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Friday, November 16, 2012
Big Ten Friday mailblog

By Adam Rittenberg

Wishing you a good weekend. I'll be here. Fired up.

David from Chicago writes: Adam, are you having long term memory issues? All the articles this week reference the 564 rushing yard by the Badgers but you seem to have forgotten about the 19 rushing yards against MSU the week before that or the 56 rushing yards against Nebraska. But when talking about the Buckeyes Defense your memory seems fine because you reference the Purdue and Indiana games that were a month or longer ago. You feeling OK?

Adam Rittenberg: Ha, I think I'm OK, David, but thanks for checking. Wisconsin's offense has been all over the map this season -- great against Indiana and Purdue, terrible against Michigan State and Oregon State, good in the first half at Nebraska, bad in the second half at Nebraska. Listen, I don't expect Wisconsin to rush for 564 yards against Ohio State, which, as you point out, has improved defensively in recent weeks. If the Buckeyes play like they did at Penn State, they'll keep Wisconsin's one-dimensional offense in check. Getting Etienne Sabino back at linebacker is huge, as you don't want a thin LB corps against Wisconsin, regardless of the Badgers' ups and downs. I actually expect a fairly high-scoring game, as Montee Ball will step up on senior day, but Ohio State has too much firepower and will prevail.


Dave from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., writes: Adam, you picked Zwinak to go for 130 yards and three scores in your predictions, but your fantasy team doesn't reflect your prediction. I think a guy who goes for 130 and 3TD's would be a good pickup for a fantasy team.Lack of confidence in your ability to predict a game I presume? I'm just looking for an explanation. Also- I will LOL if he does actually bust through the Indiana defense for 3 scores and you don't have him this week.

Adam Rittenberg: Dave, you got me on this one a bit. I gave a lot of thought to adding Zwinak on my fantasy team, but I also was looking ahead to next week a bit and didn't want Bennett to pick up Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde, who has put up a lot of points since moving into a featured role. I thought about dropping Northwestern's Venric Mark against a good MSU defense, but Mark leads the league in all-purpose yards and gets points both as a running back and on returns, so I couldn't drop him. The Zwinak move likely would have been a one-week deal just for Indiana. Hey, I might pay the price, as many of my waiver moves haven't been good. But I just felt having Hyde for the last two weeks was more important after Bennett picked up Le'Veon Bell, who I assume he'll keep next week, too.


Caleb from Los Angeles writes: Adam, I find this talk about Hawkeye fans wanting Kirk Ferentz extremely rash. Are the Hawks having a great year? By no means, but there has been a lot of problems all coming to a head for them this year and I think that Kirk has built a reputation to try and fix things. Is he a perfect coach? No, but he is also not the slouch that many seem to think he is now. He's lost 4 close games this year that could have gone another way so it's not like every game they're getting blown out. Brian pointed out in his mailbag how much it would cost the program to get rid of him but even beyond that Hawk fans have to be realistic. This isn't Alabama, or Ohio State, or Oklahoma. We don't have the tradition to justify firing a good coach during a bad year and aim for an exceptional coach like Nick Saban or Urban Meyer. Rather I would see Iowa falling down the same path as Colorado. Look at their history and how unwatchable they are now, it all started when they fire Gary Barnett. So I say to Hawk fans, be patient, let Ferentz do his job and he'll right the ship, the grass is definitely not always greener.

Adam Rittenberg: Caleb, thanks for your perspective. When a team struggles, we tend to only hear the loudest opinions demanding coaching changes, while a portion of folks quietly remain supportive of Ferentz. It's always good to get the other side. The bottom line, as Brian pointed out and as you know, is that Iowa can't get rid of Ferentz because of the buyout and probably shouldn't despite this terrible season. It's always refreshing when fans know what their program truly is -- rather than what they think it should be -- and you seem to have that understanding with Iowa. Here's the thing, though. The one thing that doesn't match what Iowa football is, is Ferentz's high salary. People have a hard time grasping how a program like Iowa pays what it pays for a head coach who wins six to nine games most seasons. Could Iowa be a six- to nine-win program with a coach who makes $2 million a year? Or would Iowa, as you point out, become like Colorado if it parts ways with Ferentz? I think Iowa's program will improve with better facilities, but there are always inherent challenges. Ultimately, you can't be scared of change, and it doesn't make sense to pay so far above market value unless you're consistently winning eight or more games. These are some of the questions Iowa must grapple with going forward. But unless he leaves for the NFL, Ferentz will be back in 2013.


