Friday, September 21, 2012
Big Ten Friday mailblog
By Adam Rittenberg
Wishing you a happy Week 4 ...
Nate from York, Pa., writes: This may sound crazy, but do you think that Badgers QB O'Brien from Wisconsin is having any regrets about not taking advantage of his opportunity to play at Penn State? He couldn't have seen things working out like they are this early during his tenure in Camp Randall.
Adam Rittenberg: Nate, you're not the first person to mention this about Danny O'Brien. Being 116th nationally in total offense isn't how O'Brien or any of his Wisconsin teammates envisioned things going in the first three games. I was at practice in August, and while the Badgers' workout didn't impress me nearly as much as it had the previous summer, O'Brien looked fine and Montee Ball looked more than fine. The early struggles truly have been a surprise. Honestly, I'm not sure O'Brien would have beaten out Matt McGloin, who really has taken his game to another level in Bill O'Brien's offense. It wouldn't have been a done deal for Danny O'Brien to start at Penn State, just as it hasn't been a done deal for him to start and keep the job at Wisconsin. I doubt O'Brien has any regrets, although he has to be disappointed with the situation at UW, and understandably so.
Phil from Lincoln, Neb., writes: I saw the response in your weekly chat about the B1G lacking dynamic pass catchers. While I cannot speak for other teams, I do know that many Husker fans (myself included) feel like our current receiving core is the best in school history (maybe not as impressive as it sounds given our affinity to run the ball). Both Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner can be explosive playmakers while Quincy Enunwa is a great perimeter blocker and he consistently drags around would-be tacklers after he makes receptions. Those three consist of a Junior and two Sophmores. Are Husker fans a little delusional or do you think this group of receivers has the potential to be great? Thanks!
Adam Rittenberg: Phil, while it might be too soon to say "best in school history," the potential is definitely there, and Nebraska fans aren't delusional for being excited about this group. Nebraska and Northwestern have the deepest groups of receivers in the league, followed by Ohio State. While there are no sure-fire All-Big Ten receivers in the bunch, there are certainly guys like Bell who can get there this fall. Bell is a guy who can be a complete receiver for Nebraska, and while I don't think the Huskers will throw it enough to get him 60-70 catches in a season, he should make his mark. I also like what I've seen from Enunwa. There is a lot of hype around Turner, and he has yet to really back it up, but he's still a young guy with a lot of talent. Toss in the tight ends, and Nebraska has a really nice group of pass-catchers for an improved Taylor Martinez.
Drew from Milwaukee writes: Am I wrong in being bewildered that Northwestern isn't ranked? It was just two weeks ago that they beat a Vanderbilt team that was billed as a "quality SEC team" after almost upsetting South Carolina in week one. And with wins over two other BCS conference schools they have a more impressive resume than any other team in the Big 10. Based on three weeks of actual football, how can anyone argue that they aren't one of the top 25 teams in the land?
Adam Rittenberg: Drew, while you can make a good case, as you have, for why Northwestern should be ranked, I don't think it's a capital crime that they aren't. The Wildcats deserve credit for scheduling major-conference teams, but they didn't exactly beat Alabama, Oregon and Oklahoma. They scored good wins, and weren't overly impressive in any of the games. Right now, if Northwestern and No. 25 Nebraska played on a neutral field, I'd take Nebraska. That's not taking anything away from Northwestern, which is a young team that is building toward better things. The fact that the Wildcats are 3-0 despite being so young is a credit to Pat Fitzgerald and his staff. The pool of undefeated teams is shrinking each week, and if Northwestern does what it's supposed to do the next two Saturdays -- beat South Dakota and Indiana -- it will be ranked when it heads to Penn State on Oct. 6. Then again, Northwestern hasn't been good at all when ranked in recent years. Some Wildcat fans would prefer their team stay just outside the Top 25 for a while.
Jim from Dallas writes: Adam, Can you point to some evidence that Notre Dame "sought" the same deal with the Big 10 that it signed with the ACC? I'm happy to learn more, but my understanding is that no such discussions took place. I believe this is Big 10 positioning, and that the Big 10 was never solicited by ND in any way. At best, Swarbrick briefed Delaney on what he was working on -- expressing no interest in full membership in any conference. Can you cite an interview or other journalistic fact that ND sought a deal from the Big 10? Many thanks.
