A few questions and answers before the weekend. It's good to be back on the road again, as I'm headed today to East Lansing.
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To the inbox ...
Nick T. from Columbus, Ohio, writes: With the impending Oregon-Stanford game, if Stanford wins will they jump over Ohio State?
Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Nick. Brian Bennett and I recently talked about whether Ohio State truly needs style points. He argued that style points don't really matter for the Buckeyes if Alabama, Oregon and Florida State don't start losing. And that's probably right. But style points would mean more, in my view, if Ohio State is competing with one-loss teams for a spot in the national title game. Stanford obviously would be the main threat, as the Cardinal are right behind Ohio State in the BCS standings and have similar computer numbers (the Buckeyes are fourth in computer average; Stanford is fifth). Stanford also likely would rise into the top five in the human polls with a win against Oregon. So yes, it's possible Stanford would jump ahead of Ohio State at some point despite one loss.
OLSM from Cullowhee, N.C., writes: Do you think MSU defensive stars don't get as much national recognition for awards by the fact that there are so many good defensive players on their team vs. other stars on other teams (Shazier and Borland) who don't have as many complementary players around them...I think it would be safe to say a player like Bullough would have more stats if say Denicos Allenn and Shilique Calhoun were not on the team.
Adam Rittenberg: Some fair points here. I agree that Max Bullough is underrated nationally and doesn't get enough recognition for being the nerve center of the Big Ten's best defense and arguably the nation's best unit. Michigan State hasn't had enough marquee games to draw the attention of people around the country. If you watch the Spartans regularly, you appreciate what Bullough does. His stats aren't as gaudy as Borland's or Shazier's, but his value is undeniable. I would say Calhoun has jumped out the most this year because of his big-play ability. That probably has taken some attention away from Bullough, but if Bullough keeps performing well down the stretch, he'll get his due.
Tyler from Minnesota writes: Regarding Venric Mark's medical redshirt, I thought it was only an option for an early season ending injury. If anything, this situation comes across as abusing the medical redshirt because he would be healthy enough to compete in games later this season.
Adam Rittenberg: Tyler, you hit on a key point here, whether he would be able to return later this season. I'm not sure he would, as his latest injury, while undisclosed, is clearly more serious than the hamstring issue that limited him after the Cal game. He hasn't played in more than 30 percent of Northwestern's games, and he has played in games only during the first half of the season. So if this latest injury is severe and Mark couldn't return, I would expect him to receive a redshirt, as long as he wants one. That's the big thing here -- whether Mark wants to move on or return at 100 percent for a fifth season.
Steve from Coronado, Calif., writes: Adam,While we have all said that November was going to be the proving ground for the B1G Legends division, is it possible that UofM and Nebraska's early conference L's have made it less of than the billing? Would you agree that there are some very plausible scenarios where MSU could lose to both UofM and Neb and still got to the B1G championship game? My wager still stands with you and Brian, beers at Coronado Brew Co. on you guys when Sparty shows up in Indy!
Adam Rittenberg: Did we make that wager? My memory seems to be failing me. Do you have proof? I agree that the earlier-than-expected losses by both Michigan and Nebraska -- combined with Northwestern flatlining in October -- have taken some luster off of the Legends division race. Michigan State can take a huge step toward Indianapolis by beating Michigan on Saturday. I agree that a loss to Michigan isn't the end of the world, but if Nebraska gets its season on course again and beats Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State, it would have the tiebreaker against the Spartans with remaining games at Penn State and against Iowa. Michigan State certainly has the easiest crossover schedule between the three, as the Spartans don't face Ohio State, Wisconsin or Penn State. My sense is that Michigan State can afford to lose to either Michigan or Nebraska, but possibly not both.
Brian from Portland, Ore., writes: Hey Adam - targeting rule question for you. Does the targeting rule also apply to offensive players? Noticed during the Ohio State - Penn State game last weekend, that Penn State DE Barnes got blindsided high by Ohio State OL Hall. Could that or should that have been a targeting call?
Adam Rittenberg: Targeting can be called against offensive players, Brian, and Big Ten officiating chief Bill Carollo said this week that officials must be aware that the fouls can go both ways. Marcus Hall didn't appear to launch himself into Deion Barnes, using his hands to make contact. The contact was above Barnes' shoulders, and Barnes didn't see it coming, but I don't think plays like that will draw targeting penalties for the most part.
Kyle from Denton, Texas, writes: As a Husker fan... I'm tired of Taylor Martinez. There seems to always be an excuse as to why we didn't win with him at QB. He always seems to be "hurt" when we lose. Am I the only one that thinks this? And, is Bo digging his grave? If Taylor was hurt why did he continue to play him? If he wasn't healthy in the first place why did he start him? Bo kinda worked himself into a corner here and it seems like their making excuses now.
Adam Rittenberg: Kyle, understand your frustration, although you should acknowledge that Martinez played a significant role in Nebraska reaching league title games in 2010 and 2012. It does seem like his injuries linger. He said the ankle injury he suffered midway through the 2010 season continued to bother him in 2011 and impact his throwing mechanics. The toe injury that continues to bother him now occurred in Nebraska's season opener Aug. 31, nearly two months ago. Martinez also had a shoulder injury from the opener, and now a hip pointer from the Minnesota game. He's clearly not the same quarterback when unable to run.
Pelini was frustrated Monday when discussing Martinez's situation, saying, "If he looks me in the eye and says, 'Yes, I'm ready to go,' then I felt at some point we needed to give him the opportunity to get back out there and play." Pelini later added, "I'm not going to sit here and play this game all year long." It's hard to blame Pelini for trusting Martinez when he asked the quarterback how he felt. Then again, no one should be surprised that Martinez, a senior, wanted to play. It's a tough situation, but Pelini is ready to move forward with Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Ron Kellogg III at quarterback if Martinez doesn't get healthy.
David from Columbus writes: Adam, Let's say that Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, and Ohio State indeed all go undefeated. Assuming rankings stay the same as they are now, then Alabama and Oregon are playing in the Championship and Ohio State is going to the Rose. What are the chances of the Rose Bowl selecting an undefeated FSU instead of the Pac-12 runner-up? Or even another BCS bowl game pairing FSU and OSU together?
Adam Rittenberg: Not happening, David. If the Rose Bowl doesn't get the Big Ten champ and Pac-12 champs but can select at-large teams from those leagues -- remember, teams must be in the top 14 of the final BCS standings to be eligible -- it will do so. I can't see the Rose Bowl passing up the traditional Big Ten vs. Pac-12 matchup for its 100th game on Jan. 1. Also, we're presuming Florida State wins the ACC, and if so, it automatically will go to the Orange Bowl. As much fun as it would be to see Ohio State and Florida State match up, the only way it happens this year is in the BCS national title game. That will require losses by both Oregon and Alabama.
Samuel from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: There it is Adam: "but I like Indiana coming off of the open week to win on its home field." If bye weeks helping teams is a "fan myth", why mention Indiana is coming off an open week, as if that matters
Adam Rittenberg: I see what you did there, Samuel. I'll admit I'm guilty of throwing in the open week with some statements made in the blog, but the main reason I picked Indiana is the urgency of the Hoosiers' situation. They have five games left, need three to get bowl eligible and must visit both Wisconsin and Ohio State. The three home games -- Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue -- all are must wins, and I think Indiana comes into this one with the right mind-set. The bye week thing isn't a huge factor, although the fact IU came out of its first open week and beat Penn State convincingly is potentially a good sign.