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Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Big Ten chat wrap: Halloween edition

By Adam Rittenberg

We had a very scary Halloween edition of the Big Ten chat today. I went as Jared from Subway. If only I had his millions.

Anyway, if you missed the fun, check out the full transcript.

Some highlights:
Larry from Skokie, Ill.: How many Bowl games do you foresee the Big Ten in, given the fact we have two ineligible teams playing this year?

Adam Rittenberg: Larry, I'd expect six and possibly seven bowl teams from the Big Ten. Either Michigan or Minnesota will get there Saturday, and I expect both to be bowl-eligible. Between Iowa, Purdue and Indiana, I expect at least one and possibly two to become bowl-eligible. Three teams -- Northwestern, Nebraska and Wisconsin -- are already there.

Hank from Washington, D.C.: Does Michigan win if Denard doesn't get injured against Nebraska? I think it would've been a much closer game. I wasn't impressed with Nebraska.

Adam Rittenberg: Hank, it's a toss-up if Denard stays in the game. Nebraska was playing a little bit better, but Michigan's defense had limited damage, and the offense had a first-and-goal when Denard left the field. A touchdown there, and the game changes. It's hard to say how the second half would have played out, but Michigan's defense wouldn't have been on the field nearly as long, and Michigan wouldn't have lost by two TDs.

GS from Chicago: What is it with Northwestern in the fourth quarter? They seemed poised to throw away another lead on Saturday against Iowa, but managed to hang on. Is this a coaching issue? Fitzgerald is, undoubtedly, a great leader and recruiter for NU, but do you think he has the tactical expertise to back it up?

Adam Rittenberg: It has been a problem for years, GS. As good as Northwestern has been in close games, the Wildcats seem to struggle with big leads and in putting away teams. Fitz is a conservative coach to the core, and he often tries to win by having the other team make more mistakes. Another reason is that Northwestern's up-tempo offense has to slow things down with a lead to kill time. Last week, you saw an inexcusable error -- bad snap on first-and-goal -- prevent a score that would have put Iowa away. I've talked with a lot of Northwestern players about finding the killer instinct. They know it's an issue, but they just seem more comfortable in close games.

Jay from MN: Adam, your pal Bennett pretty much laughed at the idea of Michael Carter being 1st team big ten. What are your thoughts? He's among the conference leaders in pass breakups and is asked to play a lot of single coverage since Minnesota struggles to stop the run. He has more than held his own in that scenario and has been a lockdown corner at times. Him and Roby seem to be the two logical choices to make the first team.

Adam Rittenberg: Oh, that Bennett. He's a barrel of laughs. I think besides Roby, no Big Ten cornerback is a lock for first-team All-Big Ten. Carter is definitely stepping up his game in recent weeks for a very good pass defense. He's in the mix, in my view. I'd put Northwestern's Nick VanHoose, Wisconsin's Devin Smith, Purdue's Josh Johnson and Ohio State's Travis Howard in that mix, too. Howard, while putting up some nice numbers, seems to get beat too much.

Greg from Dayton: Michigan was a preseason top-ten team and was in the top three recruiting nationally. What factors have led to their underachieving this season and will this hurt them on signing day in February?

Adam Rittenberg: Greg, you kind of make my point for me. Top three recruiting nationally doesn't equal great team this season. Michigan's roster isn't exactly set up to succeed in 2012. It's going to be a very, very good roster in 2014. The Wolverines were vastly overrated entering the season. We all know that now. But the preseason ranking and the recruiting ranking are separate issues. Michigan doesn't have enough depth and enough elite veteran players to be a truly great team this season. But that will change in the future, in large part because of, yep, the recruiting.

Thanks again for the questions, and my apologies to those whose questions weren't answered. Let's do it again next week.