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Friday, October 5, 2012
Big Ten Friday mailblog

By Adam Rittenberg

Hope you enjoy the games Saturday.

Jerome from Toronto writes: Now that the ACC has said they're only going to have 8 league games, what are the chances that the B1G and ACC reach an agreement on scheduling a series with each other? Obviously, the ACC will have two teams that will sit out each year since the conferences have a different total of teams in each league. This may be a good way to help get the B1G exposure down in the South and also on the East Coast. Your prediction on this becoming a reality?

Adam Rittenberg: Jerome, this is an interesting proposal. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany really likes partnerships with other leagues, which is why he was so disappointed when the Pac-12 pact didn't work out. Delany would be cautious about doing another scheduling partnership -- he'd need assurances from the other league that they wouldn't back out. But I do strongly believe if the Big Ten went down this road again, it would be with the ACC rather than the SEC or Big 12. The two leagues are a lot more similar, especially now with Notre Dame, which has historic Big Ten rivalries. Although the Pac-12 situation shows how difficult it is to get everyone on board, Delany definitely doesn't close the door to partnerships, whether it's in football or basketball.




Ben from Burlingame, Calif., writes: I'm curious to get your thoughts on William Gholston being knocked out cold during the MSU-Ohio St. game and then going back into the game shortly thereafter. I know MSU says that he only had the wind knocked out of him, but to anybody who saw that incident, it's not a remotely plausible explanation. Gholston didn't move an inch for quite awhile after the play and it seemed pretty obvious he was out cold and was shaking off serious cobwebs when he finally walked off the field. With all of the additional scrutiny on head injuries, helmet to helmet hits and concussions these days I was absolutely stunned the MSU allowed him back in the game. I'm even more surprised that nobody seems to be talking about it and that Dantonio and company don't seem to be getting any heat about it. Is this a case of the staff putting a 'W' too high on the priority list or am I way off base?

Adam Rittenberg: Ben, a lot of folks are talking about this incident. It certainly looked like Gholston got knocked out after colliding with a teammate. I talked to him on Wednesday and he reiterated that he just had the wind knocked out of him. Whether he's telling the truth or not is up to you to believe. Ultimately, Michigan State's athletic training staff has a huge responsibility to the player -- not to clear him unless it's safe, especially when a potential head injury is involved. Gholston wouldn't have played unless he received clearance from the staff. It looked like they put him through the necessary tests. But like many of you, I was very surprised to see him back on the field so soon.




Jeremy from Dayton, Ohio, writes: With the season progressing and the big ten looking like it does. Its hard to look past my nittany lions who are hitting their stride and getting the Obrien offense down. my question is Could the Big Ten game of the year be in Happy Valley when OSU comes to town? and Could this decide who wins the division? (neither team could play in the title game though)

Adam Rittenberg: Jeremy, it definitely could decide the division champ, especially if both teams win tough games Saturday. And who knows, maybe it'll feature the league's top two teams as well. While that's not the desirable scenario for the Big Ten -- having its best two teams being ineligible for the bowls -- it might be the reality. I still think teams like Nebraska, Michigan and Michigan State will improve during October and November and be pretty good by bowl season. But Ohio State is finding ways to win and Penn State has rebounded really nicely from its 0-2 start. Wisconsin clearly isn't the same team it was in 2010-11, and while Purdue has shown flashes, the Boilers need to prove they can beat good teams. My sense is that Ohio State and Penn State are the class of the Leaders division, but that there's more overall strength in the Legends, which will produce the league champion.




Nick from Columbus writes: The expectations for Michigan were ridiculously high coming in to the season and I think it was naive to think they could be even better than (or equal to) last year's team. With that being said they already have 2 losses and haven't even faced a big ten opponent. Is this game a must-win for Michigan to "salvage" their season and have a shot at a big ten championship?

