Big Ten: Martin O\'Donnell
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
It's time to open the mailbag. You ask, I answer.
Here we go:
Brian from parts unknown, writes:
Hey Adam-lets talk some Badger Football-do you think the scheduling of Cal Poly will cost the Badgers a shot in the BCS? They have a favorable schedule-if they stay healthy and with a couple of breaks, they could be a very dangerous team later in the season. They have a lot of the skilled positions back, including the best groups of running backs in the Big Ten, maybe even the country. There are high expectations here in Wisconsin, your thoughts??
Adam Rittenberg: Most major-conference teams are dipping into the I-AA ranks for scheduling purposes, so the Badgers should be fine. A quick look shows that Ohio State plays Youngstown State, Florida plays The Citadel (a Wisconsin opponent last year), Oklahoma plays Chattanooga and West Virginia plays Villanova. The only thing that could hurt is that the Cal Poly game comes at the end of the season. Wisconsin's nonconference schedule isn't too treacherous, as a reporter pointed out to Bret Bielema last week, but a visit to Fresno State provides a major test in September. If Wisconsin knocks off Fresno in Fresno, it will have nothing to worry about regarding possible BCS selection.
John from Oneonta, N.Y., writes:
Adam, I couldn't help but notice your response to the PSU posters regarding PSU's DL and locking Wisconsin in as the #2 team in the Big 10 in your eyes. You mention something about PSU finding a reliable QB will be key. While that remains true, the QB situation at PSU is in better hands with Clark and Devlin than it was with Morelli. That said, who is the reliable QB in Madison this year? Everidge is no more reliable than Clark or Devlin. This is their third starting QB in three years.
Adam Rittenberg: Of the three quarterback vacancies in the Big Ten, Penn State appears to have the most stable situation. Projected Wisconsin frontrunner Allan Evridge has the most collegiate game experience of any candidate throughout the league, but most of it came three years ago at Kansas State. Clark's Alamo Bowl performance was encouraging for Penn State, and he definitely has the intangibles to command respect from Day 1. From talking to center A.Q. Shipley, it sounds like the offensive players would be comfortable with Clark as their leader. Still, there are questions about his ability as a passer. Someone needs to take advantage of Penn State's veteran receivers before they're gone.
Jack from Glen Ellyn, Ill., writes:
Re: your ranking of Big Ten O-lines. I'm a litle surprised to see my Illini as low as fourth. OSU I understand, and maybe I really don't know that much about Wiscy and PSU, but the Illini have a number of physically huge and talented young road-graders just ready to step in.
Adam Rittenberg: The loss of first-team All-Big Ten guard Martin O'Donnell and a few health concerns this spring caused me to drop Illinois to fourth, but that group can definitely finish higher. Wisconsin is very strong at both guard spots and has no questions at tackle; Illinois must replace Akim Millington on the right side. All of the top four teams are very strong up front, so the order could be tweaked by the end of the season.
Devon from Long Island, writes:
I'm a Penn State fan, but you are selling Adam Weber way short. Not only did he have 24 passing touchdowns, not 19, but he also had 5 rushing scores. Guys a crazy good athlete and can pass. He's, for me, the #3 or #4 in the Big Ten. But here's my question: What is the best case scenario for how Daryll Clark plays?
Adam Rittenberg: You're right about Weber's athleticism and frankly I'd be surprised if he doesn't finish the season much higher on the list. He was a lot like Northwestern's C.J. Bacher last season: big numbers, too many interceptions. If he can reduce his picks and continue to punish defenses with his legs, Minnesota will be dangerous on offense. What I worry about is the fact the Gophers have no proven running back and some questions on the line, which increases pressure for Weber. They need Duane Bennett or Jay Thomas to emerge as a reliable runner. As for Daryll Clark, the BCS (best-case scenario) is he makes defenses respect his arm enough so that he can burn them with his legs. Clark doesn't need to be Michael Robinson. He's got enough talent around him and a solid line. Penn State could win 10 games this fall with him at the helm.
Jordan from Marion, Ill., writes:
do you give Michigan a chance a competing for the Big 11 or are you like all the others that doubt them?How do you think Michigan will fare with Threet at QB?and do you see Justin Feagin starting QB by mid-season?
Adam Rittenberg: It all depends on the start. If the Wolverines survive a very difficult opener against Utah, beat a defensive-minded Miami (Ohio) team and then take care of Notre Dame in South Bend, they'll have a ton of confidence heading into Big Ten play. But I don't see them getting through that stretch unscathed. There are too many questions on offense and despite having talent, most of it is young and unproven. Michigan should be in the league's top half by November, but no Big Ten title. Threet has the intelligence to grasp RichRod's system, but will his physical skills allow him to effectively run the offense? Feagin is probably the best fit from a skills standpoint, but I highly doubt he'll be starting at any point this season.
Bill from West Lafayette, Ind., writes:
Adam - love your blog. I read it daily and love to hear about what you have to say about the big 10. I know a lot of people have been down on my Purdue Boilermakers - saying we will be lucky to win 6 games this year. Granted, we aren't going to be the 2000 or 2004 teams, but I think we have a chance to really make a stir in the big 10, your thoughts? You are right about Tiller (we call him T-bone around here) being a character ? what a guy. Being his last season should mean a lot to this team and town.
Adam Rittenberg: Bill, your Boilers are a bit of a mystery entering the season. They have a senior quarterback in Curtis Painter, which always helps, but the personnel losses at wide receiver/tight end and the health of the line raises red flags. I just got off the phone with offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher, who expects the linemen to be healthy for the start of camp. If the new juco receivers catch on quickly (pun intended), the offense should be solid. The big reason people are down on Purdue is the schedule. Oregon is always tough, Central Michigan's offense is very good Notre Dame has improved and will host game in South Bend. Then they open Big Ten play with Penn State and Ohio State. Purdue never wins enough big games, but it has plenty of chances early. If Painter can lead the Boilers to a win against Oregon or Notre Dame on the road, he'll have a ton of confidence heading into Big Ten play.
Hamza from Chicago writes:
Why don't people have Todd Boeckman on their heisman watch list i mean he did lead a very good Ohio State Team last year?
Adam Rittenberg: Boeckman is in a tough spot. People are more interested in the guy lining up behind him (Beanie Wells) in the backfield or one of the guys behind him on the two-deep (Terrelle Pryor). But you're right, he led Ohio State to the national title game last season. If he exploits big-play threat Brian Robiskie for some highlight-reel touchdowns in September, particularly against USC, Boeckman could get some Heisman hype. Then again, if he's not being talked about now, he probably has no chance.