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Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Big Ten mailblog

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Send me your questions and comments for Friday's mailblog. And don't forget to follow me on Twitter.

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Nate from New York writes: Adam, MSU, OSU and UW finish at 7-1, OSU goes to the Rose Bowl by finishing as the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings. Fine. But then you're telling me the Sugar/Orange picks MSU over UW? Really? UW will have the higher BCS ranking, travels quite a bit better, and has the bigger national name. The Sugar/Orange execs are going to turn that down to pick MSU because of head-to-head? Really?

Adam Rittenberg: The bowl folks do some odd things, Nate, but Michigan State hasn't been to a BCS bowl since before the BCS started (1988 Rose Bowl). Last year's Iowa-Penn State situation showed that head-to-head results mean something, and I wouldn't discount Michigan State's ability to travel, especially after a long lull with the major bowls. Could the Sugar/Orange/Fiesta pick Wisconsin ahead of Michigan State? Sure. Wisconsin would be the hotter team with the higher ranking. But my sense is the bowl would see two good choices and go with the team that won the head-to-head matchup.


Brad from Chicago writes: We can learn a lot by how a team responds to a loss. This weekend, two Big Ten squads -- Iowa and Northwestern -- lost very close, hard-fought games that could easily have gone either way. Both face (in my mind, anyway) must-win games this weekend -- Iowa hosts MSU, and NU plays at IU. Iowa needs to win out if it is to have a chance at a share of the conference title, and NU needs to put away the teams that it should beat in order to ensure a bowl spot. How do you see the Hawkeyes and Wildcats responding?

Adam Rittenberg: Brad, totally agree with what you write. Huge games for both teams. I'd expect Iowa to respond well. The Hawkeyes know this is it for them: another loss and they're out of the Big Ten race and facing a disappointing season, given the preseason expectations. Michigan State has the mojo, but I still think Iowa boasts a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and a quarterback in Ricky Stanzi playing at another level right now. Northwestern also should respond well, given recent history. Pat Fitzgerald always does a better job of focusing his team for road games, and the Wildcats have fewer holes than the Hoosiers. But Indiana's passing game should concern Northwestern, and the Wildcats shouldn't expect Ben Chappell to struggle as much as he did against Illinois. Should be two interesting matchups on Saturday.


Joel from Bismarck, N.D., writes: Your current discussions on bowl projections are various themes of Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan State winning out or Michigan State going 7-1, with the loss coming this weekend at Iowa. Besides the remaining matchups within this group (Iowa-Michigan State, Iowa-Ohio State), of the remaining schedule, which teams are most likely to give the above 4 another loss (or in the case of Michigan State, its first loss)? For Iowa I would say Northwestern, just because of recent history. For the others I think it would be easiest to pass on judgment until Michigan-Penn State this weekend, but I'd be interested in your take at this point.

Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Joel. Northwestern certainly has given Iowa fits in recent years, so the Nov. 13 trip to Evanston could be tricky for the Hawkeyes. Wisconsin's trip to Michigan on Nov. 20 is another one that could shake things up, given the Badgers' recent struggles in the state of Michigan. Wisconsin hasn't won in Ann Arbor since 1994. Michigan State's regular-season finale at Penn State could be very interesting, especially if the Spartans are going for a perfect season. What if it's Joe Paterno's final home game at Beaver Stadium? The Nittany Lions will be playing for something at that stage. Ohio State also has to play Penn State and Michigan, although the Buckeyes could be heavy favorites in both games.


David from Pasadena, Calif., writes: I dont kid myself in thinking my Nittany Lions still have a chance to get out here to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl (which is only 3 miles from my apartment) BUT I am hoping they can get to the Insight Bowl which would be an easy drive for me. Your most recent bowl projections have them in the Texas Bowl. Any chance the Insight Bowl can get them? Would they need to finish 7-5? Would 6-6 do it? The Insight Bowl is run by the Fiesta Bowl folks whom have had a good history with Penn State. Finally this may very well be JoePa's last game, wouldn't they want to get him into the highest bowl possible?

Adam Rittenberg: The Insight Bowl would love to have Penn State, and quite frankly, which bowl wouldn't? Penn State has a large fan base that shows up in force for bowls, and you have the JoePa factor, so it's an easy match. I do think, though, that the Lions will need to get to 7-5 to have a chance at the Insight Bowl. Penn State won't catch Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa, and I expect Illinois to finish with at least seven wins and possibly eight or even nine. And then you have Michigan, another school the bowls really covet after a two-year hiatus. While a 6-6 Penn State team could get to Arizona for the Insight, the safe bet is to win seven games. Beating Michigan on Saturday night would be huge.


Steve from Belmont, Mich., writes: I was wondering why game times and TV haven't been announced for the games on Nov. 6th. Is there an 'official' reason?

Adam Rittenberg: Yep, there is. ABC/ESPN exercised its six-day selection right for the games of Nov. 6. This allows the networks to wait until after this week's games are complete before making its selection for the 3:30 p.m. ET telecast on Nov. 6. After this selection is made, ESPN and the Big Ten Network will select the remaining four games, all of which will kick off at noon ET. So hang tight until after Saturday's games. The selections must be made before Monday.


Jon K. from Stamford, Conn., writes: Hey Adam--Die hard badger fan here. Love the blog and can never get enough Big 10 news/updates.I have a question about your BCS breakdown for Wisconsin, and I guess the Big 10 BCS breakdown in general.In your article, you state the obvious best case scenario for Wisconsin would be for them to win out and have Michigan State lose twice.However, I believe that your "second best" scenario, having both Wisconsin and Michigan State winning out is inaccurate.Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't the Badgers prefer the Hawkeyes to win out, meaning they would have victories over both Michigan State and Ohio State, pushing the Buckeyes out of the BCS picture, and leaving a 3 way tie (assuming the Badgers handle their business) atop the Big 10 with Iowa, Wisconsin, and Mich St. all having one loss. Then, in this scenario, the head to head tie breaker would be a wash, and the team with the highest BCS ranking would go to the Rose Bowl.Am I missing something here?Go Badgers!

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Jon. You're missing one step in the tiebreaker rules. In a three-way tie with Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State, since each team has a victory over the other, the first tiebreaker is overall winning percentage. Iowa would have an inferior overall record (10-2) to both Wisconsin and Michigan State (11-1), so the Hawkeyes would be eliminated. The two-team tiebreaker rules then go into effect and since Michigan State holds the head-to-head advantage against Wisconsin, the Spartans would go to the Rose Bowl.


Ethan from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Rittenberg!You give us a Big Red update every week. How about a quick update about someone else (hopefully) coming back to the Big Ten next year: Duron Carter. I'd like to see him opposite Corey Brown for a few years!

Adam Rittenberg: Ethan, ask nicely and you shall receive. Carter, the former Ohio State receiver, is having an outstanding season for Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. Carter leads Coffeyville with 34 receptions for 589 yards and 10 touchdowns, an average of 84.1 yards per game and 17.3 yards per catch. He'd certainly help Ohio State if he returns next year, but he's also reportedly considering other schools.