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Big Ten mailbag

10/21/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The BCS standings have created quite a stir through Big Ten Nation, and many of you want to talk Ohio State-Penn State and Shonn Greene. Let's get started. Remember to identify your hometowns, people!

John from Parts Unknown writes: Adam, I love the blog and I love the reporting. Your article on Ohio State complaining about not getting any respect is a bad joke though. Ohio State has single-handedly ruined the reputation of one of the best conferences in history and they have the gall to whine about not getting any respect? I do appreciate that you mention PSU doesn't have the same big-game stigma associated with it, but if the Lions don't go perfect they get shut out of the NC game, and why? Because of Ohio State's performance in the last two years. It's their fault that ten other schools are looked down on, and frankly, they need to be shut up. I hope Penn State dominates them, if only so that we can finally turn the page on this embarrasing chapter in Big11Ten history.

Adam Rittenberg: You hit on the point I was trying to get across in that post. Ohio State has been an excellent team by most accounts in recent years, but its performance in big games has really damaged the Big Ten's reputation. Other factors certainly have contributed, namely Michigan's struggles and Penn State's inability to build off the Orange Bowl win. The exciting thing for Chris Wells, Malcolm Jenkins and the Buckeyes is they still have a chance to change their own reputation and boost the league's image. But the best-case scenario for the Big Ten calls for Penn State to win out and reach the BCS title game and Ohio State to go to the Rose Bowl.


Kim from Louisville, Ky., writes: It seems that, despite their current records, stats, BCS rank, and point spread, everyone in the media is picking Ohio State over Penn State this weekend. I know that PSU has never won in Columbus, but it is bound to happen eventually, and this Penn State team is special. My theory is that the media secretly liked the story lines of the 2007 season with all the 1- and 2-loss teams, and want a 1-loss SEC team in the title game over an undefeated Big 10 team. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: That's an interesting theory, Kim, but I'd counter with the argument that the media dislikes Ohio State more than it wants a 1-loss SEC team in the title game. I'm sure a portion of the pollsters would love to see Penn State win on Saturday, effectively eliminating Ohio State from the top 10. Any faint possibilities of the Buckeyes reaching a third straight title game also would be gone at that point. I'd say most of those picking Ohio State are going off the Buckeyes' strong performance against Michigan State and their home record against Penn State.


Scott from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: I know you're a Big Ten blogger, so you may be biased, but is Shonn Greene one of the top 5, if not the best running back in the nation right now?

Adam Rittenberg: I'm biased only in the sense that I've watched Greene all season, while many national media members are only getting wind of him now. Greene is certainly one of the nation's top running backs, and he can strengthen his case with a big performance against Penn State on Nov. 8. I've talked with several Big Ten defenders who hated trying to tackle this guy, and his yards-per-carry average (6.52) is stunning given how Iowa has so few weapons on offense.


Teddy from Decatur, Ill., writes: If Juice Williams stays, which he should, is he a front runner for the Heisman next year? The man is an absolute beast.

Adam Rittenberg: Juice will definitely be in the mix for the Heisman as a senior. He has answered his critics this season and made major strides as a passer. I remember seeing him as a freshman, when he completed less than 40 percent of his passes and gunned the ball at receivers standing only 10 yards away. He has much better touch on his passes and consistently makes better decisions. Illinois needs to win more for Juice to be a serious candidate, but he certainly has the numbers to warrant consideration in 2009.


Brandon from Chicago writes: "It's wise to never pick Michigan State in a big game..." Seriously? How about Penn State at home last year (2007) in order to secure a bowl bid for MSU? How about #10 Notre Dame in 2005 (or most of the last 10 years)? Wins over UM in 99 and 02? You're pretty down on MSU for losing to a more talented team. Granted, they played tight and were blown out, but that does not mean that MSU never wins big games. Reporting does not need to involve stereotyping, especially when this is a completely different organization than when John L Smith was around.

Adam Rittenberg: Brandon, do you really want me to list all the big games Michigan State has lost? All the times the Spartans have teased their fans with great starts, only to let them down? I'll give you Penn State last season as a nice, solid win to secure bowl eligibility, but the 2005 Notre Dame win was shortly followed by the Michigan loss (34-31) and then John L.'s halftime meltdown against Ohio State. The win against Michigan in 2001 was followed by three straight losses. The win against Michigan in 1999 was followed by two straight losses. I do agree that Mark Dantonio is changing the attitude at Michigan State, but his team's performance against Ohio State looked like previous Spartans squads.