Adam Rittenberg: Jim, I can't cite a specific interview, but I've spoken with folks within the Big Ten who have told me the idea was out there from Notre Dame in the past and obviously never got very far with the Big Ten. The point is that the Big Ten wouldn't have done what the ACC did. That's not to rag on the ACC, but the people saying this is a dark day for the Big Ten and Jim Delany aren't paying attention. Joining the Big Ten as a partial member (without football) never was realistically on the table. Notre Dame got the deal it wanted elsewhere, and it looks like a win for both sides. But for some to say the Big Ten has been courting Notre Dame forever and somehow lost out on the Irish simply isn't true.
Ryan from St. Paul, Minn., writes: Hey Adam, So I see you and your cohort have both selected Syracuse over Minnesota this week at TCF Bank. While I agree it will be a good contested game, I'm going to disagree with your score prediction. Weather forecast says it may rain Sat night in the Twin Cities and with a full house on hand under the lights I think Minnesota's defensive pressure gets to Nassib in less than ideal passing conditions. Do you want to change your prediction perhaps? I like Goldy this week in a grinder, 31-21.
Adam Rittenberg: Good call on the weather, Ryan, as rain certainly would favor Minnesota. Syracuse has the better quarterback in Ryan Nassib and a passing game that will really test the Gophers' secondary, but if it's windy and rainy at TCF Bank Stadium, he'll be affected. This one could go either way, and for the Big Ten's sake, it'd be great if both of us were wrong on our predictions. But I think Syracuse is a big step up for Minnesota, which will miss MarQueis Gray a bit. While the defense has been good, Nassib is by far the best quarterback the Gophers have faced (Western Michigan's Alex Carder seems to have regressed).
Franchise from Knoxville, Tenn., writes: Adam, B1G guy who's been displaced to SEC country here. I have kept my mouth shut on this for years now, but I can't take it anymore! I have a proposal, regarding Weekly Predictions: We are no longer in 5th grade, and therefore you and BB are no longer allowed to share answers!! I understand the unique situation we have in the B1G blog with two bloggers making predictions, and I'm not exactly sure how you exchange them (I know, I'm sure you've explained it before), but I KNOW I can speak for many readers when I say that I've grown weary of seeing a majority of predictions that differ by only one or two field goals either way! Can't you guys make your picks separately, and originally, instead of comparing notes? Otherwise, keep up the great work! Go Lions & Vols!
Adam Rittenberg: Nice attempt to figure out how the predictions work, Franchise. Here's how it actually goes down. We make the picks separately and go back and forth on instant messenger while one of us plugs the text and scores into the predictions post. We pick what we think will happen. It's nonconference play. Most games are garbage, and we're going to have similar lists. We're not going to be different for the sake of being different and look dumber than we already are. There should be a lot more variety in picks and scores when league play begins next week. Hopefully, you'll enjoy them more then.
Carl from Lubbock, Texas, writes: In your article "Denard Robinson is ... ND's nightmare" I think you failed to note Notre Dame was an 8-5 team those two years as Brian Kelly started his rebuild. I think Denard and the Wolverines will have a little more to handle this year, and will have to do more then eek out a couple close wins.
Adam Rittenberg: Carl, I completely agree Robinson will face a more formidable Notre Dame defense this year than he did in 2011 or 2010. Then again, the 2010 Irish defense wasn't too shabby -- 23rd nationally in points allowed -- and he torched them for 500 yards. The guy has been magical in this rivalry so far, but he hasn't seen a defense like the one the Irish will have on the field Saturday night. The interesting thing is, I think Robinson will have to be more effective with his arm -- and attack a young Irish secondary Michigan State didn't test last week -- than his feet for Michigan to win.
Stephanie from Denver writes: Not saying that the team is good (b/c the tackling is bad), but is Ohio State being judge overly-critical in relation to other schools ahead of them in the polls, just basically because it's Ohio State? To comment on TOSU's competition, LSU, Florida State, Oklahoma and others have had an easier schedule (according to Sagarin).
Adam Rittenberg: This is the problem with early season polls, Stephanie, and while I feel there should be no polls until at least Week 6 or 7, when everyone has played at least two conference games. Ohio State hasn't looked overly impressive against decent competition. Other schools have looked really good against woeful opposition. It's hard to know who goes where. The rankings are based heavily on what people think they know (i.e. how teams looked coming off of last season and heading into this one) and less on what they actually know with limited on-field evidence. My advice: don't pay too much attention to the polls until the middle of October.