Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Big Ten [Print without images]

Friday, September 19, 2008
Big Ten Friday Mailbag

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Happy Friday to all. Let's see what's on your mind. 

Adam from Phoenix writes: The 2008 Buckeyes look similar to the 2005 Buckeyes. 1.Tressel does not know who to play at quarterback: 2005 - Zwick/Smith & 2008 ? Boeckman/Pryor. 2.The ?pocket? quarterback lost in 2005 (Zwick) and is currently losing in 2008 (Boeckman). 3.A top-tier program won a game against the Buckeyes while Tressel was deciding who to play at quarterback (2005: TX & 2008: USC). 4.The team played much better after Tressel decided to play only one quarterback in 2005 and appears to play much better with Pryor under center in 2008. My picks for the Big Ten: 1. WI 2. PA St 3. OH St

Adam Rittenberg: That's an interesting comparison. I'm sure at this stage, Ohio State would be happy if the mobile quarterback or the pocket quarterback led the team to a BCS bowl win, as Troy Smith did against Notre Dame in 2005. It will be interesting to see how much longer Tressel goes with rotating quarterbacks. My sense is if Terrelle Pryor continues to make progress without making big mistakes, he'll get the keys to the car the rest of the season. Don't count this team out in the Big Ten race by any means, but they have a tough road with trips to Wisconsin, Michigan State and Illinois. 


Brenton from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, writes: Adam, if Iowa lays it on Pittsburgh, a top 25 team at beginning of the season, will that be enough to make them a legitimate Big 10 conteder?

Adam Rittenberg: I'm still kicking myself for putting Pitt in my preseason Top 25. Someone must have spiked all of our drinks. But this would be a very solid road win for Iowa, which really hasn't been tested much on either side of the ball this season. The Hawkeyes can solidify their quarterback position with a strong road performance, and an already confident defense will gain another boost by containing LeSean McCoy. I wouldn't put Iowa in the Big Ten title mix just yet. If the Hawks beat Michigan State on the road and Wisconsin at home Oct. 18, then we'll talk. 


Ron from Jacksonville, Fla., writes: Hey grew up with Kellen Lewis down here in the Jacksonville area and just wondering why he doesnt get some of the national pub that some other B10 Qb's get?( ala painter, Juice, Boeckman) He's put up better numbers then Juice and Boeckman. Put up simliar numbers to Painter's, and beat him head to head last season.

Adam Rittenberg: Ron, the easy answer is that he plays for Indiana, which has only become relevant again in recent years. For what it's worth, I ranked Lewis as the league's top quarterback entering the season and think highly of his speed and playmaking ability. Curtis Painter will set a ton of records before he's finished and plays for a team known for passing and big offensive numbers, so he'll probably get more pub than Lewis. But if Indiana starts strong -- a good possibility with the schedule -- and Lewis continues to put up big numbers, people will start to take notice. The Antwaan Randle El comparisons are certainly legitimate.


Ray from Chicago writes: The Wildcats appear to have trouble scoring touchdowns in the redzone, particularly last week against the Salukis. Northwestern is not a deep-pass team, so one would think that play calling inside the red zone would not be different that their regular game plan. Is Fitz calling the right plays or are the players failing to execute?

Adam Rittenberg: Ray, this has been a problem with Northwestern's spread offense for a number of years. They move the ball great between the 20's but struggle to punch it in the end zone. It's a big-yards, little-points offense. The red-zone issues cost the Wildcats last year against Duke when they couldn't convert four chances inside the 10-yard line. You're right about the short-pass-oriented attack, and it really should work better in the red zone. Wideout Ross Lane has emerged as a big target for C.J. Bacher down there, but the biggest problem historically has been the inability to run the ball in short-yardage situations. Northwestern is a terrible I-formation team and though Tyrell Sutton has good running strength, defenses consistently stop him with the offense lines up in the I. They might want to use backup running back Omar Conteh more in those situations, and the quarterback draw can also help.


Brett from Minneapolis writes: Adam, As a loyal Gopher fan, I am a little upset we're getting picked on for poor scheduling. The cupcake schedule can be attributed to Glen Mason (who will be an analyst for the Gopher-Buckeye game on Big Ten Network). Brewster is doing a better job of scheduling. This is from Gophersports.com: 2009: Air Force, Cal (Note: We had Syracuse on the schedule for the first game, but it has now been changed to TBA). 2010: Washington State, UNLV (soft, but the Badgers have also played them in the past. Also pulled an upset over Arizona State) 2011: WA State 2012: Colorado 2014 & 2015: Oregon State There are rumors flying around that Brewster is trying to schedule Texas in 2016. The Gophers have had problems scheduling quality basketball opponents as well and are trying to schedule schools to play the Gophers in both sports.

Adam Rittenberg: Agree on all points. The weak scheduling under Mason for all those years still fuels the criticism. Those nonconference slates rarely prepared the Gophers for Big Ten play, and, as a result, they would finish with a watered-down 7-5 or 6-6 record and go to a minor bowl game. Brewster came in with lofty expectations, and part of that comes with beefing up the schedule. Teams like Cal, Washington State, Colorado and Air Force aren't super powers, but they'll test Minnesota much more than Smorgasbord State or whoever they used to play.


Gary from the ATL (that's Atlanta for the un-hip) writes: Regarding your column on Joe Pa's decision on Evans and Koroma, what is your opinion of an appropriate punishment? Notwithstanding the negative spotlight on PSU, i.e., OTL story, I believe the three game suspension (Oregon State, Cuse and Temple) is more than adequate considering the charge. In fact, you wouldn't see anywhere near a 3 game suspension for similar charges at OSU, UF, Wiscy (DUI on a mo-ped), OU, UT, and other big programs. Just curious of your opinion. Keep up the great blog.

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Gary. The hard thing is that the punishments vary so much by school, as you point out. Some see misdemeanor marijuana possession as a slap-on-the-wrist transgression, especially for first-time offenders. Other schools take it a bit more seriously. What can't be ignored here is the timing -- the Tuesday night/Wednesday morning of game week after a year in which the team had a ton of off-field problems. How dumb can you be? The team's punishment could depend on what the university decides to do, but I'd say extending the suspensions another game or two sounds fair.


Paul from Bloomington, Ind., writes: Adam, thanks for offering your predictions for the Big Ten week 4. Also, thanks for offering a way for us to bombard you with criticism :) . From me, it's only on one game, though. No way in the world is Ball State beating Indiana Saturday. Didn't last year, didn't the year before, and it's not happening this year. You say Ball State will be pumped up. Good. So will IU. They're the real team on the rise. Indiana, at home, will have too much of an advantage. BSU has been the trendy pick recently. But, it stops now.

Adam Rittenberg: Congrats to Paul for writing the nicest critical e-mail I've received this season. This is a tough game to call, and I'll be happy to eat crow on Saturday night if the Hoo
siers hold serve at home. The early season schedule really concerns me, starting with two cupcakes before a bye week. Indiana hasn't faced any adversity on either side of the ball. Expect that to change on Saturday, even if Ball State doesn't win the game. I really like what the Hoosiers have going on the defensive side. They're more than just Greg Middleton up front, and Matt Mayberry has gotten rave reviews at linebacker. But the secondary concerns me against Nate Davis, a legit pro prospect. I think this could be a case where light scheduling comes back to haunt Indiana.