Jordan from Bloomington, Ind., writes: I know a couple weeks ago you said the Hoosiers would most likely not fire Bill Lynch after this season, but you have to agree every loss is looking more like that should be taking place in the off season. I agree injuries have played their role this season, but if you watch the lack of discipline on this team you have to agree cutting ties with Lynch is the best option. I know their isn't a ton of money to play with in the IU coaching department, but bringing in a Brady Hoke or a Butch Jones.

Adam Rittenberg: Indiana has a tough call to make with Lynch, but I keep going back to the fact that there's no athletic director -- one could be hired very soon -- and more important, Indiana owes Kelvin Sampson and Tom Crean tons of money. There's no doubt the Hoosiers have been a major disappointment on the field, and confidence could come into play down the stretch with the possibility of a bowl game essentially gone. But there have been a lot of injuries there, and James Hardy's departure really stings. I still think Lynch gets another year to turn things around.


Brett from Bloomington, Ill. writes: Adam - Illinois 7th in the Big 10 power rankings? Really? Sure they have been inconsistent, but do you really believe that 6 other teams in the Big 10 are better than they are?

Adam Rittenberg: You hit on the main reason why the Illini are seventh -- inconsistency. Do I think Illinois will be seventh in the end-of-year power rankings? No way. Illinois could be as high as third or fourth, but right now, there's been too much inconsistency on the defensive side to rank the Illini higher. If the defense can build off its performance against Indiana and the offense continues to surge behind Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn, Illinois will climb up the rankings.


Hoose from Cleveland writes: What more does Terrelle Pryor need to do to prove himself to the national media? I've never seen a true freshman get thrown to the wolves and scrutinized as much as him.

Adam Rittenberg: Don't know if I qualify as national media, but Pryor doesn't need to prove much more to me. His poise on the road is incredible for a true freshman quarterback, and he has handled things much better than many thought he would. The knock on Pryor entering the season was his maturity and his ability to grasp and execute the system. He has succeeded in those areas and blossomed into a team leader who inspires confidence in those around him. Handling expectations and criticism will be a challenge for Pryor throughout his college career, but to this point he has cleared every hurdle.


Brent from Westland, Mich., writes: Why wouldn't Kirk Cousins get the chance. He moved the offense better than I have seen Hoyer move it all year. The decision to go back to Hoyer is a slap in the face to Cousins. I don't get it. Hoyer has not been the leader we need as much as people think he has. Yeah, he's a senior, but he's gone after this. Give Cousins the chance to start, if he fails, put your senior back in. It just doesn't make sense. I truly believe Cousins is much more accurate than Hoyer and that could lead to an easier time for Ringer every week.... What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: Cousins did a nice job against Ohio State, and his personality will translate well to a leadership role in 2009 (if he beats out Keith Nichol). But Michigan State has done well with Hoyer at quarterback and shouldn't change things up after one bad game. In Wisconsin's case, I understand the need to plan for the future and play Dustin Sherer and Scott Tolzien instead of fifth-year senior Allan Evridge. But Michigan State could be hurt by a quarterback switch at this point. Hoyer's accuracy is a concern, but I would stick with him a while longer.


Tim from Madison, Wis., writes: After reading a little of the Pac 10 blog this weekend, do you think you could provide a comprehensive injury update post on Friday or Saturday? Otherwise, between you and The O-Zone (Buckeyes online news source), the two of you fill my need for every piece of Buckeye information one needs (even when living in the land of a devil.) Thanks, and keep up the great work!

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks for the note, Tim. Ted Miller does a great job with the day-of-game injury reports, and I'll make sure to include one for the Big Ten every Saturday from here on out. I try to get to as many injury updates during the week, but a comprehensive list is a good call for game day.


Kyle from Palo Alto, Calif., writes: Can Iowas Greene get some love in the next Heisman update? The guy is the best back hands down in the country and if it werent for a couple blow outs by Iowa he would be on pace to rush for 2000 yards. It is a joke that Ringer is even considered for the Heisman before Greene, look at the carries comparison in relation to yards. Ringer has padded his stats against joke opponents. It's time for Greene to get some serious consideration.

Adam Rittenberg: I included Shonn Greene in my Heisman Watch for this week, and by the look of the voting, so did one of my ESPN.com colleagues. The more Greene produces, the more he'll get noticed nationally. But it hurt him that he spent a year away from the program and was an unknown outside of Iowa entering the season. I don't share your opinion about Javon Ringer, who has carried his team much like Greene has this season, but right now Greene has the more impressive numbers. His four touchdowns against Wisconsin really helped his season stat line.