Bopa from Lincoln, Neb., writes: At this point in the season do you think there's any way that Taylor can surpass Braxton as the B1G Offensive Player of the Year?

Adam Rittenberg: Bopa, it would take two strong performances from Taylor Martinez against Minnesota and Iowa, which is extremely possible given how he has been playing. But a bigger factor in my view is how Braxton Miller performs against Wisconsin and Michigan. Aside from maybe Purdue, a game he didn't finish, Miller hasn't had a really bad performance all season. He's a big-game player who could put himself in the Heisman mix with strong efforts against the Badgers and Wolverines, arguably the two best teams Ohio State has seen all season. Keep in mind that Miller outplayed Martinez when Ohio State beat Nebraska, and while I don't vote for Offensive Player of the Year, those who do won't forget that night. So I think it'll take some poor efforts from Miller the next two weeks to give the award to Martinez, as good as he has been recently.


Zane from Chicago writes: My question is about the Rose Bowl selection process. I think I have the underlying restrictions down. If Oregon qualifies for the BCS Championship game, then only a Pac 12 team that finishes in the top 14 in the BCS qualifies for an at large bid to the Rose Bowl. Correct? If so, is the Rose Bowl required to pick this Pac 12 team? If not, what do you think are the chances they do pick this Pac 12 team in the name of tradition rather than picking another team? What if two Pac 12 teams are eligible? Do they have to pick the higher rated one or do they have the choice? Also, assuming it is a KSU/Oregon NC game, who do you think finishes #1 and therefore determines which bowl gets the first at large pick? Do you think Notre Dame gets picked 1st no matter which bowl gets that at large pick? From some discussion it seems that the Fiesta does not have to keep its ties to the Big 12 with OU if it doesn't want to. It seems the Rose Bowl favors tradition more and is more likely to take that Pac 12 at large pick if there is a 2nd team eligible. Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: If the Rose Bowl loses its Pac-12 champion to the title game, it's not obligated to select another eligible Pac-12 team (top 14). It would be able to select any Pac-12 team in the top 14, and I would be surprised if it didn't select the higher-rated team, although it depends on the circumstances. Regarding Notre Dame, as appealing as the Irish are to any bowl game, I would be shocked if the Rose Bowl picked the Irish ahead of an eligible Pac-12 team. The Rose Bowl is so loyal to the Big Ten and the Pac-12, which have protected it in BCS negotiations during the years. The other bowl games aren't as loyal to their tie-in conferences as the Rose Bowl is to the Big Ten/Pac-12. If the Fiesta gets the first replacement pick for Kansas State, I'd expect Notre Dame to go to Glendale. But if the Rose has a chance and no Pac-12 team is eligible, it will pick ND, no doubt.


Phil from Minneapolis writes: Adam -Quick question. Per your latest "What to Watch in B1G Ten", Can you clarify Ball's rushing touchdown requirements and the records he'll break? You say he needs 2 on Saturday to break Prentice's record of 77, but only needs 1 to break Ron Dayne's Big Ten Record of 72? Please explain, something's off there

Adam Rittenberg: Sure, Phil, as I know it can be a bit confusing. Ball is two total touchdowns away from breaking Travis Prentice's NCAA record for total touchdowns. Remember that Ball had six receiving touchdowns last season. Ron Dayne's Big Ten record is for rushing touchdowns only. So Ball needs one rushing touchdown to break the Big Ten record and two touchdowns -- rushing or receiving -- to break Prentice's mark. Hope that clears it up.


Harry from East Lansing, Mich., writes: It's entertaining to watch your (and Brian's) score predictions, but sometimes it gets a little absurd. "...and for the second consecutive year he finds Devin Smith for the game-winning touchdown to beat the Badgers". I think any reasonable person would think the chance of this happening is slim, so are you writing this because you seriously think the will happen or just for the sake of entertaining readers? I think it's the latter and I appreciate that as a reader, but at the same time I'm sure a lot of readers would like to know what you guys are really thinking.

Adam Rittenberg: Harry, it's definitely for entertainment value. We try to make the predictions more fun and more entertaining than just a score, and while we try to predict yards and touchdowns for individual players, the Devin Smith thing is just a nod to last year's game. Do I really think it's going to happen? Probably not. But if it does, I'll take full credit as Nostradamenberg!