Adam Rittenberg: It's a huge game, Nick, especially because Michigan still has an even tougher road crossover game Nov. 24 at Ohio State. A loss drops Michigan to 2-3 on the season, increases the Wolverines' issues on the road and creates a potential situation where they have to run the table in the Legends division. Now it's important to note that Michigan State already has a Big Ten loss (Ohio State), and Nebraska visits the Buckeyes on Saturday night. I still think the division winner comes out of that Michigan/MSU/Nebraska group, and the team that plays best on the road -- both within the division and in crossovers -- has the best chance to make it to Indy. But from a confidence standpoint, Michigan needs to bounce back from the Notre Dame loss with a strong performance at Purdue. Although a win in West Lafayette might not turn heads around the Big Ten, it'll give Michigan a boost before potentially tougher road tests at Nebraska and then Ohio State.




Pete from Fort Worth, Texas, writes: Adam, why is it that Braxton Miller is receiving more Heisman hype than Taylor Martinez? Martinez is ahead of Miller in most statistical categories (only behind in rushing yards and scores really). Martinez has a better completion percentage, better TD/INT ratio, and is more efficient. What gives? And could the game this weekend perhaps change the tide?

Adam Rittenberg: Several reasons explain the hype differential, Pete. For starters, Miller entered the season with more hype than Martinez because of Urban Meyer's arrival and his fit in Meyer's spread offense. Martinez was known as a guy who took a step back in 2011 and had a bad throwing motion. Not saying it's right, but this was the national perception of the two players before the season. Miller also has made more highlight-type plays, especially with his feet, than Martinez. Although Martinez showed last week that he can still gash defenses as a runner, he didn't do that much in the non-league games. The more highlight plays Martinez pulls off as a runner, especially in crunch time, the better his chance will be for an award like the Heisman. Martinez still has to overcome the UCLA performance, but he can with big games down the stretch, beginning Saturday night in Columbus. To answer your last question, Martinez can absolutely turn the tide if he outplays Miller and Nebraska beats Ohio State. He'd also be helped by leading the Huskers on a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. Miller has been extremely clutch so far this season, while Martinez is 1-1 in those opportunities (loss to UCLA, win against Wisconsin).




Teddy from Decatur, Ill., writes: Adam, at some point during this season do I have the right to say we need a new coach at Illinois? To me personal foul calls, a porous defense, no idea what we do on offense and overall just a poorly disciplined team is a sign of bad coaching. Yes, I know he hasn't recruited a single class of his own but Bill O'Brien and Urban Meyer don't seem to be doing too shabby. Beckman, however, seems to have done nothing with a solid defense (with NFL potentials) and can't seem to get the offense going. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: Teddy, I completely understand your disappointment in Tim Beckman so far. Illinois definitely is trending in the wrong direction despite back-to-back bowl seasons. That said, no coach should be fired after one season. He needs more time to get things on track -- not much more time, but certainly more than a single season. What hurt Beckman in my view is him bringing so few of his assistants with him from Toledo and bringing together a staff from all over the country. It's hard to find the right cohesion in Year 1 when the staff hasn't been together. While it's no an excuse to be blown out at home like Illinois has been, it explains some of the mistakes. I do think Beckman and his staff will recruit well, but good recruiting hasn't mattered at Illinois (i.e. the Ron Zook era) without strong coaching to complement it. So while it's too soon to talk about a change in Champaign, Illinois needs to start looking like a more cohesive team as Big Ten play progresses.




Tad from Omaha writes: Adam - What are the television windows for 10/20? Just trying to project the Northwestern-Nebraska game time.

Adam Rittenberg: Tad, the complete schedule of game times and TV for Oct. 20 will be finalized Monday (Oct. 8). The only two games set already are Indiana at Navy (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS College Sports) and Penn State at Iowa (8 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network). Check the blog Monday around 11:30 ET for the complete schedule.




Wayne from New York writes: Adam....across the college football world I think you are the only one I have seen pick Nebraska to win against OSU. Do you know something we don't or..... did you just say no to the OSU Kool-Aid everyone else is drinking?

Adam Rittenberg: The only one? Really? Maybe I'll be wrong, but I think Nebraska is poised to finally turn the corner as a program. And I also think Ohio State, while deserving credit for being 5-0, has been pretty fortunate to this point, overcoming turnovers and defensive breakdowns. Nebraska is by far the best offense Ohio State has faced. The Huskers will make the Buckeyes make plays in space, where they've struggled early this season. It's tough to go against Miller Time, but I like the Huskers in the upset.