise on Kirk Ferentz and Iowa could lose confidence by the time the Lions come to town. On the other hand, the Hawkeyes could be a desperate team, and with the defense they have, they will test Daryll Clark and Penn State. An upset at Kinnick Stadium isn't out of the question.


Ben from Philadelphia writes: Adam, I guess you didn't get to my questions during today's chat. No Biggie, but its really bothering me the more I think about this. Why is there such a huge gap between Texas and Penn State in the two bcs human polls. 200 in the USA today and 350 in the Harris? I know that we haven't played anyone other than Illinois and Oregon State (I don't know if that one really counts though) but who has Texa
s played? Then I might think well they started out that much higher than Penn State but didn't Penn State start ahead of Alabama who played a good game this past week but I believe they got their huge jump from beating a mediocre Clemson Team? So I just don't understand the pollsters. I know its a long season and everything will work itself out but "quality wins/opponents" are determined by the rankings and I just wanted to see your thoughts and whether or not there is that big of a difference between Texas and Penn State. Thanks again maybe my next question will be about the computer polls because those are even more confusing. Have a great day. And come to happy Valley soon.

Adam Rittenberg: Sorry about that, Ben. Will try to get to you next time. Mack Brown has a knack for getting voters on his side, though it's a little early for that. Texas has played a weaker schedule than Penn State, without a doubt. Arkansas is awful, and Florida Atlantic has been a major disappointment so far. Oregon State has revealed itself to be a pretty good team, and Illinois will do the same soon enough. Although the Big 12 is stronger than the Big Ten, I don't see much of a gap between Texas and Penn State at this point. But like you say, everything will work itself out down the line as the season progresses. But if both teams keep winning, Texas will remain on top because of the strength of the Big 12.


DNebs from Chicago writes: Hey Adam, Just wrote about this on your blog. You and me both know that Illinois' defensive line has been downright awful all year. I was at both home games and the holes those running backs from Eastern and Louisaina Layfayette were running through were HUGE. Zook can say its the safties and LB's fault all he wants, but it starts up front. I dont get it, I know they lost Sirod Williams, but all we heard about all summer was the depth at D-line. Something is up because they shouldnt be this bad. Maybe its just a bunch of bad guys or the coaches are missing something.....but something is wrong. You said what Zook thinks...but what do yout think?

Adam Rittenberg: The defensive line has underperformed, no question about it, but you can't underestimate the value of safeties in run-stopping. Illinois essentially lost the core of its defense with tackle Chris Norwell, middle linebacker J Leman and safeties Justin Harrison and Kevin Mitchell all graduating. The Illini need guys like Bo Flowers, Travon Bellamy and Donsay Hardeman to step up today against Michigan. But you're absolutely right. This line should be much better given the experience coming back.

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