Big Ten Friday mailblog

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Enjoy the games this weekend!

Drew from Mt. Pleasant, Mich., writes: Rich Rodriguez has mentioned a few times that he envisions scenarios where he has more than 1 QB on the field. Might this be the week we see it? Tate in shotgun and Denard spread out as a receiver? It seems like there are endless possibilities, and it could really confuse the spartan defense, potentially forcing them to burn a time out. Am I totally crazy for thinking we may see something like this saturday afternoon?

Adam Rittenberg: Not totally crazy, Drew, especially with an innovative offensive mind like Rich Rodriguez crafting the game plan for Michigan. While I would be a little surprised to see Denard Robinson lined up as a wide receiver, I wouldn't be totally shocked to see Forcier get a few snaps on Saturday. To me, Michigan State's secondary is still the weak part of the defense. Michigan obviously wants to run Robinson and the other backs, but it really should go after the Spartans' DBs with receivers Roy Roundtree, Darryl Stonum and Junior Hemingway. Robinson has shown he's capable of making good throws, and so has Forcier.

Eli from Brooklyn, N.Y., writes: You know what? I'm sick of this. I was going to wait till the outcome of the next four games to send this E-mail, but all the stuff I've been reading about how bad of a team Penn State is (including your "mediocre at best" comments) has me boiling. I hate to be one of the 'delusional fans' you hate so much, but exactly what's mediocre about losing, ugly, to the two out of three teams you and everybody else already predicted we would lose ugly to?

Adam Rittenberg: It's not just the ugly performances against Alabama and Iowa, Eli. When has Penn State looked better than mediocre this season? For a half against Youngstown State? On defense against Kent State? Sure, there have been a few moments here and there, but you can't honestly say Penn State has either played to its potential or put together four quarters of good football. I know it's tough with a freshman quarterback, but you have a senior running back in Evan Royster, enough experience on the offensive line and quite a lot of talent at receiver. As a fan, you should expect and demand more from your team.

Thomas from Corpus Christi, Texas, writes: Hi Adam,I'm trying to make sense behind your "player of the year award." You have Terrelle Pyror in front of the QBs from Indiana and Northwestern. However looking at the stats the other two QBs hold a considerable amount of advantage over Pryor. It's not like the Buckeyes have really been tested offensively this year from opposing competition. So my question is: To this date, minus one good game against Oregon last year, has he ever really been that impressive in College Football? Or are people still just believing in his High School Hype?

Adam Rittenberg: Thomas, I think Terrelle Pryor is held to an unfair and somewhat unrealistic standard by many folks because of his hype in high school. And while Indiana's Ben Chappell and Northwestern's Dan Persa have put up excellent numbers this year, so has Pryor, if you really study it. He's throwing the ball a lot better than he did in 2009, and he's carrying the rushing load for the Buckeyes as they try to figure things out at running back. Pryor has been impressive for stretches in all five games this season, even against Illinois. And while his passing accuracy against Miami wasn't great, he still made quite a few big plays against what's looking like a very good Hurricanes defense. I've always pointed out when Pryor doesn't deserve credit, like the preseason Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors he receives, but he has done a nice job overall this year and deserves to be in the Player of the Year discussion.

Richard from Toledo, Ohio, writes: Adam, In your article about Ohio State needing "style" to impress people around the country, you say that Boise State and TCU are "respected by voters because of what they've accomplished over time." On its face, that is a fair argument. Both teams have had recent success. BUT...at the same time you make that argument, you said in your mailbag that OSU's decisive win in the Rose Bowl last year carries no weight because this is a different season. So, which is it? You can't support some teams for one reason, but completely ignore that same reason to find fault (or, in this case, simply a lack of support) for another. You're not the only media type using those arguments, but they really don't hold water if you enforce your reasoning selectively.

Adam Rittenberg: Richard, some good points here and you lay them out well. My argument with Boise State and TCU is that it's harder for voters to completely write off those teams once they enter their league schedules because of what they've accomplished over time. Ohio State will never be written off once it gets into the Big Ten grind because of the Big Ten's reputation. Trust me, Boise State and TCU absolutely have to win impressively to avoid dropping in the polls. In fact, the pressure to win with style points for non-AQs is greater than it is for Ohio State because they play in weaker leagues (Boise more so than TCU). But if Boise and TCU keep winning with style points, they'll help their cause to stay in the top 5 because they're not flash-in-the-pan programs. Everyone needs to win impressively: Ohio State, Oregon, Boise State, TCU, Oklahoma ... the list goes on. I just don't think the voters should sit there and say, "Hmmm, Oregon crushed Stanford in the second half, while Ohio State needed a late touchdown to cement a win against Illinois. Oregon looks better than Ohio State to me, but I'm going to punish the Ducks because they lost to Ohio State nine months ago." If Oregon is performing better this year in your mind, the Ducks should be placed ahead of Ohio State.

Courtney from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Hi Adam, Love the blog and read it regularly. I'm an Iowa fan with a question about Michigan and Northwestern. They are both 5-0 but Michigan is ranked significantly higher than Northwestern. I feel like I'm missing something here. Why exactly? Northwestern has been consistently better than Michigan over the last few years and Michigan's wins this year haven't been that much better. Yes, Denard Robinson is amazing but weren't we all saying the same thing about Tate Forcier last year? Is this another case of Michigan "moving the needle" and everyone hoping Michigan is back? From the outside it kind of seems like Northwestern is getting the short end of the stick. Any thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Courtney, I think there's some truth to the Michigan moving-the-needle argument plus the Denard factor, but we can all agree that Michigan's schedule has been more challenging than Northwestern's to this point. Northwestern's four FBS opponents have a combined record of 5-14. The Wildcats own only one win against a team with a winning record, FCS Illinois State. NU also has struggled to put away weaker teams. Michigan, meanwhile, decisively beat a decent Connecticut team in the opener, beat Notre Dame on the road and beat an Indiana squad I think will make a bowl game this year. You're right, it's not a murderer's row of opponents, but it's better than Northwestern's slate. We'll learn a lot more about both teams in the coming weeks, as Michigan gets its first major tests with Michigan State and Iowa, while Northwestern, provided it gets past Purdue, will be challenged by Michigan State on Oct. 23.

James from Madison, Wis., writes: I think some people both nationally and locally are looking at Wisconsin fans' frustrations about Brett Bielema the wrong way. Referring to that link you posted earlier today (Oct. 6), the focus was that [Barry] Alvarez's teams weren't better than Bielema's at the end of his tenure compared to the start of the Bielema era. This is all well and good, and is the main part of the problem. You can't have top 10 teams with BSC aspirations and have them lose in the first Big Ten game. It just automatically puts a damper on the season and destroys morale of both fans and players. It is the fault of coaching when more talented teams lose to lower quality opponents, time and again. Bielema's record against ranked teams speaks for itself. We need a coach who can take the talented Wisconsin teams that we have had the past 3-4 years and actually do something with them, instead of going into the state of Michigan and losing to teams that a top 10 team shouldn't lose to. Period.

Adam Rittenberg: Good points here, James. And I totally agree about losing the first Big Ten game, which puts your team in a hole right away in the league race. If Bret Bielema can't lead Wisconsin past Ohio State, Iowa or Michigan (in Ann Arbor, no less), you really have to wonder if he's a B-to-C coach for the Badgers. Wisconsin prides itself on its home record under Bielema, but the really great coaches can win on the road. You saw it with Kirk Ferentz at Iowa last year, and you've seen it with Jim Tressel at Ohio State for a number of years. Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern also has won more big-time Big Ten road games than Bielema. It's why Wisconsin's trips to Iowa and Michigan will be so huge this year.